Can Dogs Eat Spinach?

Nutrition Recent March 4, 2024
Can Dogs Eat Spinach?

Can Dogs Eat Spinach?

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Can Dogs Eat Spinach?

Spinach, a leafy green, is generally safe for dogs to eat, but only in small to moderate amounts. It is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and a good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamins A, C, E, K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, magnesium, niacin, and zinc.

Are Dogs Omnivores or Carnivores?

Dogs, often viewed as carnivores due to their large teeth and short digestive systems, have evolved over thousands of years to possess genes for digesting starches, a trait their ancestors and wolves lacked, likely due to their interaction with humans and their diet of leftover starches.

Dogs were present during the invention of agriculture, learning to eat grains. Humans who farmed exhibited similar genetic changes to those who hunted and gathered, indicating dogs initially evolved as carnivores.

Health Benefits of Spinach for Dogs

Spinach, a superfood rich in vitamins and nutrients, is a beneficial addition to dog food for its health benefits, making it an ideal choice for dog owners. Spinach offers:

A good source of vitamins and nutrients: Spinach, rich in essential vitamins, nutrients, and minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, magnesium, iron, beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin E, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K, can help maintain a healthy immune system and prevent health issues in dogs, particularly anemia caused by low red blood cell counts.

Full of helpful antioxidants: Leafy vegetables, like lutein, are rich in antioxidants that can help eliminate free radicals in your dog’s body.

Cancer prevention: Spinach, rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids, has been found to help combat animal cancer due to its high levels of folate, which aids in the creation of red and white blood cells and DNA repair.

Rich in dietary fiber: Raw spinach, rich in fiber, is a beneficial food for dogs to maintain a healthy digestive system and prevent constipation.

Good for the eyes: Spinach leaves, rich in vitamin A and soluble fibers like lutein, chlorophyll, and zeaxanthin, give spinach leaves vibrant color and enhance their ability to analyze dark and light, particularly in older dogs.

The Downside of Giving Your Dog Spinach?

Spinach, a high-protein food, contains high oxalic acid, which can hinder calcium absorption and cause kidney damage. Soluble oxalates bind with magnesium and calcium, causing metabolic imbalance. Excessive calcium oxalate excreted through the kidneys can lead to kidney damage or failure.

Healthy dogs can process small amounts of soluble oxalates, but long-term consumption can cause kidney stress, muscle weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, and respiratory paralysis. It is best to avoid giving spinach to dogs with kidney or urinary tract problems.

Here are some things to consider when feeding your dog spinach:

Pesticides and Herbicides: Spinach, on the Dirty Dozen list, can carry a high pesticide and herbicide load, so it’s recommended to buy organic spinach if possible.

Oxalates: Spinach, containing oxalates, can disrupt calcium absorption and potentially cause bladder or kidney stones. If your dog has a history of urinary issues or is prone to such conditions, consult a holistic vet before feeding spinach.

Digestion Issues: Fiber aids digestion, prevents constipation, and helps dogs lose weight by feeling full longer. Spinach stems, being fibrous, can upset the stomach and cause gassiness. To reduce this risk, cut the stems into bite-sized pieces and avoid overfeeding. It’s important to cut the fiber into smaller pieces to avoid any potential health issues.

Preparation: To prepare spinach for your dog, avoid adding cream sauce or spices, as they can be harmful. Instead, use olive oil, pastured butter, and fresh garlic, as these ingredients are safe for dogs. Avoid adding extras, as they can be harmful.

Sensitivities & Allergies: Dogs may have food sensitivities or allergies, so if you notice gastrointestinal upset, itchiness, or behavioral changes after your dog eats spinach, stop feeding it.

Thyroid Function: Spinach, a cruciferous vegetable, can have goitrogenic effects that may lower a dog’s thyroid function. Veterinarian Jean Dodds, DVM, suggests that the benefits outweigh the risks, and lightly steaming spinach can minimize goitrogenic activity. Cooking spinach and other cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, or Bok choy can help.

Can Dogs Eat Canned Spinach?

No, dogs should not eat canned spinach due to its high sodium content. Fresh, cooked spinach (in moderation) is a much better option for dogs.

How to Feed Your Dog Spinach

Dogs can eat raw spinach leaves, but they struggle with digestion and lose most nutrients when cooked. To encourage them, chop it first and steam it.

Wash it thoroughly to remove harmful pesticides and bacteria, and prepare it plain without butter, oils, seasonings, or other ingredients, as these can be toxic to dogs and cause health issues.

Avoid sautéing spinach in oil, as it adds fat and calories. Avoid adding salt or other seasonings, as your pup may not need them. If plain steamed spinach isn’t appealing, try baking treats at home.

How Much Spinach Should I Feed My Dog?

Spinach can provide beneficial nutrients to dogs when prepared safely. However, excessive spinach consumption can upset their stomach.

Treats should only be given in moderation and should only make up 10% of the dog’s diet.

The rest should come from a well-balanced dog food diet.

When feeding steamed, chopped spinach leaves, the recommended portion sizes are:

  • Extra-small (2-20 pounds) = 1/4 teaspoon, small (21-30 pounds) = 1/2 teaspoon,
  • Medium (31–50 pounds) = 1 teaspoon,
  • Large (51–90 pounds) = 1/2 tablespoon, and extra-large (91+ pounds) = 1 tablespoon.

Consult your veterinarian for more information on your dog’s diet and health needs.

Can Puppies Eat Spinach?

Spinach should not be consumed by puppies due to potential kidney damage from high oxalate levels and should be added as an occasional treat only after adulthood.

Can Dogs Eat Human Foods?

Dogs can eat some of the food that we eat but not all. In many cases, dogs can eat healthy foods that humans eat if they don’t contain a lot of salt, sugar, spices, or other ingredients that can be harmful to dogs.

Ingredients that are always dangerous for dogs include garlic, onion, chocolate, nutmeg, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, and foods that contain the artificial sweetener xylitol.

If you ever have any questions or concerns about giving food to your dog, it’s always a good idea to check with your veterinarian. This is especially important if your dog is overweight/obese, has diabetes, or if he has any other health issues.

Final Thoughts

Spinach is a nutritious food for humans and dogs but should be given in small to moderate amounts due to its oxalic acid content. It should not be given to dogs with kidney or urinary tract problems or other health issues.

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Carlotta Cooper is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine DN Dog News. She's the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, a Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) award winner. In addition, she is an American Kennel Club Gazette breed columnist and the author of several books about dogs. She has been reviewing pet foods and writing about dog food for more than 10 years.
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