Does Your Dog Need Vegetables?

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on May 26, 2014
From the WebMD Archives

You need veggies to be healthy, but does your dog need them?

While vegetables aren’t necessary for a dog's health, in most cases they can’t hurt, experts say.

Dogs can benefit from vegetables in their diet. Corn and potatoes give them carbohydrates for energy, plus minerals and fiber. But dogs don’t need vegetables to get these nutrients. Other foods, like rice and grains, can fill these needs too, says Jennifer Larsen, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of California, Davis, Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Dogs are omnivores like people, so they can eat a wide variety of foods, not just meat.

Should I Add Veggies to My Dog’s Food?

In most cases, you don’t need to add them to their kibble bowl, says veterinarian Evy Alloway, who practices at Killingworth Animal Hospital in Connecticut.

If the dog food you buy has a stamp of approval from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (or AAFCO) it means it offers a balanced diet. Everything they need is already in their food. You don’t have to worry about giving vegetables -- or grains, for that matter -- to your dog to make sure they get a balanced meal.

Veggies as Treats

While you don’t need to add vegetables to your dog’s diet, it doesn’t mean that you can’t. Many pet owners offer carrots, green beans, or broccoli to dogs as treats.

They’re low-calorie, so they’re good for Fido. But don’t offer too many vegetables as snacks. Treats of any kind should not make up more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet. Ask your vet for what that means for your dog based on their weight and activity level.

They’re Good for Overweight Dogs

Vets often recommend mixing vegetables into the kibble of an overweight dog as filler. It’ll make their meal feel more satisfying with few calories.

Just be forewarned: A sudden change from the typical fatty, processed, meaty treats to fiber-filled vegetable ones can be a little tough on your dog’s system. To ease the transition, soften raw vegetables a bit first by steaming them. You can also puree them in a blender.

Veggies as a Laxative

“If your dog becomes constipated, your vet may recommend mixing canned pumpkin in with his food for a few days until the situation rights itself,” Alloway says.

Pureed pumpkin is also used to clear up mild diarrhea. It tends to absorb extra water that’s in the stool and harden it up, while also adding fiber.

Vegetables to Avoid

Feel free to stock up on vegetables for your dog, but whatever you do, don’t feed them onions, garlic, or chive, which can lead to anemia. Unripe tomatoes are another no-no. They can be toxic to dogs. Also, steer clear of avocado and raw potatoes, which can potentially make dogs very sick.

You can try giving your dog fruit. But never offer grapes or raisins. They can quickly lead to illness and kidney damage.

DIY Dog Food? Enlist an Expert

Some people want to make food for their dogs themselves. If you want to, vets say it’s important to have a veterinary nutritionist help you plan meals and come up with recipes. That way you can make sure your pet is getting a balanced diet and doesn’t suffer from any nutritional deficiencies, which can easily happen.

Show Sources


Jennifer Larsen, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, assistant professor of clinical nutrition, University of California, Davis.

Evy Alloway, DVM, Killingworth Animal Hospital, Killingworth, CT.

The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health: “Dog Basics.”

The Merck Veterinary Manual for Veterinary Professionals: “Nutritional Requirements and Related Diseases of Small Animals.”

© 2014 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info