As canine parents, we often think that if a specific food is good for us humans, it must be suitable for our Golden Retriever. This is especially true for vegetables. After all, vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Most of us could stand to get more of these healthy veggies, so why not our Golden Retriever, right?
But, considering dogs are carnivores, and their natural diets do not include the need for vegetables, one might wonder if Golden Retrievers can (or should) eat vegetables?
Golden Retrievers can eat some vegetables as a rare treat or snack. A Golden Retriever’s digestive system differs from a human’s. While they can eat some vegetables on occasion, moderation is essential. Certain vegetables should be avoided due to the potential for gastric issues or toxicity concerns.
We discussed whether Golden Retrievers could eat fruit (yes) and good fruit options versus bad fruit options in a previous post. Unfortunately, we discovered that some fruits were outright toxic to Golden Retrievers, while other fruits were safe to eat in moderation.
If you’re interested in reading about what fruits are acceptable to eat for Golden Retrievers, you can check out that post here:
Like fruits, some vegetables are toxic to our dogs. Others are not harmful, but they can cause digestive distress, resulting in gas, bloating, diarrhea or vomiting. The toxic vegetables need to be avoided outright, and you should ensure your Golden Retriever does not have access to those.
Much like fruits, the occasional veggie indulgence is acceptable. However, any vegetables provided to your Golden Retriever should only be from the healthy list and in moderation.
Let’s look at the unhealthy vegetables first. Some are outright toxic to your Golden Retriever, while others have the potential for some issues.
The Unhealthy Vegetables: Your Golden Retriever Should Avoid These
First, let’s start with the unhealthy vegetables since these could potentially have the greatest impact on your Golden Retriever’s health in a negative way.
Asparagus makes the list of unhealthy vegetables only because it’s not the best option for your dog. Asparagus is not toxic to your dog. However, it can cause stomach issues – gas, bloating, indigestion – especially in its raw form.
Cooked asparagus is more comfortable for your dog to chew. Cooking breaks down the vegetable making it less likely to cause stomach issues, but it also depletes many nutrients. If it’s cooked, feel free to give it to your dog, but watch for stomach issues and avoid adding sauces and spices. There are better options for your dog, however.
Garlic, like onions, is part of the Allium family and is toxic to dogs. In addition, garlic contains thiosulfate, which is a very toxic substance to canines. Thiosulfate can cause damage to red blood cells resulting in hemolytic anemia.
Symptoms include rapid breathing, dark urine, lethargy, jaundice, diarrhea, vomiting, and gastric upset. Keep garlic and garlic-laden foods away from your Golden Retriever.
Also, be mindful of garlic pills, which can be dropped on the floor and ingested by your Golden.
Kale is often touted as a wonder food for us humans, but it’s an ill-advised choice for your dog. Kale contains a few substances that are unhealthy for your Golden Retriever and potentially toxic at higher levels.
Avoid kale due to the nasty double combo of calcium oxalate and Isothiocyanate. Broccoli doesn’t contain calcium oxalate, so it offers a better option, provided the quantity is small due to the isothiocyanate content.
Like garlic discussed above, onions also are part of the Allium family and contain thiosulfate. Same toxicity, the same potential for hemolytic anemia, and other severe symptoms. Keep onions away from your Golden Retriever.
Peas and Potatoes
While peas and cooked potatoes (raw is never an option for your dog) were long considered healthy and may still be, this may not be the case after all. An update on the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine website has raised a potential concern.
According to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the Food and Drug Administration issued an alert about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds or potatoes as main ingredients.
This alert is specifically concerning for the Golden Retriever owner. Dr. Josh Stern, a veterinary cardiologist, and geneticist at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, began noticing issues with DCM in Goldens, which is not common to this breed.
Dr. Stern also found the diagnosed Goldens were all eating the same grain-free diet that included potatoes and peas, among others, as the main ingredients.
While at this time, the link between diet and DCM seems to be a correlation only, peas and potatoes make the unhealthy list as a precaution. Considering that dogs do not need to eat vegetables and numerous other healthy options as snacks or treats are available, it doesn’t make sense to take any risks.
Until more data can demonstrate that peas and potatoes do not negatively affect Golden Retrievers, they should remain on the “pass” list. Talk to your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions.
Avoid wild mushrooms. Some can be very toxic and even deadly to your dogs. Yes, deadly. While the supermarket variety is generally safe and can be fed to your dog, it’s best to avoid mushrooms altogether.
Mushrooms provide very little nutritional value to your dog. They are often prepared in combination with onions or garlic, which is highly toxic to your Golden Retriever.
