Spinach is a superfood for people, packed with vitamins and minerals which are great for our hair, teeth, eyesight, bones, and digestive system. Amazingly, research has shown that eating spinach may even help to protect against some types of cancer. Because spinach is so healthy for us, it is natural to wonder whether or not our four-legged friends can benefit from this leafy green too!
Although many fruits and vegetables are safe for us to share with our canine companions, spinach is actually one of the more controversial foods that we can feed our pets. But what are the benefits and risks of feeding spinach? When should spinach be avoided? And how should spinach be prepared for a pooch? Let’s take a look.
Can dogs have spinach? What are the benefits?
Luckily for us, dogs can eat all parts of the spinach plant. Spinach contains a number of vitamins, including vitamin A, C, E, and K which help to strengthen the immune system, and support eye, heart, and bone health. Spinach also has plenty of anti-oxidants that protect cells against damage from molecules called free radicals.
Spinach is rich in minerals, such as magnesium, copper, and iron which support muscle and nerve function, blood pressure, and red blood cell production. The high fiber content in spinach also supports the function of the gastrointestinal tract.
Obesity in dogs is a very common problem and puts our dogs at risk of several diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems. Though definitely nutrient-rich, spinach is very low in calories and is therefore a healthier alternative to many of the commercially available treats.
Doggy digestive systems work differently from ours, and our canine companions aren’t able to digest spinach as easily as we can.
Although dogs can eat small amounts of raw spinach, cooked spinach is easier to digest. Raw spinach is a choking hazard, so it should be cut into small bite-sized pieces. Chopping up (or even pureeing) the spinach will also help your dog to digest his new snack.
Spinach can also be frozen and offered as a refreshing treat, some dogs particularly enjoy the crunchy texture!
Baby spinach is just young spinach, so it can be safely offered in the same way as normal spinach.
Boiled and cooked spinach
Steaming spinach is preferable to boiling because nutrients aren’t lost during the steaming process. Blanching is also a good option.
It is very important not to add any herbs, spices, or oil to the spinach because although delicious for us, this can cause stomach upsets in dogs. Also, remember that onions and garlic are toxic to dogs and shouldn’t be fed with spinach either.
Unfortunately, it isn’t safe to feed canned spinach to dogs, because this contains a high level of sodium which can cause health problems.
What are the risks involved with giving spinach to a dog?
Firstly, it is important to remember that dogs are naturally carnivores. This means that 75-85% of their diet should consist of meat.
Unlike us humans, dogs don’t need to be fed large amounts of fruits and vegetables to stay healthy. Fortunately, complete dog food should contain all of the nutrients that they need, so you don’t need to worry about supplementing your dog’s diet with a range of fruit and vegetables.
The most important thing to know about spinach is that it contains a high level of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid binds to substances such as calcium, magnesium, and iron in the blood and affects their absorption. Because of the effect that oxalic acid has on calcium, high levels can actually cause significant damage to the kidneys.
Reassuringly, dogs need to eat a large amount of spinach to suffer from serious kidney damage. However, it is very important to avoid feeding spinach to any dog at risk of kidney problems or already suffering from kidney disease. Young animals which are still developing are more susceptible to kidney damage, so it is best to avoid feeding any spinach to your puppy. Always check with your veterinarian before feeding spinach to your furry friend; they will be able to advise you about whether or not spinach is safe for your individual pet based on his age, health status and any medical conditions he may have.
High levels of oxalates can also cause calcium oxalate bladder stones, which are very common in dogs.
Certain breeds are at higher risk of developing bladder stones. This includes English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Havanese, Rottweilers, and American Staffordshire Terriers. It is best to avoid feeding spinach to dogs that have suffered with calcium oxalate bladder stones in the past or are at risk of developing these bladder stones.
How to give your dog spinach?
Whenever you are thinking of introducing a new type of food to your dog’s diet, it is important first to check with your veterinarian to make sure it is safe to do so. They will be able to advise you about whether a particular food is safe in general, but also specifically for your own dog. They can also guide you on portion sizes, feeding frequency, and how to safely prepare a particular type of food.
When you have had the green light from your veterinarian to go ahead with feeding your dog some spinach, then the next step is to prepare the spinach properly and introduce it gradually. Just like when we prepare vegetables for ourselves, it is important to start by washing the spinach to make sure any pesticides are removed. Cooked spinach (steamed or blanched) is easier to digest than raw spinach and poses less of a choking hazard, but remember not to add any additional herbs or spices.
Any new type of food should be introduced slowly to your furry friend to make sure it doesn’t cause a gastrointestinal upset. Start by offering just a small amount and keep an eye out for any problems, such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and flatulence.
Some dogs have a particularly sensitive tummy, and can’t tolerate even a small amount of human food. If your pooch is prone to suffering from gastrointestinal upsets, then it is particularly important to be very careful when feeding new types of food.
Spinach can be a healthy, low-calorie snack for our canine companions, packed full of beneficial vitamins and minerals.
However, spinach must always be fed in moderation and only as an occasional treat, following veterinary advice. Unfortunately, spinach isn’t safe for puppies, or dogs prone to kidney problems or bladder stones.
lthough dogs can eat small bite-sized pieces of raw spinach, cooked spinach is easier to digest. By steaming rather than boiling the spinach, you can ensure that all of the healthy nutrients are preserved for your pooch!
Rosa graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2016 and since then has worked in both charity and private practice. She enjoys all areas of clinical practice, but is currently undertaking a post-graduate certificate focussing on small animal medicine.
You are cooking when, suddenly, your dog looks at you. You want to give him a little treat but you wonder if he can eat the food you are holding in your hand.
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