Are Carrots Safe For Dogs?
Carrots for dogs? Who feeds their dogs “rabbit food”? That seems so odd… and more importantly, is it safe to give my precious friend these crunchy orange vegetables?! The short answer… Yes! You can safely feed your dog these healthy snacks! The long answer… keep reading like the responsible pet owner Kai the Chihuahua loves you for being! We cover why, in moderation, feeding carrots to your dog is ok, what benefits there could be in doing so (when properly chewed), and we’ll even recommend some of Kai’s top picks for healthy dog treats that have these vegetables as a primary ingredient.
Are Carrots Safe for Dogs?
Like many types of "human food" there are concerns there, right? Well, rest assured, they can in fact be a healthy treat for your dog. Although, as with so many things, moderation is key. If your beloved pup is diabetic, carrots could possibly cause some harm due to sugar or carbohydrate intake concerns. Certainly, if your pup has diabetes, consult your vet prior to including carrots in their diet. Beyond that though, there are real benefits in including them in your fur babies diet.
Carrots are crunchy as we all know (are you thinking of Bugs Bunny right now? Kai is!). There’s substance, or weight behind biting into one, it requires some real chewing action, something that dogs love to do! This is great for your dog’s teeth! That strong, tough carrot scrapes against your dogs teeth to force off unwanted buildup. What a great alternative to expensive (and at times controversial) dental chews. Certainly brushing your dog’s teeth is the best answer, but just like we combine flossing with brushing, chewing carrots can be a second effort in promoting good dental hygiene in dogs.
Taking advantage of our dogs inclination to chew as a way of helping clean their teeth isn’t unheard of either, as we’ve mentioned in our write-up on chew toys here. Little by little, a little becomes a lot!
Like mom always said, eat your vegetables so that you can grow big and strong. High in many different vitamins, carrots are a great candidate for that “growing big and strong” effort, even in dogs. They are a nutrient-rich food, a great source of many important vitamins and minerals. The most obvious being beta-carotene, which is where carrots get their traditional orange color from. Beta-carotene is stored in fats in your dog’s body and converted into Vitamin A through the liver. Beta-carotene is also an anti-oxidant, vital in promoting a healthy skin and coat, reproductive health, normal bone development. It also contributes to prevention of infection and disease such as cancer by strengthening your dog’s immune system.
We’ve all heard that carrots are good for the eyes, Vitamin A is responsible for that statement becoming so popular. Vitamin A is stored by your dog’s body until needed. When called upon, Vitamin A is released through their bloodstream and travels to your dog’s eyes, where it is utilized in the retina. The retina of a dog’s eye uses Vitamin A to tell the brain what is being seen. In low-light situations (where dog’s excel in comparison to humans) such as at night on a walk or if your pup hears something while you’re sleeping Vitamin A is crucial in effective vision, as low-light environments cause the retina to call upon Vitamin A to a larger degree than normal or bright environments. So if you like taking night time walks with your pup, or you rely on them for a sense of security while you sleep, a Vitamin A deficiency can really hinder how well they can perform for you.
It should be noted that carrots alone are not an essential food for dogs. While Beta-carotene is important, it is also found in other foods such as liver (a primary ingredient in one of Kai’s favorite dog treats pictured here), eggs, and is even standard in commercial dog foods. In addition, raw carrots that are not heavily chewed significantly reduce the nutritional value attainable because the digestive tract is unable to break down raw carrots alone.
High In Fiber
A pup with an upset tummy or loose stool (diarrhea) can greatly benefit from eating (but still properly chewing) raw carrots. With all the additional fiber, they can add some bulk to their tummy, and ultimately their stool. While not an essential nutrient for your dog, fiber can help improve a dog’s digestive system. The key here however is to provide plenty of water for your pup in an effort to assist the digestive tract in operating smoothly. All in moderation though, too many carrots in too short of a time span can actually cause digestive discomfort or even harm your pup, but more on that later.
A MYTH ABOUT EYE SIGHT
While consuming carrots or other foods that are good sources of beta-carotene has it’s health benefits in humans as in dogs, it is unlikely that vision will actually improve. While modern medical science has been able to prove a deficiency in Vitamin A can make your vision worse, and that can be remedied with a higher intake of Vitamin A or Beta-carotene, we have yet to prove higher levels actually increase vision quality. There is also insufficient proof at this time that foods that provide higher levels of Vitamin A can improve eyesight for things like glaucoma or cataracts in dogs (or humans). However, beta-carotene has been shown to reduce progression or even prevent cataracts and other eye diseases in dogs. With the benefit of helping reduce eyesight degeneration as our dogs become seniors, we have no doubt you’ll find these nutrients vital in your dog’s diet.
