Spinach is a controversial vegetable. Many people turn their noses up at the mere mention of spinach. Your kids might even sneakily slip their spinach to your dog under the table. Is it safe if they do?
If your dog is showing an interest in spinach, here’s what you need to know about the benefits of spinach for your dog, and how to properly feed your dog spinach.
The Health Benefits of Spinach
Spinach is generally regarded as one of the healthiest vegetables. It’s a nutrient-packed powerhouse. Spinach boasts many of the vitamins and minerals that living things need to stay healthy, with a small amount of calories. That’s one of the reasons why spinach is sometimes referred to as a “superfood.”
Spinach contains meaningful amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, and folate. It even contains a modest amount of protein. This makes spinach a wonderful salad green or side dish to help balance a meal, as well as a beneficial addition to things like green smoothies.
Is Spinach Toxic to Dogs?
Spinach is a dog-safe plant. The only reason you would need to make your spinach inaccessible to your dog is if your dog is chewing up the plant and ruining your harvest. Spinach is perfectly safe for dogs in normal quantities. You have no reason to fear for your dog’s health if you find they’ve ingested spinach.
Many dog owners regard spinach as toxic to dogs due to its oxalic acid content. While every dog owner should do what they feel is right for their pet, the risk for toxicity from oxalic acid is extremely low under normal circumstances.
Howevere, owners of dogs with underlying health conditions, such as kidney health issues, shouldn’t allow their dog to eat any food that isn’t specifically approved by their vet.
Is Oxalic Acid Dangerous?
Oxalic acid, also called oxalates, occurs naturally in many leafy green vegetables. Very high levels of oxalates in the body can cause calcium oxalate crystals to form in the kidneys. This can lead to kidney stones, muscle weakness, changes in heart rate, or difficulty breathing. Dogs with kidney health issues may be more susceptible to the negative side effects of oxalates.
The body of a healthy dog (or a healthy person) will have no problem metabolizing reasonable amounts of oxalates and expelling their byproducts through urine. Your otherwise healthy dog would have to ingest close to their own body weight of spinach in a single sitting in order to overwhelm their system.
It’s extremely unlikely that healthy dogs with normal kidney function will experience oxalate toxicity from occasionally eating spinach, even if they eat it in moderately large quantities.
As a dog owner, you need to do what is best for your specific pup and follow your vet’s recommendations. Speak with your vet before allowing your dog to have spinach if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.
If your dog has eaten a large amount of spinach, give your dog access to plenty of fresh water, and call your vet for advice.
So, Can Dogs Have Spinach?
Healthy dogs with normal kidney function can occasionally enjoy spinach as part of a healthy and appropriate diet. There are many whole fruits and vegetables your dog can safely enjoy in moderation. There’s no reason to go out of your way to make spinach a core part of your dog’s diet, as their regular dog food should be meeting all of their nutritional needs.
How Much Spinach Can You Give a Dog?
As with any other human food you give to your dog, abide by the 90/10 rule. About 90% of your dog’s total nutrition should come from a fresh, whole-ingredient, well-balanced dog food. The other 10% can come from healthy treats.
Spinach is extremely low in calories, so you won’t have to worry about your dog gaining extra pounds after snacking on spinach.
How Much Spinach Can I Feed to My Dog?
A small dog can have about ⅛ of a cup of spinach. A medium sized dog can have about ¼ cup, and a large dog can have about ½ a cup of steamed spinach. Spinach is very difficult to measure in raw quantities due to its leafy nature. You can chop it and pack it into a cup for more accurate measurements.
Due to the oxalic acid content of spinach, it’s best to limit your dog’s spinach consumption to once or twice weekly — this will give your dog’s body enough time to fully process the oxalates without causing metabolic disruption.
How To Serve Spinach to Dogs
When you’re serving “people food” to your dog, it’s best to keep the preparation as simple as possible. Your dog doesn’t need additives like salt, so offer it up “as is,” without any extras.
Give Dogs Plain Spinach Only
You might saute spinach in olive oil with a touch of garlic, salt, and pepper as you prepare it as a side for dinner. Your dog, however, cannot safely enjoy spinach in this way.
Dogs shouldn’t have sauteed foods prepared with added oil, foods prepared with added salt, or foods prepared with allium plants like garlic. Garlic is toxic to your dog.
If you’re going to give your dog spinach, stick to plain, steamed spinach without sauce or condiments. If you’re using plain frozen spinach that you microwave in the bag, set some aside for your dog before you add any seasonings or sauces.
Allow the spinach to come to room temperature before you feed it to your dog. Freshly steamed spinach is too hot and could burn your dog’s nose or mouth.
If you’re going to prepare spinach for your dog, you should prepare it separately from the spinach you’re making for your family. Your dog can’t safely enjoy spinach the same way you can.
Serve Spinach in Small Pieces
Raw spinach can be difficult for your dog to chew. Dogs are carnivores. Their teeth are designed to tear apart meat, not to grind down greens. Raw spinach may pose a choking hazard, especially for smaller dogs. Steamed, chopped spinach will be much easier for your dog to eat.
Caring for Your Dog Holistically
Fruits and vegetables are great forms of whole-food dog treats, especially if your dog enjoys them. If your dog likes spinach, use it to break up the monotony of your dog’s diet. If your dog has special health concerns relating to their kidneys or is on a specially recommended diet, always consult with your vet before introducing new foods into your dog’s routine.
While you’re at your vet, ask if VETCBD Hemp’s pet-friendly CBD can become a part of their holistic wellness plan. CBD works to help support feelings of relaxation, joint mobility, and regular gastrointestinal health in dogs (and cats). It’s a valuable holistic tool that can provide meaningful wellness benefits to your family pets.
Oxalic Acid - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
Calcium Oxalate Stones | National Kidney Foundation