There are better, more nutritious options on the list for your Golden to enjoy, should you choose to make vegetables a part of its diet.
The Healthy Vegetables: Your Golden Retriever Can Eat These in Small Quantities
Next, we’ll take a look at the healthy vegetables. These vegetables can make good snacks for your Golden Retriever in smaller quantities.
Bell Peppers: Green, Red, Orange, and Yellow
Bell peppers are safe for your dog as a treat or snack, provided it’s given in small quantities, and the seeds and core are removed. Raw peppers might be difficult for your Golden Retriever to digest, so cooked peppers are better for digestion.
If you choose to cook the peppers, be wary of any added sauces or spices such as garlic or onions. Also, peppers apply to bell peppers only – not chili or other varieties.
Peppers are a good source of beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, iron, and fiber. Bell peppers also contain vitamin B6 and are low in calories.
Broccoli could be on both the healthy and unhealthy list. Golden Retrievers can safely eat broccoli florets. However, the stocks can cause intestinal obstruction or choking concerns, so avoid those. Cooked broccoli (without any sauces or seasoning) is more comfortable for your dog to chew and swallow.
Because of the Isothiocyanate and obstruction concerns, broccoli is a “maybe” vegetable. However, provided owners feed the florets to their dog and keep the amounts very small and infrequent, there should be little issues with broccoli as an occasional snack.
However, there are much safer options if you choose to feed your Golden Retriever vegetables.
Brussel sprouts are safe for your Golden Retriever. Brussel sprouts are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In addition, they’re high in fiber and vitamins C and K.
Yes, Brussel sprouts are healthy for humans and dogs alike. Similar to us as well, Brussel sprouts can cause gas and flatulence in our Golden Retrievers.
So, be forewarned that your Golden Retriever may gas you out of the house after eating Brussel sprouts. Brussel sprouts are best cooked, steamed, or microwaved to ensure they’re soft and more comfortable for your Golden Retriever to chew.
As with all vegetables, don’t overfeed your Golden Brussel sprouts.
Carrots are an excellent snack for your dog and are most definitely Golden Retriever approved. Carrots are high in beta-carotene, vitamin A, and fiber. In addition, they’re low in calories and fat, making them a great alternative to commercial dog treats.
However, raw carrots are great for your Golden Retrievers teeth, and they like the crunch. So, consider mixing it up with raw and cooked to get both benefits.
A full carrot can even be frozen to help a teething puppy with sore gums.
Cauliflower is not only safe for your dog, but it’s a nutritional powerhouse. Cauliflower is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins K and C, calcium, potassium, and folate.
However, like broccoli, you need to go easy on the amount given due to its Isothiocyanate content. Isothiocyanate can cause gas, bloating, or significant health problems if given in large quantities.
Celery is a safe snack for your Golden Retriever. Low in calories and fat and high in fiber, this crunchy snack is packed with nutrients. Celery is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K and contains manganese, folate, and potassium.
Celery is excellent diet food for dogs struggling with weight issues or obesity. But, like all vegetables and fruits, keep portion sizes small.
Yes, this vegetable (some classify it as a grain) is perfectly safe for dogs. The corn kernels are safe for dogs, not the cob. The cob is a potential choking or blockage problem for your Golden Retriever, so make sure the cob goes in the garbage and not your dog’s stomach.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, popcorn is perfectly safe for dogs, provided it’s not buttered.
Greens beans are a safe vegetable for your dog. Green beans can be eaten by your Golden Retriever raw or cooked. This vegetable is low in fat and calories, high in fiber, and is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, folate, magnesium, and potassium. It also contains omega-three fatty acids.
Some advocate using green beans as more than a snack or treat and a weight-loss diet staple for your dog by replacing some of your dog’s food with green beans.
Considering dogs do not need to eat vegetables and are carnivores, be careful with replacing a large part of your dog’s food with green beans. As with any extreme dietary changes, talk to your vet first before considering this if your dog has weight issues.
The water-packed cucumber is a great summer snack for your Golden Retriever. A cucumber is 96% water, and like the celery above, it’s an excellent snack for dogs struggling with weight issues. In addition, cucumbers are low in fat, calories, and sodium, so they’re a great alternative to commercial dog treats.
A medium cucumber contains about eight calories in a half-cup of slices. Although this crunchy vegetable is packed with water, it also includes some excellent vitamins and minerals. Cucumber contains vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium.
Lettuce: Iceberg, Romaine, and Arugula
Lettuce, including romaine, iceberg, and arugula, are safe for your Golden Retriever. Lettuce is mostly water, and there is not much in it that should pose any safety issues for your dog. The high water content and low calories make lettuce a good snack for your Golden Retriever, especially in the hot summer months.
