Whether purple, yellow or regular orange, carrots are a healthy and nutritious vegetable for both you and your pup. Dogs can safely eat carrots. They’re a good source of dietary fiber and rich in vitamins.
It’s often said that chewing cold or frozen carrots will help clean plaque off a dog’s teeth. This isn’t really the case, but there are many other reasons why carrots can be part of a healthy dog diet.
Carrots Are A Nutritious Treat
One 7 inch long carrot weighing 78 grams contains 30 calories, 60 mg of sodium, 250 mg of potassium, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar. The FDA (1) lists carrots as a good source of vitamin A, providing 110% of the recommended daily value (for a human, based on a 2,000 calorie diet). Vitamin B6, C and K, plus calcium and iron are other nutrients in carrots.
3 Reasons To Give Your Dog Carrots As A Natural Treat
Here are some health benefits of carrots for dogs … along with feeding your dog a whole food diet focused on raw meats, fruits and vegetables.
- Fiber that supports digestive health
- Antioxidants that help prevent chronic disease
- Nutrients that are important for eye health
Dietary fiber helps maintain regularity, and also improves digestive health. High fiber diets have been linked to reduced risk of colon cancer.
Carrots are a good source of fiber content and they’re high in both types of fiber:
- Insoluble fiber – which doesn’t dissolve in water and draws water into a dog’s intestines to soften stools and help with constipation.
- Soluble fiber – which dissolves in water and creates a gel that improves digestion. This means it can firm up stools to help with diarrhea. It can also help manage blood glucose, lowering the risk of diabetes.
In addition, soluble fiber is a prebiotic that ferments in your dog’s gut, producing short-chain fatty acids that boost the immune system, help with nutrient absorption, protect the lining of the gut and reduce harmful gut bacteria.
Antioxidants from carrots have many benefits. Some of the antioxidants found in carrots include:
- Vitamin C
These antioxidants can reduce the oxidative stress that comes from too many free radicals in your dog’s body. Free radicals are damaged cells that steal from healthy cells. This can lead to chronic inflammation that causes diseases like arthritis, cancer and premature aging.
3. Eye Health
Lutein and beta-carotene are two antioxidants that accumulate in the retina and protect it from oxidative stress. And even better, beta-carotene is a an antioxidant that converts to Vitamin A in your dog’s body.
Vitamin A plays an important role in:
- Eye health
- Skin and coat health
- Reproductive health
- Infection protection
- Bone and teeth formation
- Sun protection
Carrots can contribute to healthy eyes, skin, teeth and bones, and a healthy dog!
How To Feed Dogs Carrots As Part Of A Natural Diet
Carrots can be difficult for bodies to digest. If you give your dog a raw carrot, you’ll often see undigested carrot pieces in his poop. And large pieces of raw carrot can be a choking hazard if your dog’s a gulper.
So you’ll need to prepare carrots for your dog in a way that makes them easy to swallow and digest. There isn’t much nutrient loss in cooked carrots, and they’re more digestible. Research at Italy’s University of Parma, published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, found that cooking carrots in water preserved antioxidants better than other methods (2)
To retain vitamins, but also make carrots more digestible, , it’s best to cut carrots into small pieces and lightly steam them. Another option is grating and pureeing carrots to make them easier to digest.
Note: As a bonus, grated raw carrots mixed into your dog’s food can help prevent intestinal worms.
Don’t overdo carrots for your dog. Because carrots are high in natural sugars, make them an occasional nutritious snack or healthy treat, or a colorful meal topper.
Are Carrots A Good Chew Toy?
Carrots contain Vitamin A, Vitamin K and calcium, which contribute to healthy teeth and bones. As dogs grow, carrots are often viewed as healthy chew toys.
Some dog owners give frozen carrots to dogs to help prevent plaque. But a 2005 study by Mckenzie et al at University of Queensland found that there is no significant dental health benefit to chewing soft or hard dog chews (the number of bites appeared more important than the toughness of the chew). However, chewing does disrupt the accumulation of plaque, making it a self-cleaning action. Chewing also increases saliva which brings antibacterial benefits.
Marx et al in 2016’s Australian Veterinary Journal (3) found that raw beef bones were effective at removing dental calculus in Beagles (especially denser “cortical” bones like leg bones). So raw bones are a better choice to clean your dog’s teeth. Chewing on raw bones helps to loosen baby teeth in puppies, provides mental stimulation, exercises a dog’s facial structure, neck and shoulders, and provides entertainment.
Things To Keep In Mind When Feeding Carrots
As carrots are high in fiber, introduce them slowly into your dog’s diet to avoid stomach upset.
When feeding carrots …:
- Cut carrots into bite size pieces to avoid choking.
- Supervise dogs with frozen carrots as chew toys.
- Give carrots as an occasional treat. Use special caution with diabetic dogs due to sugar content.
- Keep in mind vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that can accumulate in the tissues and cause toxicity. Natural soiurces of vitamin A like carrots shouldn’t cause a problem, but if your dog gets synthetic vitamin A in a pre-made dog food, don’t feed a lot of carrots. Signs of toxicity are hair loss, skin changes, bone pain and fractures. (4)
Alternatives To Carrots For Dogs
Carrots have many nutritional benefits … but they’re just one part of a diverse diet you should be feeding your dog. To provide the best nutrition, provide a wide range of vegetables covering the many colors of the rainbow; each color provides different nutrients.
- Butternut squash has many of the same nutrients as carrots, with less sugar.
- Apples are rich in soluble fiber and Vitamin C.
- Cranberries have been shown in the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association to disrupt the formation of plaque (5)
- Berries are rich in antioxidants and are great when given frozen.
- Kale is full of Vitamin C, lutein and beta-carotene, as well as magnesium and calcium.
- Nutrition Information for Raw Vegetables. US Food & Drug Administration.
- Cristiana Miglio et al. Effects of Different Cooking Methods on Nutritional and Physicochemical Characteristics of Selected Vegetables. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 200856 (1), 139-147
- Marx FR et al. Raw beef bones as chewing items to reduce dental calculus in Beagle dogs. Australian Veterinary Journal. 2016 Jan-Feb;94(1-2):18-23.
- Cho DY, Frey RA, Guffy MM, Leipold HW. Hypervitaminosis A in the dog. Am J Vet Res. 1975 Nov;36(11):1597-1603. PMID: 1190603.
- Bonifait L, Grenier D. Cranberry polyphenols: potential benefits for dental caries and periodontal disease. Journal of the Canadian Dental Association. 2010 Oct 01;76(1).