Pet Care Blog

Can Dogs Eat Spinach? Here's Everything You Need to Know

Dr. Ricky Walther
Close-up of avocado toast with spinach

Spinach is a superfood that offers numerous nutritional benefits for humans, but can our pets eat it, as well? Ultimately, feeding dogs spinach is a somewhat controversial topic. While spinach is generally safe for dogs to eat, there are some things owners need to be aware of before serving this leafy green to pets.

In this article, we’re discussing the pros and cons of feeding dogs spinach, as well as ways to prepare Popeye’s favorite food, if you decide to do so.

Pro Tip: Pet insurance can help you cover the costs of veterinary care if your canine companion eats something they shouldn’t. It can reimburse you for medications, x-rays, hospitalization, and more.

Table of Contents:

Is spinach good for dogs?

Adding a few spinach leaves to your pet’s meal from time to time will add a number of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. We’ve listed some of the amazing health benefits of spinach for dogs.

Rich in minerals. Spinach contains a number of minerals like magnesium (necessary for maintaining nerve and muscle function, energy metabolism, regular heart rhythm, healthy blood pressure, and a strong immune system), copper (associated with red blood cell growth), and iron (beneficial for anemia and energy production).

Packed with vitamins. This green vegetable is rich in essential vitamins like vitamin A, C, E, and K. Vitamin C is known for strengthening the immune system, while vitamin A is an antioxidant that supports eye health and provides a healthy coat. Vitamin K supports a healthy heart and bones and improves the ability of the blood to coagulate normally.

Good for the eyes. Besides vitamin A, this superfood contains soluble fibers like lutein, chlorophyll, and zeaxanthin, which give spinach leaves their vibrant color but also increase the ability to analyze dark and light, which is especially important when the pup’s older.

Provides many antioxidants. Spinach contains antioxidants that protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that weaken and destroy cells, leaving them at an increased risk of disease.

Better digestive health. The antioxidants and iron in spinach, along with dietary fiber and beta-carotene, work together to stimulate the GI tract.

Cancer prevention. Recent investigation has shown that spinach may help combat cancer in animals. This is due to the high levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids. Spinach is also rich in folate, which helps create red and white blood cells, converts carbs into energy, and improves the cells’ capacity to repair their DNA.

When is spinach bad for dogs?

As with all human foods, spinach should be fed as a treat and in moderate amounts. Dogs are naturally carnivorous, which means that 75% to 85% of their diet should be based on meat. Spinach is low in protein, so feeding it in large quantities can result in nutrient deficiencies, especially amino acids.

Spinach is also high in oxalic acid, a compound that blocks the absorption of calcium in the body and can cause damage to the kidneys. Calcium is important for a number of body functions, including bone density and growth, regulating blood pressure, controlling the secretion of insulin, triggering blood clot formation, and so forth.

Soluble oxalates bind with calcium and magnesium in the blood, reducing the levels of these nutrients. When the levels of calcium are lowered, a metabolic imbalance is created. The oxalate-calcium combination is eliminated through the kidneys, and a big amount can damage the kidneys or even lead to kidney failure. Frequently feeding your dog foods that contain high levels of oxalates can also result in stone formation in the bladder or kidneys.

Dog owners should be especially careful when giving spinach to puppies as their kidneys are still developing. This means that puppies might have trouble eliminating calcium oxalates properly, which predisposes them to urinary health problems.

It should be noted, though, that your pooch would have to eat very big amounts of spinach in order to experience serious damage. Pups with healthy kidneys should have no problem processing small quantities of oxalates. However, prolonged consumption could result in kidney damage, abnormal heart rhythms, muscle weakness, and even respiratory paralysis.

Finally, this leafy vegetable contains relatively high levels of sodium (30g of spinach has 24mg of sodium), which can also cause health issues in dogs.

How to add spinach to your dog’s diet

If you’re interested in incorporating this superfood into your pet’s meals, there are certain things to be mindful of. Pups have different digestive systems than humans do, so they can’t always eat foods prepared in a way that we would.

  • In order to make spinach easier for dogs to digest, consider pureeing, steaming, or blanching it first. The best way to prepare spinach is by steaming, as boiling destroys most of its nutrients.
  • If you’re serving cooked spinach, make sure it doesn’t contain any additives like onion, garlic, herbs, butter, oil, salt, or spices because as some of these can be toxic to dogs or result in GI issues.
  • If you’re wondering “can dogs eat raw spinach” the answer is yes, you just need to make sure to chop it into small pieces to facilitate digestion, as dogs can’t break down vegetables as well as humans.
  • Avoid giving spinach to dogs with kidney disease or other conditions, as they might not be able to digest the veggie without experiencing metabolism issues.
  • Whenever possible, buy organic spinach. If you buy non-organic, be sure to always rinse the leaves well before preparing the food for your pup.
  • Make sure your pooch drinks lots of water to help flush out the oxalic acid present in spinach and to help with the high sodium level.
  • Dogs don’t need much of this superfood to receive its health benefits. Adding a couple of tablespoons of chopped spinach to their food is plenty. Although many healthy dogs can handle small, occasional amounts of spinach, it’s always best to consult your vet before introducing new foods.
  • As with all new foods, introduce spinach slowly into your pet’s diet. Too much spinach can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Pro Tip: If your dog shows symptoms of stomach upset, be sure to take them to the vet for a physical exam and proper diagnosis. Pet insurance can save you money on emergency vet costs, so if you haven't enrolled in a plan yet, consider signing up for all your future needs.

What if my dog is a picky eater?

Many dogs aren’t very enthusiastic when it comes to eating leafy veggies and might simply reject spinach the first few times they try it. If your pup is a picky eater and doesn’t like their new dietary addition, consider including it in some homemade spinach dog treats.

Alternatively, you can offer other leafy greens such as kale, arugula, lettuce, cabbage, collard greens, Swiss chard, or vegetables like carrots and broccoli.

Our blog contains a collection of articles on foods that are safe or dangerous for dogs including fruit, veggies, dairy, nuts, spices, and more. Many human foods are safe and healthy for our little buddies, but some of them can be dangerous or even toxic. We've created these articles to help you make informed decisions related to your dog’s diet, but your vet is always the best person to talk to for advice on your unique pet.

Key Takeaways

  • Spinach is a good source of vitamins, rich in minerals, and all-around a beneficial vegetable for dogs.
  • Although you can give your pup spinach, you should be careful with the amount. This leafy veggie also contains oxalic acid which can block the absorption of calcium. In moderate quantities, this shouldn’t be a problem, so just be sure to have this in mind.
  • Make sure to check with your veterinarian before adding spinach to your pup’s diet.
  • Pet insurance can help you pay for the unexpected medical costs of taking care of your dog.

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Ricky Walther, DVM

Dr. Ricky Walther

Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor "The Pet Insurance Marketplace") that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.

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