Carrots are one of my favorite vegetables to feed my dogs. They are cheap, have an enjoyable crunchy texture and a sweet, aromatic taste. But why exactly are carrots so good for our dogs?
Carrots contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gives carrots and other vegetables their signature orange (or sometimes yellow, purple or red) color. Evidence suggests that increased intake of antioxidant rich foods protect cells from damage.
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, which is needed for healthy vision. Carrots are also low in calories. One medium carrot contains about 25 calories, making them an ideal snack for a dog who needs to lose a little weight. Here are six easy ways to incorporate carrots into your dog’s diet:
Grate or Peel Them
Grating carrot on top of your dog’s dinner is a low-prep option that adds a little extra deliciousness to their meal and can be a great solution for enticing a fussy eater. Simply wash the carrots with a vegetable brush before grating them over what they’d normally eat.
When peeling carrots for yourself, save all the peelings for your dog. Cook and mash the peels, or blend until smooth. A dollop of this carrot puree is a great way to disguise some yucky medicine.
If your dog is not a vegetable lover, juicing may be a fun way to add carrots to the diet. Carrot juice is extremely high in vitamin A, but the fiber in carrots is lost during juicing. To make sure your dog doesn’t miss out on the healthy fiber, add some of the pulp back into the juice before adding it to their bowl. Just wash the carrots, run them through a juicer, pour and serve!
Fresh juice should be consumed right after it’s been made. It can be stored in the fridge for a day, but no longer.
If you would rather cook carrots before giving them to your dog, the healthiest way is to lightly steam them, which enhances their flavor while retaining most of the nutrients. Here’s how to easily steam carrots for your dog:
- Add two inches of water to the bottom of a saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Slice the carrots into strips or batons and place them in a steamer basket over the boiling water.
- Cover the saucepan.
- Steam the carrots for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Drain the carrots into a colander.
It is very easy and cost effective to bake your own dog treats, and carrots are ideal for baking into treats because of their natural sweetness. Follow these steps to bake carrot treats for your dog:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combine mashed, steamed carrots (or cheat and use carrot baby food) with enough whole-wheat flour to create a dough.
- Roll out the dough and cut into shapes.
- Place the cookies on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.
Frozen carrots may help relieve discomfort for teething puppies and can slow down an aggressive chewer while still offering vitamins and minerals. Just don’t offer more than one whole carrot a day, because of the high fiber content, and never freeze baby carrots (which can be a choking hazard for dogs).
Though raw carrots are delicious, dogs can’t break them down like we can, which means that you may rediscover a raw carrot on the way out (in their stool) in the same condition it went in. To take nutritional advantage of the whole carrot and it’s health benefits, raw carrots should be broken down to flakes or a fine mush before frozen into cubes.
Make Carrot Crackers, Chips or Sticks
Ever wondered what to do with the extra pulp that is left over after juicing? Feed it to your furry friend as a tasty cracker:
- Mix three cups of carrot juice pulp with ½ a cup of flax seed.
- Add just enough water so the pulp will be easy to spread.
- Spread the mixture to about ¼ inch thickness on a dehydrator sheet or a parchment-lined baking sheet and cut squares.
- If using a dehydrator, dehydrate at 120 degrees Fahrenheit for about six hours, then flip and dehydrate for another four hours.
- Without a dehydrator, place in the oven at the lowest setting with the oven door slightly open. Timing will be different when using an oven versus a dehydrator. You may need to dehydrate for less than half the recommended time (six hours then four hours), so check them periodically.
- Store in an airtight container to keep them crunchy.
To make carrot crisps, follow our zucchini crisps recipe but slice the carrots on the long way and slightly thinner, rather than into disks. A peeler does this job well.
Most dogs will happily eat carrots, but if you have a fussy eater, there are still ways to get carrot into their diet. Cut them into sticks, then soak the sticks in boiling water flavored with concentrated chicken stock until cool. Then, drain them and put them into zip-lock bags for the perfect on-the-go snack or training treat.
Kristina Johansen is a certified canine nutritionist who runs Elmo’s Kitchen and provides guidance on general nutrition and home-prepared diets for dogs.