Can Dogs Eat Spinach? What You Need to Know About This Leafy Green
Until you became a pet parent, you never realized how much time you would spend researching different foods. After all, those sweet puppy dog eyes begging for a bite of your lunch are difficult to resist. But, can dogs eat spinach? Is it dangerous for them—or considered a healthy snack like it is for humans? Before you spend time worrying or endlessly searching the web, here's what you need to know about this leafy green, straight from veterinarians who know best.
Can Dogs Eat Spinach Safely?
In general, as a snack, spinach occasionally can be fed to healthy adult dogs, according to Michelle Lugones, DVM, a veterinarian at the Best Friends Animal Society. However, puppies should avoid spinach since their kidneys are not fully developed.
Though Lugones says there is a small caveat to spinach as a snack: while it is filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, there can be side effects for doggos.
"Spinach contains high levels of oxalates, which are acids that can cause bladder crystals and stones. Spinach is also high in sodium, which can be problematic, especially in dogs with cardiac and kidney disease," she explains. Plus, while fiber is generally considered a great benefit of spinach, it could create gastrointestinal upset if your pup has a sensitive stomach.
That's why spinach, like any snack or treat, should not exceed 10 percent of a dog's daily diet, or it can lead to imbalances, Lugones explains. To be on the safest side, she recommends consulting with your family veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to make sure it's a wise treat choice for your specific pup and their unique digestive system.
Is Spinach Good or Bad for Dogs?
This leafy green can be good—and bad—which is why it's better to take it slow when introducing anything new to your dog's plate. Lugones explains that while spinach has insoluble fibers that may help with digestion, they aren't broken down in the intestines because they fall under the 'insoluble' category. "Instead, they draw water to them, which may help to promote normal movement of stool," she continues. "However, depending on how the spinach is prepared and how much a dog eats, spinach can also cause gastrointestinal upset." Pay attention to your doggo's outdoor business to see how he responds to this leafy green.
Additionally, spinach contains vitamin K, an essential part of clotting blood. "Clotting factors are special proteins made in the liver that require vitamin K to function properly. Without it, a dog can develop serious clotting disorders which can lead to hemorrhaging," Lugones says. This makes spinach an ideal treat if you know your pup or your breed has a history of this type of condition. While rare, it's probably something you'll learn about as their pet parent since your vet can detect it once they've had surgery.
Last but not least, Lugones says there are high iron levels in spinach. Iron is a component of hemoglobin, which is required to make red blood cells. "We need red blood cells because they carry oxygen throughout the body. Without enough iron, the body may not be able to make enough hemoglobin which can lead to anemia," she explains. So if your pup struggles to regulate his iron levels, spinach could be a game changer. However, as always, consult your vet before giving a handful of spinach with a meal.
Is It Better for Dogs to Eat Raw or Cooked Spinach?
While excessive spinach consumption is not recommended, if you decide to feed your dog some spinach, cooked spinach is better than raw, says Darcia Kostiuk, DVM, a senior veterinarian for ACANA ORIJEN pet food. Why? For two reasons:
- Spinach can be high in oxalates, which can cause kidney problems in some dogs. Cooking the spinach destroys the oxalates.
- Cooked spinach also makes the nutrients more digestible.