Spinach is definitely among most nutrient-rich leafy vegetables you could eat. It is a perfect addition to your favorite meal, be it the salad or the meat. However, many dog owners have wondered if they could share some with their dog too. Is it safe to share some spinach with your pup? Read on and discover.
Spinach is well known for being a super healthy option for us to eat. These days it is added to everything, from smoothies and salads to soups and stews. This green, leafy vegetable offers us numerous health benefits and is packed full of vitamins and minerals.
It is quite common to want to share your food with your dog while you are eating, or wonder if you can give them some leftovers. However, is it also a safe and healthy option to share with your dog? Are there any risks with feeding it to your pet? In this article, we will discuss all things spinach-related, and find out if this vegetable is ok to add into your dog’s diet.
Is Spinach Safe For Dogs To Eat?
Surprisingly, spinach is actually quite a controversial food choice for our canine friends. Yes, spinach is safe to be given to dogs, BUT only if fed in moderation and not given too often.
The reason behind the controversy is because spinach contains high levels of oxalates. Oxalate can be found in many different foods and plays a role in metabolism. However, they can cause problems if too much builds up in your dog’s body, with the main site of build up being the kidneys. We will discuss all the possible risks of oxalates and feeding spinach to your dog later in the article.
Therefore, there are a few important guidelines which can help ensure your dog gets the health benefits from eating spinach while minimizing the chance of any side effects.
Are There Any Health Benefits for Dogs?
Yes, spinach can provide some great health benefits for your dog, just like it can for us. Spinach is a great source of vitamins A, C and K, folic acid, iron, magnesium, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. Let’s take a closer look at why these are important and what health benefits these could offer your dog:
This essential vitamin has many functions within the body including supporting vision, bone growth, reproduction and boosting the immune system in dogs(1).
Unlike humans who need to regularly eat foods containing vitamin C, dogs can actually produce their own vitamin C in their bodies. This vitamin is crucial for the function of the immune system and to help fight disease(2). It also plays a role in the repair of tissues and wound healing. It is thought that when dogs are sick or stressed, they quickly use up their supply of vitamin C (3), and it’s in these times when they might benefit from supplementation.
This vitamin is important for the normal blood clotting process, to help stop excessive bleeding or bruising if your pet is cut or injured. Vitamin K is also vital for healthy bones(4).
Folic acid is required for the function of the immune system, normal cell division, and production of proteins. One study in dogs found that a folic acid deficient diet led to weight loss and anemia(5).
Iron is required for the production of haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells which transports oxygen around the body to all the organs. A canine diet which doesn’t contain enough iron results in iron deficiency anemia. Affected dogs often show signs of weakness, dullness and weight loss (6).
Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary magnesium. This essential mineral is necessary for energy metabolism, muscle and nerve function, maintaining a regular heart rhythm and blood pressure and for the function of a healthy immune system(7).
These special little substances help to prevent “oxidative stress” and cellular damage by damaging free radicals. Oxidative stress is linked to a variety of diseases in humans including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cataract formation. A variety of antioxidants have been shown to help delay or prevent cancer and certain diseases (8).
Dietary fiber is needed in a dog’s diet to maintain good intestinal health, produce normal stools and help prevent constipation. It may also help some dogs keep a healthy weight by preventing overeating and making them feel fuller for longer after they eat (9). Diets high in fiber may also help in the management of diabetes and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) (10).
Are There Any Risks for Dogs Eating Spinach?
Unfortunately, yes there are some risks you should be aware of if you want to feed your dog spinach, especially if it is fed in large amounts and given too often. Let’s take a closer look at these possible risks:
Upset the normal digestion
Firstly, when any new food is introduced into your dog’s diet there is always a risk of upsetting its digestive tract. This most commonly causes nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Therefore, when any new food is introduced it should always be given in very small amounts and introduced slowly. This allows you to check for any side effects including an allergy or signs of sickness. If you notice anything different about your dog, then stop giving any more spinach and consult your veterinarian if necessary.
High concentration of Oxalates
Spinach contains a high concentration of a substance called oxalate(11). If the level of oxalates becomes too high in the body, then they can build up in the kidneys and cause kidney damage. Oxalates can also combine with calcium to form crystals. These calcium oxalate crystals can join together to form stones in the kidneys or bladder, causing discomfort, infections or even blockages(12). Oxalates can also reduce or block the absorption of calcium and magnesium from the diet.
Many sources agree that your dog would need to eat a lot of spinach on a regular basis for the oxalates present to cause this type of damage. Dogs with healthy kidney function can easily process small amounts of oxalates.
So, Should Dogs Eat Spinach?
Now you know that there are some pros and cons for dogs eating spinach. This vegetable provides lots of vitamins and minerals but if fed in very large quantities may cause kidney problems.
If fed in small amounts, then spinach shouldn’t really cause any problems for your dog. However, if you are concerned about the possible risks, or if your dog has a history of kidney problems then it is best to totally avoid this vegetable.
How Much Spinach is Ok for a Dog to Eat?
It is important that your dog is fed a healthy, nutritious and complete dog food that contains everything he needs. This can be a commercial diet or a home cooked diet made with the help of a veterinary nutritionist.
However, it is understandable that sometimes you might want to supplement or add variety to your pet’s diet too. The University of California, Davis, suggests that spinach can be given as a treat, but should not make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily energy intake. They suggest that an appropriate amount for a medium-sized dog would be 90 grams (1/2 cup) of boiled spinach(13), which equals about 21 kcal. Due to the high level of oxalates present in spinach, it should not be given every day!
What is the Best Way to Serve Spinach to a Dog?
If you choose to feed your dog some spinach, then it is best served chopped and steamed, as this helps to preserve the nutritional value. Boiling spinach causes it to lose quite a lot of the nutrients, and raw spinach leaves have a stronger taste and may be difficult for your dog to digest.
Some dogs may not like the taste of spinach. The only way to know for sure is to try mixing a tiny bit into your dog’s normal food. If he doesn’t like the taste, then don’t try to force it. There are lots of other safe and healthy vegetables or fruits which can be given in small amounts as treats instead, such as banana, watermelon, cooked carrot or sweet potato.
Should some dogs avoid spinach?
Always ask your veterinarian’s advice if you would like to add spinach into your dog’s diet.
Dog’s with kidney disease or other kidney problems should avoid spinach. Dogs with a history of kidney or bladder stones, or at risk of developing them, should also not be fed spinach.
Spinach is a well known super food for us to eat, full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This green, leafy vegetable may also offer your dog many health benefits too, such as boosting his immune system and helping to keep his digestive system healthy. However, due to the high level of oxalates, feeding spinach to your dog may also come with some possible risks. Feeding large quantities of spinach on a regular basis could cause an imbalance of calcium in the body, kidney and bladder stones or even kidney damage. Therefore, it is best if it is only given as a treat in small amounts, and not fed to your dog very often. If your dog has a history of kidney problems or bladder stones, then it is best to avoid spinach altogether. If you are thinking about feeding your dog spinach it is a good idea to consult with your veterinarian first and to ensure his kidneys are healthy.
Hopefully, you found this article informative and interesting. Feel free to share it with another dog loving friend, so that they too can be fully informed about feeding spinach to their dog.
This article has been written by Dr Margarita Boyd, BVSc MRCVS.
Margarita graduated from the University of Liverpool, earning a Bachelor in Veterinary Science with distinction. She worked in small animal and equine practice for a few years, before choosing to focus solely on companion animals. She has developed a special interest in internal medicine and ophthalmology.