A dog looks longingly at food cooking on the grill.

Can Dogs Eat Asparagus?

Reports of human foods causing illness and even death in dogs have led pet owners to question the safety of various foods, including asparagus. Human foods that are most dangerous to dogs are chocolate, grapes and raisins, and peanut butter. To learn more about what dogs can and can’t eat, click here.

Well, can dogs eat asparagus?

The answer is yes! Many dogs love the unique texture and flavor of asparagus and enjoy it as a healthy snack. It is not only low in calories (approximately 4 calories per spear), but also an excellent source of nutrients such as water (93%), protein, fiber, folate, copper, potassium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, selenium, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. It can also serve as a great low-calorie treat for overweight dogs. However, since asparagus is expensive, it is an uncommon everyday snack for pets.

How to Grow and Serve Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial flowering plant with young shoots that are cultivated as vegetables and commonly served as an appetizer or side dish. The plant can grow 4 to 5 feet in height with a sturdy stock and feathery, fern needle-like leaves.

It can be either green or white in color. Green asparagus is popular around the world with the typical growing season occurring from late April to the end of June. White asparagus, which is generally more tender, results from covering shoots in the soil as they grow, which blanches them. When cultivated, they are not exposed to light and the shoots remain white. Both types are safe for dogs.

Asparagus has been a culinary treat for centuries, and has been noted for its diuretic and aphrodisiac properties. There are even reports of pictures of asparagus on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3,000 BC. It was primarily grown in Europe and brought to North American in the mid 1600s.

Asparagus has a distinct flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. It is commonly boiled, poached, steamed, grilled, microwaved, stir-fried, pickled, and/or marinated. It can be a side dish, appetizer, or salad ingredient.

Dangers for Your Dog

When feeding asparagus to your dog, keep the following dangers in mind:

  1. Pancreatitis or gastrointestinal upset may occur in dog’s sensitive to seasonings or butter. Many recipes for asparagus suggest serving them with white sauce, Hollandaise sauce, melted butter, or olive oil. Too much oil, fat, or seasoning can lead to gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis in some pets. Learn more about pancreatitis here.
  2. There is a risk of choking from eating large prices of asparagus or very woody or stemmy parts. This is more common in small dogs, but can occur in any animal. Some dogs are not good at “chewing” their food, which increases the risk of choking.
  3. Pesticides, fertilizers, and potential contaminants such as E. coli or listeria on vegetables can cause illness in dogs.
  4. The asparagus fern (leaves) are reported to be toxic for dogs, and cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Do not allow your dog to eat anything but the stem.
  5. Raw asparagus can be difficult to digest, causing flatulence (gas), vomiting, and/or diarrhea in some dogs. Stools may also be green in color.
  6. While not a danger, eating asparagus can modify the smell of a dog’s urine, creating a foul scent (which can also occur in people). According to research, an autosomal gene present in about 30 to 50% of people (and an unknown percentage of dogs) leads to a breakdown of a high sulfur compound called asparagusic acid. The digestion of asparagusic acid causes a very unique and generally unpleasant fragrance to the urine of those affected. It is often known as “asparagus urine,” and its accompanying odor may be a problem for puppies that are not housebroken or senior dogs that are incontinent.

It is important to understand that just because your dog eats a small piece of asparagus on occasion, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to give them your leftover appetizer, salad, or meal. For example, salads with asparagus may also include toxic ingredients, like onions, garlic, or even raisins.

Please note: Any food can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs. What may not bother one dog, can make another dog sick.

Do Dogs Need Asparagus?

There is nothing in asparagus required for a balanced diet. What dogs need is a high-quality AAFCO-approved dog food. Learn more about what dogs require in their diet here.

The Safest Way to Feed Asparagus to Your Dog

The safest and healthiest way to feed asparagus to your dog is in small pieces, either cooked or freshly cut. Make sure the stems are washed thoroughly to remove pesticides, fertilizers, and potential contaminants.

Cooked asparagus is a healthy option and softer to chew when unseasoned and steamed. Excess butter or seasoning can cause gastrointestinal upset in some dogs. If your dog shows any sign of illness after eating asparagus, please call your veterinarian or closest veterinary emergency clinic immediately.