Without fail, my Cocker Spaniel makes a beeline for the garden every time she is given the opportunity. No vegetable is safe from her omnivorous snacking, but one of her favorite things to steal is zucchini.
Her love of vegetables is not unique. Many dogs enjoy veggies, and vegetables can be a healthy treat in moderation — as long as they are not harmful.
Luckily for gardeners, zucchini is safe for dogs, and your dog might be able to help you get rid of all of that surplus summer squash.
Is Zucchini Safe for Dogs?
Some vegetables, such as garlic and onions, are harmful to dogs, but zucchini is perfectly safe. Veterinarian Dr. Avi Blake even ranks zucchini as one of the best vegetables to feed dogs. Just because zucchini is safe, however, does not mean you should feed your dog excessive amounts of the vegetable. As with any human food, there are things you need to know in order to make sure you are feeding zucchini safely.
Is Zucchini Good for Dogs?
Zucchini is full of nutrients. This prolific plant delivers lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals in each long, green squash. Dogs that are fed a complete and balanced diet generally get all the nutrients they need from their food, unless they have an illness or disorder that affects their ability to absorb nutrients. Your dog doesn't need to eat vegetables for his health, but vegetables that are safe for dogs, like zucchini, offer an alternative to high-calorie treats. A cup of raw zucchini only has about 20 calories. It is low in fat and cholesterol, and won't contribute to your dog's waistline. This makes it an excellent choice as a reward for overweight dogs.
How Much Zucchini Should You Feed Your Dog?
Zucchini might be low in calories, but that does not mean you should switch your dog to a zucchini-only diet. Veterinarians recommend feeding all treats in moderation. Treats should make up less than 10 percent of your dog's diet, which is a great way for you to work out how much zucchini to feed your dog.
For example, a large dog might eat four or more cups of food a day, whereas a small dog may only eat one half-cup of food. All you have to do is figure out what 10 percent of your dog's diet would be and stay well beneath that limit.
Dogs usually tolerate zucchini well. However, feeding your dog a large amount of anything can lead to digestive upset, and it is always a good idea to observe your dog any time you offer a new food item.
Large pieces of zucchini can pose a choking hazard for dogs. You can avoid this by chopping zucchini up into small pieces, or steaming it for dogs that have difficulty chewing. Feeding an entire zucchini to a dog is not advisable.
Can Dogs Eat Cooked Zucchini and Other Zucchini Products?
Plain raw, steamed, or cooked zucchini is safe for dogs to eat, but this can pose a dilemma, as many of us prefer to eat zucchini with a little bit of seasoning.
If you plan on feeding your dog zucchini, set aside a few chunks as you prepare your meal. Oils, salts, seasonings, and vegetables, such as garlic and onions, are harmful to dogs, so you should not feed your dog zucchini that has been prepared with any of these ingredients.
Zucchini bread and other baked goods with zucchini are also problematic. Baked goods contain unnecessary calories that can lead to obesity, and the fat and sugar content in these foods can cause upset stomachs and other symptoms of intestinal distress. Make sure to read the contents of baked goods, as some may contain xylitol. This sweetener it toxic to dog and should be avoided at all costs.
Are Zucchini Plants Toxic to Dogs?
If your dog eats a zucchini flower or the leaves, don't panic. All parts of the plant are non-toxic. The flowers of the zucchini plant are actually edible and are often cooked or fried for human consumption. However, if your dog is roaming your garden, you may want to do an inventory of what else you have growing, to make sure he is not eating anything besides zucchini that could be potentially harmful.
If you have more questions about whether or not your dog should eat zucchini or another human food, contact your veterinarian.