Can I Give My Dog Spinach?
Though today’s leafy green superstar is kale, the classic healthy vegetable is the humble spinach leaf. This is the green our parents shoved at us throughout our childhood—after all, it turned Popeye into a super strong hero!—and today, it remains one of the more kid-friendly leafy green vegetables. It’s easy to find, vaguely sweet, and subtle enough in flavor to sneak into salads, burgers, smoothies, and even bowls of oatmeal or baked goods. We were all raised to believe that spinach was one of the healthiest foods we could eat, so we try to work it into many of our go-to recipes.
But how does this affect our furry friends, who often receive table scraps as treats? Is it okay to share this veggie with them? Is it at all healthy for them? Can dogs have spinach?
The answer: yes, dogs can eat spinach in moderation—and it may offer them many of the same health benefits it offers us. There is no risk of poisoning associated with this flavorful superfood. As long as the spinach is thoroughly washed and not spoiled, they can eat it cooked, pureed, or raw. If you can convince your dog to eat a little bit of this vegetable with their kibble, you may be doing them a favor.
What’s so great about spinach? Firstly, spinach leaves are an excellent source of roughage for our dogs, who sometimes struggle with digestive problems on their dry kibble diets. The dietary fiber found in spinach works to combat ailments on both ends of the spectrum—it can alleviate both constipation and diarrhea. This is because fiber turns into a gelatinous substance when it soaks up water. For constipated pets, this can help introduce fluid into the colon, making for softer, easier to pass bowel movements. For dogs struggling with diarrhea, dietary fiber can soak up the excess water sitting in the colon, firming things up.
Adding high fiber foods like vegetables to your dog’s diet may also help them lose a couple pounds or maintain a healthy weight. Fiber is the indigestible part of plants. Because it is indigestible, it is effectively a zero-calorie food—it can take up space inside your dog’s stomach without actually giving them any calories. This means that your dog can fill up their stomach while eating fewer calories than they would if they were eating low fiber foods. Fiber also keeps your dog satiated for longer periods of time, which means they will be less likely to complain about their hunger between meals.
But spinach is more than just fiber! This leafy green vegetable is loaded with iron, potassium, calcium, and a multitude of vitamins. Iron can help prevent and treat symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. Vitamin K can aid in the maintenance of strong, healthy bones, which is especially important as our furry friends enter their twilight years. While spinach does not contain enough of any of these nutrients to meet all of your dog’s daily needs, it can provide a boost in nutrition that can help keep maintain energy levels and a healthy immune system.
Spinach also contains chemicals that preserve eye health, preventing cataracts and macular degeneration as our dogs age. Eating leafy greens can help preserve your dog’s vision in the long term.
But perhaps one of the biggest benefits of giving your dog spinach is the antioxidants—spinach is full of them. Antioxidants are important because they destroy dangerous, highly charged, highly reactive particles called free radicals, which can damage the body cells they come into contact with. Some of these cells die immediately, but other ones sustain mutations that they then pass on to other cells when they multiply.
Things to Consider
These mutations are thought to eventually result in diseases like arthritis, diabetes, and even cancer. Free radicals are thought by some to be largely responsible for the deterioration associated with aging, too. If you increase your dog’s antioxidant intake, you decrease the number of free radicals in the body, which protects cell health in the long term. This can make your dog less likely to develop chronic diseases or to suffer from many of the unpleasant effects of aging, such as cognitive decline and joint problems.
The biggest concern about spinach is its oxalic acid content. In large amounts, this substance can damage your dog’s kidneys. This means that moderation is important. In addition, you should not feed your dog spinach if they already have kidney problems. If you are concerned, consult your veterinarian before adding spinach to their diet.
In sum, eating spinach in moderation may be a good idea for dogs with healthy kidneys. It is high in many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and it has a large amount of fiber that may support digestive health. As long as it is fed in moderation, spinach is safe to feed to your pet cooked, raw, and pureed.