Can dogs eat spinach?
Since many people enjoy swapping out lettuce for spinach in their salads to reap the higher nutrition value from spinach, they may be tempted to do the same for their dogs. But, feeding your dog spinach is a controversial topic. While spinach is largely safe for dogs, some conditions may preclude your pup from snacking on this leafy vegetable.
What negative effects may spinach have on my dog?
Spinach is high in oxalic acid, which blocks the body’s ability to absorb calcium, and can lead to kidney damage. Calcium is vital for many body functions, including:
- Strong bone growth and density
- Controlling the release of neurotransmitters in the brain and muscles
- Affecting blood-sugar levels by controlling insulin secretion
- Controlling blood vessel constriction
- Helping to regulate blood pressure
- Triggering blood clot formation
- Helping to regulate heartbeats
Soluble oxalates, which contain oxalic acid, bind with magnesium and calcium in the blood, effectively lowering the levels of these nutrients. As the calcium is bound, the availability of calcium in the blood is drastically reduced, creating a metabolic imbalance. The calcium-oxalates combination is eliminated through the kidneys, but a large amount can cause kidney damage, or failure. Regularly feeding your pet foods that are high in oxalates can also lead to kidney or bladder stone formation, as enough calcium oxalate crystals can accumulate to form a stone.
In addition to a high oxalic acid level, spinach contains an impressive amount of sodium for a fresh vegetable. With as much as 24 milligrams of sodium in 30 grams of spinach, the high sodium content can cause health problems in dogs.
Puppies should not be fed large amounts of spinach, as their still-developing kidneys aren’t yet fully functional, and they may struggle to eliminate calcium oxalates appropriately, predisposing the puppy to urinary health issues.
What health benefits does spinach offer my dog?
While the potential for negative health issues is real for dogs who eat spinach, eating a small amount infrequently provides many more health benefits and outweighs the potential negatives of this cancer-fighting superfood. Adding an occasional spinach leaf or two to your dog’s meal will also add several nutrients. Spinach is rich in the following vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients:
- Iron — Beneficial for anemia, and helps the body use energy
- Magnesium — Necessary for energy metabolism, maintaining nerve and muscle function, regular heart rhythm, a healthy immune system, and maintaining blood pressure
- Antioxidants — Lower glucose level and increase insulin sensitivity
- Vitamin K — Improves calcium absorption, and acts as a modifier of bone matrix proteins
- Vitamin A — Moderates oil production in the skin
- Folate — Creates red and white blood cells, and converts carbohydrates into energy
What should I avoid when feeding my dog spinach?
When adding spinach to your pooch’s diet, avoid a few potential pitfalls to ensure your dog receives the maximum health benefits with the fewest side effects:
- Consider other health issues — Avoid feeding spinach to your dog if she has kidney disease or other medical conditions, because pets with health issues, especially kidney disease, may be unable to digest spinach without suffering from calcium and oxalate metabolism problems.
- Always add water — Ensure your pet drinks plenty of water to help flush out the oxalic acid found in spinach, and to battle the high sodium level.
- Never add salt — Do not add salt to your dog’s leafy snack, because spinach is already high in sodium.
- Hold the seasonings — Stick with plain spinach and avoid seasonings, herbs, spices, and oil, to prevent gastrointestinal issues in dogs.
How can I add spinach to my dog’s diet?
Dogs cannot break down vegetables as well as other species, so chop fresh spinach into small pieces to aid in digestion. Spinach is best steamed before you feed your dog, rather than boiling, which destroys most of the nutrients.
If your pup is as fussy as a toddler when you try to offer plain spinach, try hiding this veggie in a tasty treat instead. Whip up this spinach, carrot, and zucchini dog treat recipe from Everyday Dog Mom.
Healthy spinach, carrot, and zucchini treats for dogs
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup peanut butter
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup oats
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
- 1 zucchini, shredded
- 1 cup baby spinach, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine the pumpkin, peanut butter, and eggs in a bowl, mixing until smooth.
- Add in the oats, beating slowly until well combined.
- Slowly add in the flour, half a cup at a time.
- Add in the carrots, zucchini, and spinach, beating until well incorporated into the dough.
- Roll out the dough to about ¼-inch thickness, using a rolling pin on a floured surface.
- Cut out the dough with a cookie cutter, and place on a lined baking sheet.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 24 minutes.
- Cool completely before serving.
What if my dog won’t eat spinach?
Some dogs are not fond of leafy vegetables and may simply mouth and spit them out, stare at you with hopeful eyes, and beg for a meaty snack instead, but don’t give up on trying to tempt your pooch into eating healthy. Your pup may enjoy other tasty vegetable options, such as:
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
Try a multitude of fresh veggies, and you’ll soon find one your dog will enjoy nibbling.
Since spinach consumption may lead to a calcium imbalance, consult your veterinarian before adding spinach to your dog’s diet. Many healthy dogs can handle infrequent, small amounts of spinach, but always check with your veterinarian before switching your pet’s food.