Bell peppers, sometimes called sweet peppers, are hugely popular in many dishes today. If your dog looks at you with pleading eyes when you’re chopping bell peppers in the kitchen, do you know if it’s safe to let him have some? We can answer that question for you with a resounding, “Yes!”
Facts about Bell Peppers
Most people think of green peppers when they think of bell peppers but they belong to the species Capsicum annuum. They come in red, yellow, orange, green white, and even purple. All of these peppers are quite mild although they are related to the hot peppers such as cayenne and jalapenos.
Bell peppers are about 94 percent water with 5 percent carbohydrates. They are a good source of vitamin C and they also contain vitamin B6, vitamin A, E, and K. Beta carotene, lutein, and other carotenoids help support healthy vision and vitamin C helps your dog’s immune system. Dogs can convert beta carotene to vitamin A which is good for their skin, coat, and eyes. Vitamin B6 is good for your dog’s nervous system; and vitamin E supports your dog’s skin and coat.
Red bell peppers contain more vitamin C and other vitamins than green bell peppers. Red bell peppers are also considered to have more antioxidants than other peppers.
It’s safe to give your dog bell peppers in any color. The colorful peppers – red, yellow, orange – usually cost more in the grocery store so don’t worry too much if you buy the green peppers for your dog. All of the bell peppers are healthy.
Are Bell Peppers Good for Your Dog?
Considering their health benefits and safety, bell peppers (in any color) are good for your dog. There are even some diets for dogs with cancer that include them, especially the red and yellow bell peppers. (Note that different kinds of cancer can respond to different diets. Consult your veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet, especially if he is being treated for a health issue.)
As with most fruits and vegetables, you should use moderation when giving your dog bell peppers.
We recommend giving your dog some small slices of raw bell peppers alone or cooking them slightly to make them softer and easier to chew. No seasoning is necessary. You can also steam or puree the pepper. Many dogs love raw pieces of bell pepper. We suggest removing the stem and seeds inside the pepper.
Note that the more a vegetable is cooked, the more it will lose vitamins and minerals. However, cooking a vegetable often makes it easier for a dog to digest. So, if you cook a vegetable for your dog you always want to cook it just enough to help your dog and not turn it to mush. Pureeing a vegetable will likewise breakdown the vegetable and let your dog digest it more easily. This can be done without cooking the vegetable and losing vitamins and minerals through heat. Many people like to steam vegetables for this reason since it softens them without using a lot of heat for an extended time.
If you give your dog a stuffed bell pepper (such as your leftovers), you will need to make sure that it doesn’t contain any onions since onions can be toxic to dogs. Garlic is also problematic for dogs. A little won’t harm most dogs but if you haven’t prepared the food yourself, you won’t know how much garlic is in a food. Many sources recommend that dogs completely avoid garlic.
Fajitas are another popular food that usually contain bell peppers. You might be tempted to share some with your dog but you should use caution since fajitas usually contain onions.
Do not give your dog spicy or hot varieties of peppers such as chili peppers or jalapenos. Dogs and hot, spicy foods are a bad combination that can leave you and your dog miserable. Luckily, most dogs are smart enough to spit hot peppers out immediately but if your dog should somehow eat hot peppers, you may need to take him to the vet. At the very least, watch your dog for signs of gastrointestinal upset. Signs that your dog may have eat a hot pepper include: watery eyes, coughing and sneezing, gagging and dry heaving, pawing at his face or mouth, and excessive drooling.
Cautions about Bell Peppers
As with other vegetables, you should introduce bell peppers to your dog’s diet slowly to find out if he likes them and can eat them without problems. Many dogs love them but some dogs won’t like them. Dogs are always individuals.
A large dog can usually eat about no more than one-half pepper. A small dog should not eat more than one-quarter pepper at one time.
You can give your dog bell pepper pieces as a treat or you can add small amounts to his regular dog food to make it more interesting.
If you give your dog more than these suggested amounts, he could have an upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting. While some dogs seem to have a cast iron stomach, you never know when the odd vegetable might lead to a problem, especially if your dog eats too much of something new. Eating too many bell peppers, either raw or cooked, is not a good idea, as many small kids can attest. (I certainly ate myself sick on them when I was young!)
Many dogs love bell peppers, in any color. They love the crunch of the raw vegetable and they may like the taste of the cooked bell pepper. If your dog loves bell peppers, it’s good to know that they are a safe, healthy food. Given in small amounts, most dogs enjoy them without any problems. The biggest things you need to be concerned with about bell peppers are giving your dog too many; and avoiding giving your dog leftovers that might contain things like onions and garlic. As long as you give your dog bell peppers in moderation and you avoid leftover bell pepper foods that could contain dangerous ingredients, there’s no reason why your dog shouldn’t enjoy bell peppers.