Can I Give My Dog Quinoa?
In the 2010s, health food fans and mainstream munchers alike have developed a taste for difficult-to-pronounce foods, and undoubtedly one of the most popular of these foods is quinoa. This pseudo-cereal, a seed masquerading as a grain, has wormed its way into breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert recipes all across the country. In many households, quinoa has become a staple—a grain put into rotation with classic favorites like rice and oats. We’ve heard all about the health benefits of giving quinoa to our friends and family, but should we include our furriest friends?
Can dogs have quinoa? Can we set aside a portion of our quinoa-based dinner for our canine companions, or will doing so result in a stressful trip to the vet’s office?
Fortunately, dogs can eat quinoa in moderation—in fact, many healthier, higher quality brands of dog food include quinoa as one of their ingredients. This highly nutritious, nontoxic, gluten free food is an excellent choice for puppy parents looking to treat their dog to an occasional dinner more decadent than kibble. As with all new foods, introduce your dog to quinoa slowly, and stop feeding it to them if they have any trouble with it.
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Dog Quinoa
Quinoa is a great food for physically active dogs. It is chock full of protein and slow-digesting complex carbohydrates, which will help your dog energize and recover between rounds of their favorite form of exercise.
For dogs, protein is an important macronutrient for maintaining health and fitness. Your dog’s entire body is made out of protein! Protein is made up of individual amino acids, which are the building blocks your dog’s body uses to build and repair muscles, fur, skin, and claws. Every muscle in your dog’s body is made up of proteins, all the way from their powerful legs to the tissue of their heart.
If your dog does not consume enough protein, they will not have the tools they need to do normal repairs on their body, and their health will begin to deteriorate. Dogs who are not eating enough protein may become lethargic, sluggish, depressed, and physically weak. In addition, they may suffer from skin problems, and their coat may become dry and dull. Some dogs will even experience hair loss.
While your dog should meet most of their protein needs by eating specially formulated dog food, including quinoa into an active dog’s diet can be a great way to provide them with the extra protein boost they need to stay fit and healthy. If you suspect your dog is deficient in any amino acids, consult a veterinarian before altering their diet.
Quinoa is also thought to be an anti-inflammatory food, thanks to high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, and various flavonoids. Anti-inflammatory foods can improve immunity, reduce the risk of illness and injury, and alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory illnesses such as osteoarthritis. Some dogs with arthritis may experience a reduction in pain and an improvement in joint mobility after they begin consuming anti-inflammatory foods like quinoa. That said, quinoa is not a substitute for veterinary care, and your dog should continue to take any medications prescribed to them.
Unlike animal protein sources, quinoa also comes with dietary fiber, which can have powerful protective effects on your dog’s health. The dietary fiber in quinoa may help improve digestion in dogs who are prone to constipation. Fiber turns into a jelly-like substance when it soaks up water. This jelly-like substance can then help ‘lubricate’ the way through the colon, making it easier for your dog to pass stool. Fiber also helps bulk up stool, which stimulates excretion. This means your dog will have fuller, more regular bowel movements.
The biggest downside of giving your dog quinoa is the potential for digestive upset. Dogs often struggle with digesting new foods, so if your dog has never had quinoa before, they may suffer from bloating, constipation, vomiting, or diarrhea. Also make sure that all quinoa is rinsed and fully cooked before serving. If your dog does not tolerate quinoa well, have them try another, more easily-digestible grain like rice.
Things to Consider
Quinoa can also be quite high in calories, so make sure to practice moderation. Dogs who indulge in quinoa regularly may become overweight, which can increase their risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, liver and kidney problems, and even cancer. If your dog starts to pack on the pounds, find them a lower-calorie treat like fresh fruit or vegetables.
For active, healthy dogs looking for some variety in their diet, quinoa can be an excellent choice. This pseudo-cereal is loaded with complex carbohydrates, protein, and anti-inflammatory compounds, which will all help keep your dog energized and injury-free so that they may continue their rigorous exercise. Just be on the lookout for digestive problems and weight gain—this nutrient-dense food can be quite caloric and hard to digest for some dogs.