Most of us probably recall being told from an early age that we should “eat our greens” or get our 5-a-day (or, more recently, our 7-a-day!) supply of fruit and vegetables. We know that veggies are good for our health, even if we don’t always include enough of them in our diet. And, it’s notoriously difficult to get some kids to eat certain vegetables, with parents having to find ingenious ways of disguising them so that they can successfully hide them in meals.
If you’re a dog owner (which is likely, considering that you are reading this!), you might wonder whether your pooch would benefit from some extra vegetables in their diet. The honest answer is that if you are feeding them good quality dog food, then they will be getting all the nutrients, fiber, protein, carbs, and fats that they need.
However, giving them a little extra won’t do them any harm! There are some precautions to take before you do so, the first of which is to check whether it is safe for them.
There are an awful lot of human foods out there that can cause serious harm to your dog. The last thing you want is to make them ill, which is the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve. So, today, we are asking, can dogs eat turnips?
Read on to discover the facts about turnips and whether they can benefit your furry friend or make them ill.
What Are Turnips?
The answer might seem obvious, but things aren’t always straightforward when it comes to vegetable names! Take the zucchini, the eggplant, or beets, for example. These are known in Britain (and other places) as courgette, aubergine, and beetroot.
Then, there’s the rutabaga, known elsewhere as a swede (a shortened version of Swedish turnip!). This gets even more confusing in the UK, where turnips and swedes are interchangeable in some parts, with an extra name, neeps, used in Scotland and the northern counties!
In order to avoid confusion, when we talk about turnips here, we are referring to the small, round vegetable with the scientific name Brassica rapa rapa, which is reddish-purple and white in color.
What’s So Great About Turnips?
Being part of the brassica family, turnips are closer to broccoli and kale than they are to root vegetables, such as parsnips. They make a great addition to any diet as they are a low-calorie food that is high in nutrients.
Let’s take a look at some of their health benefits:
• High in fiber – A high-fiber diet helps the digestive system to function properly and promotes healthy metabolism. It also lowers cholesterol levels, balances blood sugar levels, promotes bowel health, and reduces the chances of constipation.
• Vitamin C – This vitamin is an important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, boosting the immune system and cutting the risk of certain cancers. Healthy dogs can actually make their own supply of vitamin C in their livers, but there is no harm in giving them a boost now and again as any that is left over will pass through the body naturally.
• Vitamin A – Good for vision, the immune system, growth, and fetal development.
• Vitamin E – Excellent for strong, healthy muscles, boosts the circulatory system, and protects against free radicals (particles that harm the cells and can cause cancer).
• Vitamin K – This vitamin plays a vital role in blood clotting, healing wounds, and heart and bone health. Low levels of this vitamin can be fatal in cases of serious injury because the blood doesn’t clot and the victim can bleed out. This vitamin is frequently used to treat pets that have consumed rodent poison.
• Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6 – These perform a variety of essential roles in the body, including the healthy functioning of the nervous system and immune system. They promote healthy skin and hair, increase energy levels, keep your blood cells healthy, and help the body to break down carbs and amino acids into energy.
• Folate – Also called folic acid, this is essential for healthy cell growth and the production of red blood cells. It is especially important in the early stages of pregnancy in order to reduce the risk of brain and spine deformity.
• Omega 3 fatty acids – These reduce the risk of heart problems by slowing plaque build-up in the arteries. They also lower blood pressure and cut the risk of strokes.
• Proteins – Almost every part of the body benefits from proteins, which are a source of amino acids. These play a vital role in developing muscles, skin, ligaments, fur, tendons, and cartilage. Proteins also help with brain and heart health, along with hormone production.
Photo from: @stilly.billy
• Manganese – Essential for healthy bones and cartilage, especially in puppies. Although it is only required in tiny amounts, dogs need manganese for energy production, to break down carbohydrates and proteins, and to produce fatty acids.
• Copper – This trace element is required for making connective tissue, collagen, and bones. It also helps with the absorption of iron, acts as an antioxidant, develops the pigment in hair, and contributes to the growth and health of red blood cells.
• Iron – This mineral is vital for the healthy functioning of the body, helping the red blood cells carry the right amount of oxygen in the hemoglobin. Iron deficiency can result in anemia, making your dog weak, lethargic, and prone to disease and sickness.
• Magnesium – This is another vital nutrient that is required to keep the body healthy. It is used for nerve and muscle function as well as for making protein, bones, and DNA, and it also manages blood sugar levels. Magnesium deficiency can cause muscle tremors or spasms, nervousness, severe headaches, and even heart problems.
• Calcium – Aside from the obvious role it plays in forming bones and teeth, calcium contributes to healthy muscle growth and function, the proper functioning of the nervous system, and overall heart health.
• Potassium – This helps your dog to absorb and digest other nutrients in their food, and it also breaks down fats and carbs. It also improves cognitive function by strengthening the neural paths from the brain to other parts of the body. This is great for keeping your dog’s mind sharp, improving their memory, and helping them to learn things quickly.
Potassium also plays a part in healthy heart, liver and kidney function.
• Phosphorus – This is important for bone health, and it also promotes healthy kidney function by flushing toxins out of the system in the urine. It aids motor function, effectively making the muscles do what they’re supposed to do. This includes the job of keeping the heart running normally. Phosphorus is also responsible for the transfer and storage of energy.
That’s a lot of goodness packed into one small vegetable! This is why turnips have been a popular addition to stews, soups, and a whole range of different meals for many centuries.
So, if they’re good for humans, is it safe to add them to your dog’s diet?
To answer this, we’ll select some of these excellent qualities from the above list and explain what effects they can have on our doggy friends.
Are They Safe For Dogs To Eat?
The good news is, yes! Just like many other veggies (Brussels sprouts, artichokes, edamame, jicama, etc.) Turnips are safe for dogs to eat. The bad news is that not all dogs should eat them, or at least not in large amounts.
Pups shouldn’t eat too many turnips as their digestive system will struggle to cope with the high amount of fiber. This could cause them to have diarrhea, which could be dangerous for them as well as unpleasant.
Also, if your dog suffers from a thyroid condition, then you should avoid feeding them turnips as they are known to suppress thyroid function.
Provided your beloved pooch is healthy and has passed its puppy stage, then turnips will make a nutritious addition to its diet. You know your dog best, but many dogs are prone to digestive issues. Therefore, it’s always best to introduce any new food in small quantities just to see how they react.
Evidence shows that turnips can be beneficial in many ways, and can even help dogs with kidney disease as they stimulate kidney function.
Need ideas on how to serve them?
• Chop raw turnips into small pieces and scatter them over a bowl of regular canned dog food or kibble.
• Wash and steam turnip greens, then finely chop them and add them to the food.
• Boil and mash turnips, and mix them in with their food.
Remember; never add any seasoning or spices – your dog really won’t miss them and they could even make your dog ill.
So, to recap, your dog can eat turnips as long as it isn’t too young and is basically healthy. Don’t give him too much as it could cause digestive issues, but with a small amount in his food, whether the finely-chopped flesh of raw turnip, steamed leafy greens, or a healthy mash of boiled turnip mixed with their usual dog food, you can boost your doggy pal’s health and vitality in a wholesome, natural way.