AS A FOOD SUPPLEMENT
Carrots are low in calories, high in water, and low in fat. What does this mean? Perhaps your pup is experiencing a little weight problem. These healthy vegetables can act as a meal supplement, a healthy alternative to the normal diet, helping to make your dog feel fuller without the caloric intake of a typical meal of the same size. Carrots can be used as a “filler” addition to your dog’s food, providing more substance at a reduced energy content. It can be a win/win when utilized properly. Again though, consult with your veterinarian if you’re looking to utilize these delicious, high vitamin vegetables for more than just the occasional treat or short term meal supplement.
Do all humans like carrots? Of course not, so we would caution you before purchasing an 11 pound bag of carrot dog food supplements specifically designed for dogs, to at least find out if your pup enjoys raw carrots. Chances are good though, considering what most dog’s diets consist of. With a primary diet of the same dog food day in and out, it’s likely that a crunchy, wet treat such as a raw carrot will be a welcome change to your dog’s diet. And for the adventurous humans out there, there are even individual carrot flavored dental chews out there as a low priced trial option. No guarantees, but the chances are good!
WHAT ABOUT MY PUPPY?
First, good for you for looking into what’s safe and what’s not for your new family member in their furever home. Kai the Chihuhua is proud of all responsible pet owners. The short answer is yes, puppies can eat carrots, they are safe, but keep reading, please! We care about your puppy just as much as you do, and we don’t want you to be misguided. Your puppy deserves a well informed, well educated human so that they can receive the best care. All of the various benefits to dogs eating carrots mentioned in this article apply to puppies as well.
From helping clean teeth, to satisfying the urge to chew, to being able to provide important nutrients to your new furbabies system, all of these are great benefits. A word of caution, however: Too many of these vegetables can easily fill your puppy’s stomach. The result is a satisfied appetite, but an inadequate caloric intake. A puppy’s primary diet should consist of high protein dog food, designed specifically for puppies. Replacing a meal with raw carrots for your puppy is not a situation that you would typically want without direct input and guidance from a veterinarian. As an occasional treat, however, raw carrots for your puppy should be just fine. You can even freeze one for prolonged chewing and fun while they eat! A better alternative to raw carrots for a puppy would be carrot based treats rich in protein such as the ones we cover further down the page.
At high levels of beta-carotene intake, the orange pigment may show through into your dog’s skin or hair. Dogs with red or brown hair may show a noticeably darker coat as a result. Noticing the change in pigmentation is not cause for panic. This difference subsides fairly quickly once such high levels of beta-carotene stop being introduced to your dogs system. Fun Fact: This pigmentation change is also noticeable in humans at high intake levels as well.
In addition, please consult with your veterinarian if you are considering supplementing your dog’s diet with large amounts of Vitamin A in any form on a regular basis. There is such a thing as Vitamin A toxicity. That said though, reaching a toxic level of Vitamin A would require a very large dose over a prolonged period of time. Carrots as an occasional treat for your dog isn’t going to come close to reaching toxic levels of Vitamin A. As we mentioned earlier in our article, everything in moderation.
Carrots are also high in fiber, which as discussed creates a more solid stool for a pup. However, if your pup is not one to chew their food, and would rather just swallow pieces of them whole, it is best to break them up yourself into smaller, more digestible pieces, so that your dog doesn’t experience digestive discomfort thanks to large pieces of carrots running through their insides. Alternatively, you can explore the various alternatives to your dog eating them raw in the next section. These alternatives hold all the benefits of nutrient-rich carrots without the large pieces and need for refrigeration and staying wet that traditional carrots require.
ALTERNATIVES TO RAW CARROTS
Perhaps your dog eats most of a raw carrot, but then leaves little bits and pieces all over your carpet. Perhaps your dog is older, and doesn’t have the dental health to be chewing on raw vegetables such as these. What can you do? Here are some great alternatives:
Cooked carrots are also safe for dogs. While raw carrots contain soluble fiber, they also have about as much insoluble fiber in each serving. Soluble fiber breaks down in the digestive tract, while insoluble does not. Without heavy chewing, the bulk of the nutritional content of a carrot will remain inside them to ultimately be passed by your dog. Cooking them will break down the insoluble fiber, allowing your dog to actually take in more of the nutritional benefits of carrots. Lightly cooking or steaming carrots are the best way to go. Boiling them will actually extract most of the nutrients into the boiled water, reducing the nutritional value of the carrot. This holds true
for humans too, steaming is the best way to cook vegetables while still retaining a high nutritional value. The more you know, right?! The trade off here however is the loss of that tooth cleaning crunch we mentioned earlier. If your pup is a senior however, and dental stress is a concern, this could be a win/win.