Iceberg lettuce provides nutrients such as vitamins K and C and calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and folate. Romaine is high in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. Unfortunately, both iceberg and romaine are low in fiber.
Arugula is incredibly healthy and nutrient-dense lettuce. Arugula is high in fiber and phytonutrients. Like romaine and iceberg, it’s high in vitamins K and C. Arugula also provides a healthy dose of vitamin A, calcium, folate, and potassium.
Arugula is a cruciferous vegetable in the same family that includes broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Arugula has many of the high antioxidants and phytonutrients found in the cruciferous family.
If feeding lettuce such as iceberg, romaine, or arugula to your Golden Retriever, make sure it’s in moderation and that you break the pieces into small bite-sized portions. Also, wash all lettuce before feeding it to your Golden Retriever to prevent contamination with E.coli.
Spinach is one of those maybe vegetables like broccoli. It’s safe in small quantities, but large amounts can cause some potentially serious health issues. In the case of spinach, that substance is oxalic acid. Oxalic acid can lead to kidney damage in your dog.
However, your Golden Retriever would have to eat large quantities for that to be an issue. Feeding spinach to your Golden Retriever is a personal choice, but if you do, keep it in small quantities only to be safe.
As for health benefits, spinach is packed with nutrients. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins A, B, C, and K. Spinach also contains iron, antioxidants, beta-carotene, and fiber.
Squash including Zucchini and Pumpkin
Squashes such as butternut, zucchini, and pumpkin are all safe for your dog to eat if cooked. However, raw is not recommended due to it likely being hard on a dog’s digestive system.
Technically, zucchini and pumpkin are part of the squash family, which is why I have included them together. While technically, all squashes are botanically a fruit, they seem better suited to the vegetable list.
Butternut squash is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. Zucchini is low in calories and a great source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, and manganese.
Pumpkin is best steamed and mashed. Canned pumpkin is acceptable but check the label to ensure it says 100% pumpkin, and it has no added salt, sugars, or nutmeg.
Pumpkins are also packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, including beta-carotene, carotenoids, potassium, and Vitamin C; it also has some calcium and B-complex vitamins. In addition, pumpkin is high in fiber and low in sodium.
How Many Vegetables Can I Feed My Golden Retriever Daily?
Like fruits, the key is moderation, and the same rule applies.
Vegetables should follow the 90/10 rule. 90% of a Golden Retriever’s daily calories should come from a high nutrient dog food. The other 10% of the calories can be allocated to snacks. That 10% is total for all snacks, including fruits, vegetables, and other snacks.
Are There Other Concerns With Golden Retrievers Eating Vegetables?
Gardeners should be mindful if your Golden Retriever has easy access to your garden. Your Golden Retriever may help itself to some of the vegetable varieties that are less than optimal or downright toxic to your dog. While small amounts of vegetables are okay, large quantities of vegetables – even healthy ones – can potentially cause gastric issues.
Gardeners may want to ensure some preventive measures are in place to ensure your Golden Retriever doesn’t help himself with large amounts of vegetables or the wrong types. For example, consider erecting a fence around your garden to ensure your Golden Retriever cannot help himself to vegetables in your garden.
Another concern is digestive issues. Some vegetables can cause your Golden Retriever some stomach issues, while others not so much. Vegetables in their raw form can be tough to digest for dogs.
While cooking is a better option for many vegetables, one still needs to be mindful of any added spices or sauces, which can negatively impact your dog’s digestive tract.
Provided your Golden Retriever is only getting a small amount, there should be little issues with vegetables, provided your choices come from the healthy list discussed.
Be mindful that your Golden Retriever’s digestive system may become fussier as it ages. An older or senior Golden Retriever might not do well with certain vegetables that it tolerated well as a younger dog.
Vegetables, while healthy for us, can potentially cause issues with your Golden Retriever. It’s important to remember that dogs are carnivores and can live a perfectly healthy life with no vegetables as part of their diet. However, veggies should pose little issues as an occasional treat or snack and often make a better alternative to commercial treats.
If you do opt to feed vegetables to your Golden Retriever, then ensure that:
- vegetables are given in moderation as a snack or treat only
- snacks and treat comprise no more than 10% of your dog’s diet, including vegetables
- cooked vegetables may be easier to digest than raw vegetables
- if cooking vegetables, skip the sauces and spices when feeding to your dog; and,
- you choose safe vegetables only and be cautious of substances that could cause harm to your Golden Retriever.