Can I Give My Dog Kale?
Though we have always known we should be eating our leafy greens, in the modern era, one green leafy vegetable has risen above all the rest: kale. Everywhere you look, someone is praising the health benefits of kale, mixing it into a salad or a smoothie, or even forcing it into pancakes, cookies, donuts, and chocolate cakes. Today, we sneak kale into every burger, sandwich, and pasta dish we throw together. Kale is utterly inescapable, which means that we (and our pets) have countless opportunities to ingest this green superfood.
By now, many of us can recite the health benefits of kale in our sleep, but do these benefits apply to our canine companions? Is it okay if your beloved Beagle slurps up a puddle of spilled kale smoothie? Can dogs have kale?
The answer is yes, dogs can eat kale in moderation, and it may offer them some powerful health benefits. Your pooch isn’t likely to tear through your kitchen trash in search of a couple kale leaves, but if you can sneak small amounts of this leafy green into their diet, it may benefit their health in the long term. As with all plant foods, it is important to practice moderation—your dog does not need nearly as many fruits and vegetables as you. Kale should be treated as a medicinal food or a supplement and not as a dietary staple.
So, what are all these ‘powerful health benefits’? The big one is antioxidants; kale is absolutely full of them. Antioxidants are great for your health (and your dog’s!) because they destroy dangerous free radicals, which are thought to be the biological supervillains responsible for a wide variety of common ailments.
Whether the illness in question is diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia, or simply ‘normal aging,’ it has been linked to free radical activity. According to this theory, free radicals (which are highly charged) cause disease by damaging the cells they come into contact with. Some of these cells simply die, while others develop mutations that eventually result in disease. This means that, in theory, feeding your dog antioxidant-rich foods like kale can decrease the number of free radicals in the body, which will lower their chances of developing these common ailments.
Because kale has anti-inflammatory properties, it can also help ease the effects of existing inflammatory illnesses. Feeding your dog anti-inflammatory foods like kale may alleviate some of the pain and swelling associated with arthritis, which may improve mobility and overall quality of life. Of course, kale alone is not a sufficient treatment for anything that ails your pet—if your dog seems to be in pain because of their arthritis, consult your veterinarian before playing with their diet.
Another perk of kale: it contains high amounts of a chemical called lutein, which plays an important role in eye health. Its benefits seem to be strongest if it is consumed with foods high in beta carotene (like carrots or sweet potatoes). This combination of foods may help slow macular degeneration and lower your dog’s risk of cataracts, which are the leading causes of canine blindness.
Things to Consider
Like any high fiber plant food, it is possible to overdo it. Your dog should not consume large amounts of kale because it will likely upset their digestive system. Dogs who eat too much kale may suffer from indigestion, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or nutritional imbalances. To make kale easier to digest, you may want to cook it before serving. This will reduce the risk of digestive problems and improve absorption.
In addition, it is important to ensure that your dog is getting enough calcium, as some of the chemicals in this leafy green actually inhibit the body’s ability to absorb calcium. If your dog is already calcium deficient, it may be wise to lay off on the kale until the situation has been rectified.
One more warning: if your dog is prone to kidney stones, they probably should not consume kale. Kale contains oxalic acid, which has been shown to accelerate the formation of kidney stones. Dogs who have had kidney stones in the past are usually on specialized diets anyway, which you should not alter without the guidance of a veterinarian.
In the end, kale is a safe food for your dog to consume in moderation. It is high in dietary fiber and antioxidants, and may help lower your dog’s risk of developing diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, eye problems, and several types of cancer. If you do decide to feed your dog kale, make sure that their calcium levels are high enough, as this leafy green can interfere with calcium absorption. Also know that this food should not be given to dogs who are prone to kidney stones, and that all plant foods should be fed to dogs in moderation. For dogs, kale should be a dietary supplement, not a dietary staple!