Last Updated on March 17, 2023 by Becky Roberts
Dogs aren’t 100% carnivorous. And that’s a good thing! It means pet parents like us don’t have to spend a fortune feeding them 100% gourmet raw meat and bones. Instead, we can mix those up with the best grain-based dog food we can afford and still keep our fur babies healthy and happy.
But did you know that you can mix in some vegetables as well? Yup! A serving of vegetables for dogs now and then can boost the nutritional value of their diet. That includes any type of cabbage, which conveniently lasts longer than most leafy greens, especially when kept in your refrigerator’s crisper. (And can dogs can eat red cabbage, too? Definitely!)
However, you need to know how to prepare cabbage and how much of it to use. Because too much of it isn’t good for your dog.
- 1 Why too much cabbage is risky
- 2 Why red cabbage is still a good idea
- 3 How to safely add cabbage
- 4 Recipe: Cabbage Meat Treats
- 5 Summary
Why too much cabbage is risky
All cabbages are part of the group of cruciferous vegetables or “Brassicas.” These vegetables carry biochemicals that can have negative side effects on dogs, especially when they’re consumed often or in large quantities.
It destroys thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Like all leafy greens, cabbages have a significant amount of thiamine. Thiamine or Vitamin B1 an essential nutrient for animals, including humans and dogs. It’s what helps us metabolize sugars and amino acids. Our bodies don’t produce thiamine. We get it only by eating thiamine-producing bacteria, fungi, or plants (like cabbages).
But at the same time, cabbages contain traces of polyhydroxyphenols. These are natural compounds that have what’s called an “antithiamine” effect — these can react with thiamine and destroy some of it.
Humans easily get around this by eating more vegetables. (We’re omnivorous.) We still get enough thiamine despite the presence of antithiamine polyhydroxyphenols. We also tend to cook our veggies more often, which destroys some of the polyhydroxyphenols (and some of the thiamine, as well!)
But our dogs are more carnivorous. (They can’t go vegan or mostly vegetarian.) If a dog consumes too much cabbage, he’ll have enough of these polyhydroxyphenols to cancel out most of the thiamine they get both the cabbage and other food sources. The dog will then suffer from thiamine deficiency.
It suppresses thyroid hormones
Uncooked cabbages also contain thiocyanate. Thiocyanate is what’s called a “competitive inhibitor” of thyroid hormones.
In both dogs and humans, whenever a certain level of thiocyanate is present in the bloodstream, that signals the thyroid gland to stop producing thyroid hormones. (Thyroid hormones are what regulate many key functions in the body, most notably the rate of metabolism and sexual development.)
For us humans, it’s normal for both thyroid hormones and thiocyanate to exist in our systems. The balance between the two is what helps keep our bodies functioning normally. Regular exercise and a healthy omnivorous diet are usually enough to keep that balance in humans.
Dogs are different. They also require that balance of thyroid hormones and thiocyanate; but because they’re less omnivorous and more carnivorous, that balance can easily be upset by the consumption of too many food sources that raise the level of thiocyanate. (Like too much raw cabbage.)
When your dog has too much thiocyanate, he will likely develop symptoms similar to hypothyroidism — like extreme weight gain, lethargy, difficulty pooing, slow heart rate, and fur loss.
It gives your dog extra gas
A dog that eats too much cabbage also ends up with too much gas in his gastrointestinal tract. That means plenty of episodes with an upset stomach or smelly farts!
Why red cabbage is still a good idea
However, the health benefits of cabbage are still significant.
Red cabbage has more nutrients in it than the usual pale green cabbage. So adding the right amount of it to your dog’s diet will add the extra vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (e.g., beta carotene) he needs. It also has more dietary fiber, which aids in digestion and in maintaining peristaltic movement.
Every 100 grams of cooked red cabbage provides significant doses of the following nutrients:
- Carbohydrates, 6.94 grams
- Dietary Fiber, 2.6 grams
- Protein, 1.51 grams
- Vitamin C, 34.4 milligrams
- Folate (Vitamin B9), 24 milligrams
- Vitamin B6, 0.225 milligrams
- Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), 0.154 milligrams
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1), 0.071 milligrams
- Vitamin K, 47.6 micrograms
- Vitamin A, 2.0 micrograms
- Beta-carotene, 20.0 micrograms
- Potassium, 262.0 milligrams
- Calcium, 42.0 milligrams
- Phosphorus, 33.0 milligrams
- Iron, 0.66 milligrams
How to safely add cabbage
So if you are going to start adding red cabbage to your dog’s diet, here are a few important safety tips.
1. Always chop up the red cabbage.
Chopping up the leaves into thin, short strips (like you would for making coleslaw) will help make the fibrous vegetable easier for your dog to digest.
2. Use more cooked cabbage than raw cabbage.
Cooking (by steaming or boiling) lowers the amount of thiocyanate and polyhydroxyphenols in the cabbage leaves, making it less risky for your dog to eat.
3. Use red cabbage occasionally.
Even when cooked and chopped, don’t make red cabbage a major ingredient of every meal. Use it only as a supporting ingredient or as a topping sprinkled on your pet’s usual dog food. Do this only once or twice a week, and no more than that.
Recipe: Cabbage Meat Treats
Give your dog the occasional taste of cabbage with these homemade doggie treats. The red cabbage in this recipe acts as a nutritious “extender.”
- Grated red cabbage (uncooked), 100 grams
- Ground beef or ground pork, 145 grams
- Water or milk, 120 milliliters
- Wholewheat flour, 175 grams
- Melted unsalted butter, 6 tablespoons
- Eggs, 2 pcs.
Preheat your oven to 190 to 200 degrees C (around 374 to 392 degrees F).
In a large bowl, crack the eggs and whisk the contents until frothy. Add in the water or milk and the melted butter. Whisk until everything is well-combined.
Add in the ground pork or beef and mix with a wooden spoon until the meat is thoroughly infused with the egg-dairy mixture.
Gradually mix in the flour and the cabbage. Mix until all ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the resulting dough.
Using a spoon, drop a spoonful or two of the dough into each mold of a greased cupcake or muffin baking tray. (This recipe produces about 10 to 14 treats.)
Bake these in the oven for 20 minutes or until the treats are done. To check, you can push a toothpick or skewer into the treats. If it comes out clean without any uncooked dough, they’re done. Let them cool before serving these to your dog. Store any leftovers in the freezer and microwave to thaw and reheat.
So go ahead — feed your dog with a little red cabbage twice a week, along with his favorite dog food or occasional treats. If you know how to prepare the cabbage and you don’t go overboard with it, you’ll be keeping your dog fit and healthy for a long time!