"Eh, what's up dog?" is what Bugs Bunny might say to your canine family member, casually leaning against a tree while munching on a carrot. While dog diets aren't exactly like the slick-talking cartoon’s, many canines do enjoy a cooked or raw carrot every once in a while.
Can dogs eat carrots? The truth is, carrots are a human food that is quite nutritious and safe for dogs in moderation. Carrots are a nontoxic, low-calorie, low-fat treat that can be added to your dog's diet with ease. Among other veggies, carrots are often used as an ingredient in many dog foods.
Let's take a deeper look at the various health benefits carrots provide for your furry family member and how you can incorporate this orange vegetable into your dog's diet.
Nutritional Benefits of Carrots for Dogs
Are carrots good for dogs? Most definitely. In moderation, of course. This orange root vegetable is a healthy treat low in fat and is chock-full of essential nutrients like vitamin A, fiber, and potassium. Carrots also contain beneficial nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B8, pantothenic acid, folate, iron, copper, and manganese.
If you have an overweight or diabetic dog, you'll be happy to know that carrots are incredibly low in calories. There are only about three calories per baby carrot. One of the major pluses when it comes to feeding your dog carrots is that they don't have nearly as many calories as traditional dog treats and biscuits do, making them a great snack you can give them without worrying about them becoming obese.
Carrots are also rich in beta-carotene, a pigment found in many fruits and vegetables that converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A supports your dog's vision. In addition to eyesight benefits for your pooch, vitamin A assists in supporting a healthy immune system and healthy skin and coat. In order to support a health immune system, beta-carotene works as an antioxidant that helps prevent disease and infection.
The fiber in carrots is great for your dog's digestive system if they are experiencing constipation, but don't be surprised if you see orange bits coming out of the other end as it is normal for them to pass on through the way they went in. Carrots help to firm up loose stools as well, so if your dog is experiencing diarrhea, try giving them a baby carrot or two. Remember to feed them carrot treats in moderation in order to not make their loose stools even worse. Too many carrots will cause gastric upset.
Carrots and Your Dog's Dental Health
Did you know that carrots are often recommended by veterinarians to help teething puppies? Just like a chew toy, cold or frozen carrots help puppies with their discomfort while they are teething. Using carrots for dogs in this early stage is certainly a great way to keep them from destroying your shoes, too.
Giving carrots and carrot sticks to your dog at any stage as a healthy snack is also great for their dental health in that they act as a dental chew. When they munch on raw carrots, the carrot will brush up against the dog's teeth and aid in scraping tartar and plaque buildup.
Do not rely on carrots alone to "brush" your dog's teeth, however. Like doggie dental chews and treats, this is meant for supplemental dental maintenance. It is recommended that you regularly use a doggie toothbrush and dog-specific toothpaste to clean your dog's teeth effectively.
A Warning About Carrots for Dogs
No matter what the food is, always give your dog treats in moderation. While eating carrots is a nice healthy treat for dogs, there are instances where it can be overdone. Avoid giving whole carrots to your dog, especially smaller ones, in order to prevent a choking hazard.
In addition to your dog’s daily meal intake, don’t forget to be conservative when it comes to how much of the vegetable you are giving them. Dr. Amy Flowers of WebMD writes that dog treats should make up 5-10% or less of your dog’s daily diet. Whether your dog will get treats throughout the day or you share other human food with them, everything adds up. Moderation, moderation, moderation.
Speaking of moderation, dog parents should note that just like with humans, too much vitamin A is not a good thing. VCA Hospitals warns that too much vitamin A results in vitamin A toxicosis, which leads to stiffness and immobility in joints, GI disturbances, paralysis, muscle weakness, and long bone fractures. If your dog displays any of these signs of vitamin A toxicity, call your vet as soon as possible or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.
How to Prepare Carrots for Dogs
There are multiple ways you can feed your dog carrots, whether you use raw carrots, cooked carrots, baby carrots, or chopped carrots. As with all veggies, make sure you rinse the carrots before feeding them to your dog. Carrots should be cut into small enough pieces in order to avoid a choking hazard while the dog eats.
Not all dogs love carrots in the same manner, so it's convenient that carrots are one of those people foods that are pretty versatile for snacking. For example, one picky dog might not like carrots raw but does like them cooked, where another dog might eat just about anything, in any form.
You can make a pureed carrot mixture in a blender and pour it into an ice cube tray or Kong, and freeze for an easy and long-lasting cold treat. If your dog loves peanut butter and you want to make an extra special carrot treat for your dog, you can blend a carrot and peanut butter mixture as well. Freeze for a frozen treat for later or refrigerate to use it as a little added protein and fiber to your dog's regular food. Zucchini, which is mostly water, is another healthy addition to a carrot-blended dog treat. Zucchini in also low in fat, calories, and cholesterol.
Another way to prepare a carrot treat for your dog is to steam them. Steaming carrots is recommended because it makes them softer while maintaining most of their nutrients. Plus, if your dog has issue chewing hard foods, cooked carrots are just as good for dogs.
Let Your Dog Munch Away on Carrots
Yes, there are many health benefits of carrots for dogs, but always remember to give them to your pup in moderation. If your dog is a picky eater but you still want to add carrots into your dog's diet from time to time, carrots are an adaptable food and can be served in a variety of ways.
It's OK to feed your dogs carrots. Carrots for dogs are low calorie, low fat, and low risk. As always, consult your veterinarian before adding a new food into your dog's regular eating routine.