Some people make the mistake of assuming that our dogs are carnivores because they like meat so much. This isn’t true — dogs are omnivores just like us, and they can get nutritional value from fruits and vegetables as well as meat sources.
Plenty of veggies are safe for our canine friends to consume. Let’s focus on one in particular: cabbage. Can dogs eat cabbage, or is it not a good idea?
The answer is yes, dogs can eat cabbage. This leafy green or red vegetable offers several health benefits for dogs because it’s full of good nutrients. However, cabbage has some potential risks for dogs, so you’ll want to be sure to feed it to your pooch carefully.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits and risks of cabbage for dogs, as well as how to give your dog this veggie the right way.
What Are the Health Benefits of Cabbage?
Cabbage hails from the Brassica oleracea family of vegetables, alongside other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Our dogs can eat these vegetables (provided that they’re prepared in a way that’s safe for dogs) and get plenty of good nutritional value from them.
This veggie is a low-calorie food, so you don’t have to worry about packing on extra pounds for your pet. It also contains various nutrients that are good for our furry friends:
- Antioxidants: Antioxidants help to boost your dog’s immune system, fight free radicals to combat cell degeneration, and have even been shown to improve brain health and reduce cognitive dysfunction in dogs. Some veterinarians even believe antioxidants have cancer-fighting properties.
- Vitamins and minerals: Cabbage is chock-full of vitamins and minerals that are good for your dog’s health. The list includes Vitamin K, Vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and beta-carotene, which helps your dog’s body create Vitamin A.
- Fiber: Like other green healthy vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, cabbage has a high fiber content. Dietary fiber is important for your dog to help regulate their digestive system. Having the right amount of fiber in the diet is also helpful for avoiding issues like constipation and diarrhea.
Another great way to help regulate your dog’s digestive health? Native Pet’s Probiotic Powder. Our mix of probiotics and organic prebiotics helps to promote good gut bacteria, which can help your dog avoid stomach upset, constipation, and diarrhea.
What Are the Risks of Cabbage for Dogs?
Can dogs eat cabbage? While it's a nutritious choice, this vegetable isn’t without risk. Before you start incorporating cabbage into your dog’s diet, know that there are risks like:
Yes, the fiber content in cabbage can help avoid constipation. But fiber is fickle — too much isn’t good. Large amounts of fiber can actually cause constipation, creating serious discomfort for your dog.
How can you tell if your dog is constipated? The common signs include a lack of defecation for several days and hard and dry stools. Your dog may also appear distressed, perhaps pacing restlessly or whining. If you’ve fed them cabbage recently and you see these signs, it’s a safe bet the veggie caused some constipation.
Upset Stomach and Flatulence
If you eat a lot of cabbage, you might find it makes you gassy. The same is true for your dog. Too much cabbage is likely to cause your dog stomach upset and excessive gas, not to mention diarrhea. And while some flatulence isn’t particularly harmful — mostly just smelly — diarrhea can dehydrate your dog. If it isn’t resolved, it can start to cause other serious health problems.
Cabbage contains small quantities of thiocyanate, a natural compound found in plants. Your dog’s system can filter out small amounts, but consistent exposure to this compound over time could lead to a damaged thyroid gland — which results in hypothyroidism. With this condition, your dog’s metabolism will slow down and you may start seeing adverse health symptoms such as:
- Weight gain
- Thinning coat with excessive shedding
- Dark skin pigmentation
- Intolerance to cold weather
- Bald patches
- Increased occurrence of skin and ear infections
It would probably take a lot of cabbage over a long period of time to result in hypothyroidism, but it’s something to be aware of. If you do start to see the above symptoms, you’ll want to take your dog to the vet’s office as soon as possible. Although hypothyroidism isn’t curable, it can be successfully managed with the help of your vet.
How to Feed Your Dog Cabbage Safely
We’ve learned that dogs can eat cabbage and get various nutritional benefits from it, but that this veggie also comes with some risks. So, what should dog owners do when they want to feed their pets cabbage?
Here are some safety rules to follow. Note that these go for all types of cabbage, including green cabbage and red cabbage.
1. Only Feed Cabbage Occasionally
Any kind of new food, especially human food, added to your dog’s diet in large amounts on a regular basis is likely to cause an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. And remember: Cabbage contains thiocyanate, which can cause hypothyroidism if your dog is exposed to it regularly over a long period of time. For these reasons, only feed your dog cabbage occasionally — a small quantity once or twice a week is more than enough.
2. Cook Your Dog’s Cabbage
Dogs can eat raw cabbage, yes, but the leaves can be tough and leathery. It’s best to only give your pooch cooked cabbage. Try steaming, roasting, or boiling the cabbage, and don’t fry it in oil or add seasonings like salt, garlic, or onions, which are toxic to dogs. Cooking cabbage may also help to reduce the harmful effects of thiocyanate.
3. Cut Your Dog’s Cabbage
Cabbage leaves can be fairly large, and their tough texture can make them difficult for dogs to eat. Large leaves or tough stems might even present a choking hazard. To be safe, always cut your cooked cabbage into small, bite-sized pieces for your dog. You can feed your dog the pieces by hand or sprinkle them over dog food to add a nutritious topper to your pet’s meals.
Can Dogs Eat Cabbage? Yes, But Serve It Properly
Is cabbage good for dogs? Yes, dogs can eat cabbage. It even offers a few health benefits like vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fiber. These nutrients are important for your dog’s immune health, digestive system, and various bodily functions.
Cabbage does present some risks for our canine friends, though. Because of its high fiber content, large amounts will probably cause gastrointestinal distress in the form of constipation, upset stomach, flatulence, and/or diarrhea. Cabbage also contains small amounts of thiocyanate, which can damage your dog’s thyroid function over time and lead to hypothyroidism.
So, how can your dog eat cabbage safely? Feed cabbage as the occasional dog treat rather than as a regular part of your dog’s diet. Cook cabbage by steaming, roasting, or boiling it, and cut the leaves into small pieces so your dog doesn’t choke. Following these simple steps can allow you to safely feed your dog cabbage.
For more insight into your dog’s health, nutrition, and dietary needs, visit the Native Pet blog.