Dogs are omnivores that can eat a wide range of fruit and vegetables as well as meat. It’s tempting to share your food, but it’s got to be safe. Here are seven reasons zucchini is safe for dogs to eat plus a little bit about how to serve it and why bitter zucchini is bad news.

Before We Dive In, What Is Zucchini?

Zucchini
Zucchini’s scientific name is Cucurbita pepo.

©FotosDo/Shutterstock.com

If you’re not American, you may know this plant as courgette or baby marrow, but its scientific name is Cucurbita pepo. It’s a vine squash that was cultivated in Milan during the 19th century, but squashes have been cultivated from at least 7,000 years ago. They’re native to Mesoamerica but are commonly grown across the world now.

Zucchini is easy-to-grow in a small garden patch or a raised bed and it’s inexpensive at the store. Yellow, orange, or green species are readily available and the best-tasting zucchinis are six to eight inches long. They can reach three feet, as some of you will have discovered on return from a week or two on holiday!

So, that’s the zucchini–courgette–baby marrow in a nutshell. Let’s find out why it’s safe for dogs to eat.

1. Zucchini is not Toxic

The first reason is unlike grapes, macadamia nuts, avocado, onions, and garlic, zucchini is not toxic to dogs.

In fact, the fruit (yes it’s a fruit and technically a berry!), the flowers, and the leaves are all non-toxic. A treat food in southern Europe is fried zucchini flower stuffed with herbs and veggies. They are delicious, but not suitable for dogs to due the fat content.

Large amounts of zucchini may upset your dog’s stomach as it’s full of fiber, so stick to small pieces and make sure it’s no more than 10% of your dog’s diet as recommended by the ASPCA. The remaining 90% should be a well-balanced complete dog food, either commercial or homemade.

If Rover does get an upset stomach from zucchini, offer small meals of plain food like sweet potato and turkey or chicken with rice. This will help firm up stools and keep hunger at bay.

If diarrhea last for more than a few days, call a vet for advice because it can lead to dehydration.

2. It’s Low Fat

56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

Overweight dogs are more prone to life-limiting issues such as poor mobility or painful joints plus diseases like diabetes and pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is a reaction to fatty foods. A healthy pancreas release enzymes that break down foods, but an inflamed pancreas will release these enzymes without food present. The enzymes then begin to break down the pancreas. It’s a re-occurring disease, so if a dog gets it once, it’ll need to eat a low-fat diet for the rest of its life.

But here’s the good news. Zucchini is very low in fat. A whole cup only contains around 17-20 calories and there’s barely any cholesterol. This means it’s an excellent treat for not only healthy dogs, but overweight dogs too.

3. It’s Filling

Although it has few calories, zucchini is very filling so it’s a good food to give a hungry dog, say one that’s dieting. A satiated feeling is essential for good dog behavior. A hungry dog is a miserable dog and it can lead to behaviors like stealing, aggression, or even cause depression.

4. Zucchini Contains Lots of Nutrients

There are hardly any calories in zucchini but it’s packed full of nutrients, especially if you leave the skin on because that’s where most of the good stuff is.

Zucchini is full of:

  • Antioxidants – these are plant compounds that protect the body against diseases like cancer
  • Vitamin A – retinol which is essential for good eyesight. It also boosts the immune system
  • Vitamin C – well known as an immune system booster, Vit C also helps repair cuts and scrapes.  
  • Vitamin B6 – the B vitamins help convert food into energy which gives your dog plenty of enthusiasm and zest for that walk.
  • Vitamin K – supports blood clotting and red blood cell production
  • Potassium – helps regulate blood pressure and cell fluid levels
  • Zinc – essential for cell growth, protein building, and a healthy immune system
  • Manganese – helps form muscles, blood cells, sex hormones, and connective tissues
  • Magnesium – supports muscles and nerve function
  • Copper – activates genes and maintains the nervous system
  • Phosphorus – essential for tissue and cell repair
  • Fiber – helps keep bowels regular and healthy

Zucchini is stuffed with dog-friendly nutrients, it’s an excellent snack either raw or cooked, but bear in mind raw zucchini with the peel on it contains more nutrients than cooked or peeled pieces.

5. It Has High Water Content

Cut into zucchini and it’s easy to see the water content, it’s very soft and fluffy inside. This is great news for dogs because it helps hydrate them and lessens constipation. It’s particularly good in hot climates.

Happy dogs are well-behaved and know what’s expected of them. This makes them feel secure and gives them a place in the pack (with you in charge).

Because many dogs are food-motivated, using small pieces of tasty zucchini is a great way to reward good results. Did Fido sit on command? Offer a piece of zucchini. Did they come back when called? Great! Small piece of zucchini and a big fuss. Offering food reinforces good behavior and because zucchini is so low in fat it won’t lead to weight gain.

7. It’s Less of a Choking Hazard

Dogs enjoy fruit and vegetable snacks, but some are hard and difficult to chew up. Zucchini is a soft plant that’s easy to eat even when it’s raw, so it’s less of a choking hazard than other solid veggies.

This helps keep dogs who “snatch and stuff” a little safer. However, it’s not 100% safe. Large pieces can choke small dogs and elderly dogs with dental problems might struggle to chew it up. To be safe, cut zucchini into pieces, and never give your dog a whole zucchini to munch on.

How To Add Zucchini to a Dog’s Diet

A dog being fed zucchini
Zucchini is a healthy treat for dogs for a variety of reasons.

©Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock.com

So, now we know seven reasons why zucchini is safe for dogs to eat, let’s look at how to incorporate it into their diet.

Zucchini is best when it’s tender, so that means small fruits are best. Choose firm ones that aren’t soft and keep them in the refrigerator.

Raw

Feeding raw zucchini is the easiest way to give your dog this nutritious snack. It’s couldn’t be easier, just cut small pieces from a washed zucchini and that’s it!

Steam or boil it

Although it reduces the nutrient content, streaming zucchini is a good idea if your dog is young, old, has dental problems, or eats quickly. Steaming it just softens the skin and flesh so it’s easier to eat. If your dog needs more help mash it up too.

Freeze It

Sliced zucchini straight from the freezer is a great summer time snack for hot dogs.

Add It to Their Meal

Raw or steamed zucchini can be mixed in with your dog’s meal, but make sure it’s 10% or less of the whole amount.

Add It to Food Puzzles

Food puzzles like Kongs are a good way to keep dogs entertained. They’re particularly helpful for dogs with separation anxiety or destructive behaviors. Slip a few small pieces of zucchini into the puzzle and let them spend time trying to extract it.

Don’t Season Zucchini For Dogs

Feed plain zucchini to your pup because although we like to eat it with seasoning, it’s not good for dogs and can eat be toxic.

Salt can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) in canines and it’s just as bad for them as it is for us. Blindness, nosebleeds, and seizures are all associated with doggy hypertension and it can shorten their lifespan too.

Other seasonings like pepper increases their thirst, and frying slices in oil creates a fatty food that contributes to obesity and pancreatitis.

Test Zucchini for Bitterness

Occasionally, zucchini can taste bitter and this is a sign of cucurbitacins (bitter principles). Cucurbitacin is toxic, so it’s best to taste a small piece of zucchini before feeding your pup.

Can Dogs Eat Zucchini?

There we have seven reasons why zucchini is safe for dogs to eat. If you haven’t given your pooch zucchini before, start out with a small piece and see how it’s tolerated before making it a more regular event.

Who knew the humble zucchini could be so versatile?

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