The process of canning food dates back to a couple of hundred years ago.
Believe or not, the idea of preserving food comes from Napoleon (the famous French Emperor and military commander) in the late eighteenth century.
He wanted a method for preserving food for his soldiers.
The first attempts revolved around preserving food in glass bottles- an idea which took its inspiration from wine.
Early in the nineteenth century an Englishman named Peter Durand started sealing food it cans and the world hasn’t looked back since then.
But, whilst placing food in sealed cans might be ideal for soldiers, how appropriate are canned vegetables for dogs?
Can dogs have canned vegetables?
Canned vegetables are a great addition to your dog’s diet because as far as price and convenience are concerned, canned vegetables just can’t be beaten.
But canned vegetables aren’t a perfect choice by any means and there are a few things to bear in mind and a few types of vegetables to steer well clear of.
But generally, if you want a quick and easy way to jazz up your dog’s meal with a vitamin and mineral boosting topping, then it is time to hit the “can” aisle in your local store.
But before I get into the dos and don’t and the highs and the lows of canned vegetables, let me start with a bit of a history lesson.
How are vegetables canned?
By all accounts, things haven’t changed much from the days of Peter Durand.
The same basic methods of canning foods are still used today.
Vegetables are washed, prepared and chopped up.
The first stage of preservation comes when the vegetables are blanched (or scalded) in order to kill off any bacteria.
They are then placed in a tin can with a little water (and sometimes salt but more on that later.
The can and its contents are heated once more in order to kill off any remaining bacteria.
And the cans are then shipped out to places such as our local grocery store ready for us to buy.
Are canned vegetables healthy for dogs?
This is a really interesting question.
Is a process that is over 200 years old still the best way of preserving food?
And the only way of looking at this is to explore alternatives.
It seems that overall frozen vegetables trump canned vegetables but it might not be for the reasons that you think.
For some reason, I thought that vegetables destined for the canning factory were older than the very ripe vegetables that are sent to the freezer factory.
But apparently this isn’t so- vegetables which are destined to be canned or frozen are both picked at their perfect ripeness.
I think that in terms of the process, there are two ways in which frozen vegetables are better than canned vegetables.
Firstly, when vegetables are canned they are heated on two occasions- once before they are placed in the can and then again when they are in a sealed can.
Frozen vegetables are only heated once.
As a result, frozen vegetables contain more nutrients because heating up any food destroys nutrients.
And it is particular vegetables with lots of vitamin B and C in which seem to suffer the most.
Canned vs frozen vs fresh- which is the best vegetable for your dog?
In the last section I briefly compared frozen and canned vegetables.
In this section, I want to do a more detailed analysis comparing prices, storage and nutrition but looking at fresh, frozen and canned products.
Let’s face it, you cannot beat fresh vegetables.
But the trouble is that they have different storage needs and if these needs aren’t met then they can deteriorate very rapidly.
For instance fresh peas will turn starchy within 24 hours of being picked.
You remember earlier I said that vegetables that are destined to be canned or frozen are picked when they are at their ripest.
Well, fresh vegetables destined for grocery stores are picked before they are ripe so that they become ripe whilst on display in a store.
And then by the time that they get home with you.
Fresh spinach will lose 100% of its vitamin C in a week if stored at room temperature and 75% if it’s stored in a fridge. Carrots lose 27% of their vitamin C in their first week if stored at room temperature.
Price: canned vegetables vs frozen
It is time to visit Walmart to take a look at some prices.
Gram for gram are canned vegetables better value than their frozen equivalents?
This will be a little bit random but I will try and keep the comparison as fair as possible.
A 14.5 oz can of cut green beans will cost $0.50 whereas for the same price you only get 12 oz of frozen cut green beans.
So round 1 is won by canned beans.
Next up is peas.
A 14.5 oz can of peas will cost $0.50 whereas a 12 oz bag of sweet peas will cost you $0.77.
Round 2 is won by canned peas
And finally carrots.
A 14.5 oz can of sliced carrots will cost $0.50 whereas a 12 oz bag of sliced carrots will cost you $0.84.
And finally round 3 is won by canned carrots.
Having established that canned vegetables tend to be (slightly) better value for money, in the next section I want to discover which process keeps a vegetable fresher for longer.
How long will canned vegetables last?
The USDA has actually looked into this issue extensively and believes that good condition canned goods can be eaten indefinitely.
Over time, they might lose some of their nutrition, texture and taste but the products won’t harm you if it is eaten.
That then begs the question, how long do canned vegetables last and still be in optimal condition?
Vegetables such as spinach, beans, beets, peas, and pumpkin can last anywhere from two- five years.
But how does this compare to frozen vegetables?
How long will frozen vegetables last?
The general consensus here is that frozen vegetables will last somewhere between 8- 12 months.
Although, like their canned equivalents, frozen vegetables can be eaten beyond these dates but they might have lost some of their nutrition.
It seems that in terms of price and longevity, canned vegetables beat their frozen counterparts.
But surely they can’t be perfect?
To my mind, there are two disadvantages and the biggest drawback is what I will go on to discuss next.
Are canned vegetables with added salt good for your dog?
Salt is one of the oldest preservers in the world.
Another preservation trick that manufacturers have traditionally used when canning vegetables is to add salt in the water.
But the trouble with this is that it massively increases the salt content in the vegetable itself and dogs don’t need such high levels of salt.
Let’s do a quick comparison- I’m off to Walmart once more.
A standard 15 oz can of sweet peas has 1015 mg of sodium in it.
Whereas a 15 oz can of sweet peas with no added salt contains 52 mg of sodium.
That is a difference of almost twenty times!
Fortunately this practice is becoming less popular as people become more health conscious.
Most brands of canned vegetables have a “no added salt” alternative and the good news is that it won’t cost you any more.
From one sort of poison to another as in my next section I want to look at the threat of BPA in canned vegetables.
Canned vegetables might be contaminated with BPA
BPA is a chemical that historically was placed on the inside of food cans.
It helped to prevent things like erosion as the food or water touched the side of the can.
Unfortunately this chemical wasn’t safe and has been linked to several health conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease in adults and hyperactive behaviour in children.
It won’t surprise you to learn that there has been zero research into the possible effect of BPA on dogs…
I don’t know how frequently it is used today but in 2018 it was still being used in 10% of all food cans.
So the risk is minimal but it is something to bear in mind…
What canned vegetables are bad for dogs?
When it comes to canned vegetables that you shouldn’t feed your dog, there are only a few because the most toxic vegetables to dogs (such as onions and garlic) aren’t normally available in cans.
But they do come in jars- but don’t feed them to your dog either.
Dogs can eat canned potatoes but you might want to avoid them because they don’t have much as far as dogs are concerned.
The AKC also recommends not feeding your dogs asparagus spears because although they aren’t toxic for dogs, they have a tough and woody texture which makes them difficult for dogs to eat.
Are pickled vegetables a good alternative to canned vegetables?
I have only just spoken about it but it won’t hurt to say it again- never feed your dog pickled onions or pickled garlic.
The trouble with large pickled vegetables such as gherkins is that as well as soaking in vinegar there is quite a lot of salt added into the mixture.
The vegetable itself isn’t toxic, neither is the vinegar but depending on the amount of it the salt could be.
Some people confuse pickled vegetables with fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut.
Fermented vegetables contain healthy gut bacteria that pickled vegetables don’t.
So, if in doubt, opt for sauerkraut.