Juicing raw carrots on your own is a great alternative as well. All the nutrients, no digestive discomfort concerns over swallowing too large of chunks of raw carrots, no dental involvement of course, and no mess if your dog leaves bits of orange vegetables behind without cleaning it up. We caution, however, that carrot juice you may purchase at the store may have additives. It is all of our responsibility as dog owners to know what’s going into our dog. Please read all of the ingredients to ensure everything in a store bought can of carrot juice is safe for your dog.
A word of caution here, juicing carrots will increase the amount of sugar uptake a dog receives from the same amount of carrots vs. eating them raw. That’s a concern for dogs with diabetes, and even dogs without diabetes if you plan to make juiced carrots a regular part of your dogs diet. Again, in the case of making carrots in any form a part of a regular diet rather than an occasional treat or reward, please consult with your veterinarian first.
KAI’S TOP FIVE DOG TREATS CONTAINING CARROTS
1. ZUKE’S Z-BONES CARROT DENTAL CHEWS
While dental chews can be controversial, these fall under the safer side of the house, with the primary ingredient being Potato Flour (The same primary ingredient in the well known Whimzees) With multiple size options to accommodate any dog, these treats contain a multitude of vegetables to include carrots, providing that oh so important Vitamin A without the hard, insoluble cellulose in the way of the nutrition that would be in a raw carrot. Grain free and Made in the USA, Zuke’s is a well known, established brand too, and they even come in a one pack to try out with your dog before committing to a larger amount so you’re not wasting your money.
2. LOOK WHO’S HAPPY HAPPY WRAPS – CARROT WITH CHICKEN
A premium dog treat company, Look Who’s Happy Dog Treats are a sure win with your pup. Happy Wraps are made from cage free USA Chickens, and combined with dry roasted carrots. Natural ingredients and Made in the USA, it’s a win win for these treats!
3. ISLE OF DOGS NOURISH GOURMET CHICKEN SPINACH AND CARROTS DOG TREATS
Wet Noses Organic apples and carrots treats are full of vitamins, antioxidants, and healthy ingredients. Carrots are extremely beneficial for dogs' eyes because they're full of vitamins and antioxidants; to find out more about dog treats containing carrots, read our in-depth review here. Both the organic apples and the organic carrots are great for your pup's immune system because they contain Vitamin A. They also contain fiber which is great for your dogs' digestion, and healthy fats to improve their fur and skin. The treats are only 30 calories each and come in a convenient 14 oz. bag.
Ingredients: Organic Rye Flour, Organic Molasses, Organic Whole Oats, Organic Apples, Organic Carrots, Organic Crushed Peanuts, Organic Thyme, Organic Canola Oil, Water
4. NATURE’S VARIETY INSTINCT LAMB & CARROTS DOG TREATS
Nature’s Variety are experts when it comes to pet nutrition. You can breath easy knowing you’re spending your money on treats that are great for your pup. These gluten-free, grain-free, and soy-free treats have carrots as the fourth ingredient; they know how important it is for your pup’s to get enough Vitamin A. They’re full of protein, and fit almost every diet restriction. You can purchase a 20 oz. bag on Amazon for a surprisingly reasonable price.
5. NUTRO CRUNCHY DOG TREATS WITH REAL CARROTS
While the bags come in multiple sizes, these teats themselves come in one fairly standard training treat size. Dried carrots being the third ingredient on the list, these are nutritious, and Made in the USA as well. On the lower end of the price scale, these are a very affordable alternative while still providing nutrition, ensuring these aren’t “just because” treats.
NOTABLE ADDITION – OLEWO DEHYDRATED CARROTS DOG FOOD SUPPLEMENT
While not actual treats, these dehydrated carrots are designed to be added to your dog’s food as a filler or supplement. Available in many different sized bags, we included these as they are such a unique product. With proper, responsible use, these dog food supplements can be mixed in or added to a dogs normal meal for the additional nutrition. You can use these to keep your pup more regular, or simply to supplement some of the higher calorie dog food your pup routinely consumes. So if your pup often has softer, runny stool, is constantly hungry, or you are concerned with commercial dog foods not providing enough nutrition, these may be well worth looking into! And with carrots as the only ingredient, there should be no concern over what you’re putting into your pup.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER “HUMAN FOODS”?
Are apples safe for dogs? What about bananas? And watermelon? We know you’ve got lots of questions, and we’re here to help answer them! As we expand our articles in an effort to provide you better, high value content for your dogs we will update this section. Our goal is to educate you to the best of our ability, helping to promote safe, happy dogs and dog owners, one family at a time. Until next time friends, Kai says “Ciao!”