For the love of bell peppers! We love to stuff and bake um’, dice them up and add them to salads, pop them into soups, and even just crunch on them raw with a little dip. Along with offering up a rather addictive crunch and fresh taste, they also tout a rainbow of health benefits! While it’s clear bell peppers (also called sweet peppers or capsicums) are great for us humans, now the question is: Can dogs eat bell peppers?
Short answer: Yes!
The Bell Pepper Rainbow
While often referred to as a vegetable, bell peppers are actually classified as a fruit. They belong to the nightshade family of Capsicum annuum species and are related to tomatoes and chili peppers (an important note on chili peppers below).
This fruit masquerading as a veggie comes in a variety of colors. If you walk down the produce aisle of your grocery store, you’ll likely find green, yellow, orange, and red. While they’re all safe for your pooch to munch on, red is best! That’s because it contains the highest amounts of vitamins and antioxidants. In this article, we’ll be focusing on red bell peppers.
Note: Bell peppers offer up a sweeter flavor and the information in the article is strictly for bell peppers. Don’t feed your dog spicy peppers, such as chili, cayenne, jalapeño, habanero, tabasco, etc. Spicy peppers can upset your dog’s gastrointestinal health and lead to a funny tummy.
A Look At The Nutritional Value
Like any fruit or vegetable, when it comes to feeding bell peppers, moderation is key. In general, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends “large dogs eat less than one-half pepper and that small dogs eat less than one-quarter pepper at a time.” It’s always best to start slow — with just a few bites — to see how your dog responds.
While your fur kid will only have few bites, to keep things simple, let’s take a look at the nutritional facts for 1 cup of chopped red bell pepper. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA):
- Water – 92%
- Calories – 46
- Carbohydrates – 9g
- Fat – 0.5g
- Protein – 1.5g
- Fiber – 3.1g
- Sugars – 6.3g
- Vitamin A – 234µg
- Vitamin B-6 – 0.434mg
- Vitamin C – 190mg
- Vitamin E – 2.35mg
- Vitamin K – 7.3µg
- Carotene, beta – 2420µg
- Potassium – 314mg
- Calcium – 10.4mg
- Magnesium – 17.9mg
- Folate – 68.5µg
The Health Benefits Of Bell Peppers
- Strong Immune System – Peppers are chock full of vitamins A, C, E, B6, and K, which are all key nutrients in building a strong immune system. Get this: A cup of chopped red bell pepper packs nearly three times more vitamin C than an orange!
- Anti-Cancer Food – Bell peppers are high in antioxidants that help fight against free-radicals in the body, which are unstable molecules that can damage cells. If there are too many free radicals in the body, it can damage your dog’s DNA and lead to chronic disease. Experts link free radicals to various illnesses, including cancer.
- Aids In Healthy Weight – According to The Association For Pet Obesity Prevention, as of 2018, approximately 56% of dogs in the United States were either overweight or obese. Whether your pooch falls into this majority category or not, bell peppers are a perfect nutrient-rich, low-calorie, and low-fat snack that your canine may enjoy.
- Heart Health – Potassium is an essential mineral that may improve heart health. Low levels of potassium (and magnesium) can lead to heart arrhythmias, weaker heart muscle contractions, and low blood pressure. Bell peppers are a good source of both minerals.
- Eye Health – The Beta Carotene in this superfood (which the liver converts to Vitamin A) aids in maintaining and improving eye health. Experts say bell pepper’s eye health benefits also come from the carotenoids Lutein and zeaxanthin. They’re said to protect a dog’s retina — the light-sensitive inner wall of the eye — from oxidative damage.
- Bone Health – Vitamin A, Calcium, and Vitamin K help contribute to building strong bones.
Moderation Is Key
As I mentioned above, like with any fruit or vegetable, moderation is key. In general, the AKC recommends “large dogs eat less than one-half pepper and that small dogs eat less than one-quarter pepper at a time.”
It’s always best to start slow — with just a few bites — to see how your dog responds.
If you feed your dog too much, he may experience stomach and digestive upset. If you have any questions or concerns, consult with your veterinarian!
How To Feed Bell Peppers To Your Pooch
Here are a few feeding tips:
- It’s best to opt for organic. Always wash and chop before feeding to your pooch.
- Ditch the core and seeds to avoid a potential choking hazard.
- While you can feed your dog small bites of raw bell pepper, experts say the outer skin may be tough for him to digest. So, steaming or pureeing first is ideal.
- Feed them plain! When we enjoy bell peppers, we usually spice them up with salt and other flavorings. But, when feeding them to your pooch, go for plain!
If home-cooking for your dog, steamed diced red bell peppers may be a great addition to their meals. They also make for a great snack! Along with offering your pooch a small bite straight up, here are some ideas:
- Finely dice them up and add them to my Veggie Salmon Muffins (in place of the broccoli).
- Finely dice them up and add them to my Turkey Loaf Muffins (in place of the peas and carrots).
- Boil half a bell pepper with chicken and use in my Chicken Jello recipe!
- Chop them up and add them to my Puppy Frittatas, like I do in this video:
Get More Doggy Food Facts
This feature on bell peppers is part of a weekly web series called Food Facts Friday. Every Friday, we share foods that are great for our canine companions. Check out other foods highlighted in this series HERE!