Bell peppers, sometimes called sweet peppers or capsicums, have long been known as a healthy, nutritious food for people. They are low-calorie and packed with vitamins and minerals, making them a great food item to incorporate into your cooking. What about for our canine companions, though? Do the same health benefits seen in people hold true for dogs? What about other peppers?
Are Bell Peppers Safe to Feed My Dog?
Rest assured that, yes, bell peppers are safe and can be nutritious for your dog. When it comes to other peppers, though, the safety pretty much stops with the bell variety. They are, by far, the pepper variety that contains the least amount of spice.
Other peppers, like jalapeños, Serranos, etc., can be incredibly spicy. This variance in spice arises because all peppers, while belonging to the same genus of Capsicum, have varying amounts of capsaicin in them. Capsaicin is an organic compound and an active component of chili peppers. It is an irritant for all mammals and can produce a burning sensation on any tissue that it comes into contact with, including skin, eyes, and lips. The more capsaicin present in a single pepper, the stronger the irritant and the stronger the burning sensation.
Bell peppers have a fairly insignificant level of capsaicin in them. As such, they are among the blandest peppers in the Capscium genus. This makes them the most ideal pepper to feed to your dog.
Other peppers that contain greater concentrations of capsaicin are not as safe and can lead stomach upset and with high concentrations, can cause burns, mouth irritation, and other adverse effects.
What Are the Health Benefits of Bell Peppers?
Bell peppers are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, carotenoids like lutein, capsanthin, beta-carotene, flavenoids like quercetin and luteolin, as well as other compounds like potassium and folate. Vitamin A, lutein, and other carotenoids are good for eye health and Vitamin C helps support a healthy immune system, however, dogs, unlike people can make their own vitamin C, so supplementation is not needed. Vitamin E helps with your dog's skin and coat health and Vitamin B6 helps support a healthy nervous system. There are also some studies that have discovered a link between beta-carotene and arthritis, which could be a potential application for senior dog care. All of this packed into one pepper.
Balanced, commercially available dog foods already contain appropriate levels of these vitamins and minerals. Feeding small amounts of bell peppers to a dog on a blanched diet is safe but will not likely provide additional health benefits. If you are home cooking for your dog, bell peppers can be nutritionally beneficial, but you should consult with a veterinary nutritionist to ensure your pet's diet is nutritionally balanced over all.
Anyone who has ever shopped at a grocery will know that bell peppers come in different colors. So, does it matter which color bell pepper you choose? Red bell peppers can contain the highest concentrations of Vitamin C and Vitamin A as well as beta-carotene, so while green, orange, and yellow bell pepper are all great options, red bell peppers pack the most punch.
How Many Bell Peppers Can I Feed My Dog?
As with any new food, starting small and in moderation to see how your dog will react is key. Some dogs will be fine with bell peppers added into their daily diet and some won't be as tolerable. Always be sure to completely remove all the seeds, stems, and inner core that might be more difficult to digest.
As a general rule, dogs should receive no more than 10 percent of their daily calories from food other than their nutritionally balanced dog food. Amounts higher than that can result in an imbalance of vitamins and minerals.
The outer skin portion of the bell pepper may be tough for your dog to chew and/or digest when the pepper is still raw. You can steam the pepper to soften the skin, though.
Never season the pepper with salt, spices, or garlic, and never use peppers that have been cooked or mixed with onions (so those bags of frozen, pre-cut peppers and onions are not an option for Fido).
As previously stated, while your palate might be able to withstand spicier peppers, most dogs cannot handle that much spice. Their digestive tracts may not be as used to something like a jalapeño or Serrano as yours might be. So while slipping a hot pepper to your dog won't necessarily be a lethal mistake, it may cause stomach upset, leading to indigestion and diarrhea. And as with any new treat, always consult with your veterinarian before introducing to your dog's diet.