Preparing a stir fry for dinner and getting puppy eyes from your dog? As we dog owners are well aware, our furry friends tend to want in on anything we’re cooking – even if it’s not good for them. It can be difficult to figure out which foods they can have a bite of, and which you’re best off keeping them away from.
If you’re making Asian food, you may end up wondering: can dogs eat bamboo shoots? Is this unusual vegetable a good addition to their diet, or is it best off avoided? Let’s find out!
What are bamboo shoots?
As the name suggests, bamboo shoots (also known as bamboo sprouts) are the young shoots of various species of bamboo plants of the genera Bambusa, Phyllostachys, Dendrocalamus, and others. Yep, you read that right: bamboo isn’t just a decorative garden plant, it’s also edible. Depending on how they’re prepared, bamboo shoots usually have a crunchy texture and earthy flavor.
In Western countries, bamboo shoots are usually sold in their canned form, although you might also find fresh ones at your local Asian grocery store. If you like Asian food, you may have tried them as a ramen noodle topping (Japanese), braised or in stir-fries (Chinese), or in spicy chicken soup (Thai). Bamboo shoots have been a staple in many cuisines for thousands of years!
Can dogs eat bamboo shoots?
The short answer? Yes, as long as they’re properly cooked. Bamboo shoots are full of fiber, low in fat, and contain a variety of important nutrients, vitamins and minerals. They can make a healthy addition to your furry friend’s diet and are perfect if you want to add a little variety.
The long answer: when we say they need to be properly cooked, we mean you can’t serve bamboo shoots to your dog raw. Nor can you eat them raw yourself, by the way, so pay attention if you’ve never prepared them before!
The problem is that in their raw form, bamboo shoots contain cyanogenic glycosides. This is not uncommon, as various plants use this compound as a natural defense mechanism against predators. Examples include cassava, a root vegetable commonly eaten in Latin America and West Africa, as well as the kernels of stone fruits like apricots. The short explanation is that cyanogenic glycosides release hydrogen cyanide, which is toxic, when a plant is “attacked”. In the case of a plant, that means when it’s being crushed or chewed.
If your dog eats raw bamboo shoots, it can end up getting cyanide poisoning (and the same applies to you). The good news is that the toxic compounds in bamboo shoots are easy to get rid of. They just need to be cooked or fermented. Below, we’ll have a look at how to prepare bamboo shoots so they’re safe for your dog.
Tip: If the thought of having to cook a vegetable to make it non-toxic sounds worrying, remember that potatoes are also toxic when raw! Once bamboo shoots (and potatoes) are cooked, they’re 100% safe for your dog to eat.
How to prepare bamboo shoots for your dog
Bamboo shoots are generally sold in four different forms: canned, fresh, and frozen.
The former is safe to eat, as it has already been cooked (or fermented, in the case of Japanese “menma” bamboo shoots meant as noodle soup toppings). It may not be ideal to include in your dog’s diet, though, as canned foods are generally relatively devoid of nutrients. In addition to that, they may have a lot of added salt, which is not ideal for your pooch. Check the ingredients on a can of bamboo shoots if you want to share some – if it’s high in sodium, don’t offer more than a slice or two.
Fresh bamboo shoots, as mentioned, need to be cooked before they’re safe to consume. For your own dinner, you might want to stir-fry them alongside other vegetables, your choice of meat, and a dash of soy sauce. For your dog, preparation is a bit simpler: just slice the bamboo shoots and boil them in water (no salt added) until they’re soft. Once this is done, all toxins are gone and you can safely offer a piece to the furry test panel.
Frozen bamboo shoots are likely to be raw, although you can check the packaging to make sure (an app like Google Lens can help translate if the writing is in Chinese or another Asian language). If the contents are indeed uncooked, the instructions above apply. If they are cooked, they can be fed to your dog as they are as long as they don’t contain a lot of added salt.
So, can dogs eat bamboo shoots? The answer is yes, although the shoots should always be cooked. Canned shoots are not the best; try finding fresh ones and boiling them in plain water for a low-fat, high-fiber dog snack.
PS: wondering what else you can and can’t feed your dog? We discuss all sorts of human foods and whether they’re safe for dogs in our Safety section.