Among the most nutrient-packed leafy greens, spinach is considered to be a dietary powerhouse due to its array of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and digestive benefits. So, it's no surprise that some pet owners wonder if they can share the health benefits of spinach with their four-legged friends.
But, like many other vegetables, the question of whether or not it's a good idea to offer our dogs spinach can be somewhat controversial. As we know, dogs are carnivorous and a protein-based diet (and treats) are always best. Wild dogs, however, have been known to supplement their diet with vegetation whenever meat sources are scarce. But, since dogs don't necessarily need to eat vegetables the way their human counterparts do, is it really a good idea to offer them a leafy veggie like spinach?
Can Dogs Eat Spinach?
The short answer is, yes, dogs can eat spinach. It's just best to only offer it in small amounts and it should be prepared appropriately for your four-legged friend.
Even though it's considered to be something of a "superfood" for humans, if your dog is already eating high-quality dog food, they are probably already getting everything they need. However, all of the things that make spinach so good for us--the vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and flavonoids--can also translate to our dogs.
Spinach is a known cancer-fighter and rich in iron and dietary fiber, and its nutrients have been associated with benefits in dogs ranging from improved digestion and circulation to strong bones and a shiny coat.
Dangers of Spinach for Dogs
Though spinach is rich in several vitamins, including A, B, C, and K, it also happens to be high in something called oxalic acid, which can actually hinder the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Too much oxalic acid can lead to kidney damage in our canine friends. Similarly, kale contains potentially harmful natural compounds, and has been linked to kidney and bladder stones in dogs as well as gastric irritation due to the fact that it contains isothiocyanates.
Soluble oxalates contain oxalic acid and bind with magnesium and calcium in the blood and this limits the availability of these electrolytes. If your dog consumes too much spinach, a sudden metabolic imbalance can be caused by a low level of blood calcium. And since calcium oxalate is excreted through the kidneys, a large amount leaving the body can cause kidney damage, or worse, kidney failure.
However, the good news is that your pooch would likely have to consume a very large amount of spinach in order to cause damage. Assuming your dog doesn't have an underlying kidney condition, they should be able to easily process small amounts of soluble oxalates. However, you still shouldn't offer spinach on a daily basis. Long-term excess consumption can cause other issues, such as muscle weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, and respiratory paralysis.
Pet parents should also be aware that spinach contains iron, beta-carotene, antioxidants, and roughage that can stimulate the digestive tract and potentially lead to tummy troubles when eaten in larger quantities.
How to Prepare Spinach for Dogs
Like most "human" foods, when it comes to spinach, how you prepare it is crucial. It's best to offer your dog steamed spinach as boiled spinach loses most of its nutrients and raw spinach can be difficult for your pet to digest.
Secondly, you'll want to be sure that spinach (or any other leafy vegetable) that is going to be fed to your dog is thoroughly washed. There have been recent recalls of lettuce contaminated with diseases ranging from listeria to E. coli (not to mention any traces of pesticides or other chemicals), which is why it's always important to wash spinach extremely well before serving it to your pup--or yourself.
Also, be sure that you aren't sharing that spinach salad with Fido. Dressings and other salad ingredients and preservatives can also cause illness (and weight gain) in our dogs.
Even if you're only offering your pet steamed spinach, be sure it doesn't contain any spices, herbs, oil, garlic, or salt--many of which can prove toxic for our canine friends. It's also a good idea to chop up the spinach into smaller bites, as a dog's digestive tract doesn't readily break down veggies the way a human's can.