For a quick and easy treat for dogs, carrots are hard to beat. Most dogs love their cold, crunchy texture, they can occupy teething puppies, they are inexpensive, and they keep well in the refrigerator. If you prefer, you can also add grated, cooked, canned or defrosted frozen carrots to your dog’s meal.
Health benefits of carrots
Some of the health benefits of carrots include:
- They are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients, which protect heart health.
- Carrots can help reduce cancer risk.
- They contain Vitamin A, which is vital for good vision and protecting eye health.
- The nutrients in carrots contribute to healthy skin and coat.
- Carrots are high in carotenoids, which help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Carrots are a great supplement to kibble based diets as they contain Beta Carotene, Vitamin B, C, D E, K, Calcium, Manganese, Phosphorus, and Potassium.
Preparing carrots for your dog
When feeding a carrot as a treat, a whole carrot is fine for dogs but will often pass through the digestive tract. For optimal absorption, steam carrots, but be careful they are not overcooked. When feeding carrots, wash and peel the carrots to help remove any toxins unless they are organic.
More reasons to give your dog a carrot treat
If you need more reasons to give your dog carrots as treats, consider these:
- Weight loss: Because carrots are high in fiber, they are filling yet low fat. If you are looking for a healthy treat which won’t cause your dog to gain weight, or trying to help your dog lose a few pounds, supplementing carrots instead of treating your dog with high fat dog biscuits or other goodies just makes good sense.
- Oral hygiene: Chewing on a raw carrot can help clean your dog’s teeth and stimulate gums. Chewing carrots promotes good oral hygiene. Carrots will not leave sticky residue on your dog’s teeth, as dog biscuits and other processed treats do.
- Anal gland health: Some vets purport that they are good for anal gland health as they are a natural source of fiber, which helps to bulk up stools. Along with a healthy diet that has meat as its first ingredient, the fiber in carrots also helps the anal glands express naturally. It should be noted that too many carrots could also cause diarrhea, which could exacerbate the problem.
- Prevent night blindness: Dogs require Vitamin A and a Vitamin A deficiency causes night blindness. Carrot treats help prevent a deficiency of this important vitamin.
How many carrots can you feed your dog?
Just as with anything, moderation is key when feeding carrots to dogs and supplementing carrot treats will vary depending upon your dog’s size, weight and caloric needs. One average sized carrot contains about 30 calories. Treats should only make up 5% - 10% of your dog’s total diet. Since carrots are high in fiber, too many carrots can cause gastrointestinal upset or diarrhea so watching to see how your dog tolerates carrots is wise. Carrots also contain high amounts of Vitamin A, which can pose a health risk to dogs if they get too much.
According to Pet MD: “Dogs that have too much [Vitamin A] in their diet (hypervitaminosis) can develop bone problems and muscle weakness. Thankfully, reaching a toxic level of vitamin A would require a very high dose over a long period of time, and giving your dog a few carrots now and again isn’t going to come close to providing an overdose.”
According to Pet Education: “Vitamin A is one of the two vitamins in which over supplementation can have negative effects. However, we have never seen a case of over supplementation causing toxicosis, and in dogs, toxicity has been demonstrated only under experimental conditions. Toxic doses of Vitamin A could produce muscle weakness and bone abnormalities. Realistically, over supplementation or toxicity is virtually impossible unless mega-doses are given for long periods of time (months to years).”
A toxic dose of Vitamin A is 113,600 IU/lb of food consumed on a dry matter basis. A half cup of raw carrot contains 9,189 IU of Vitamin A.