Cue the lights. The music starts and the applause swells. The kitchen sparkles, ready for your next culinary masterpiece. Sure, your dog is the only audience member, but what a supportive and attentive viewer! Tonight, your official taste-tester is in for a surprise because your special ingredient is… spinach.
We’ll cover everything you need to know about spinach and dogs.
On the Agenda
Before that, some basics.
Can Dogs Have Spinach?
Yes, not only can dogs eat spinach, but they should eat those super-powered greens because both humans and dogs can benefit in equal measure from their daily stems and leaves.
Whole Food Nutrients vs Synthetics
This whole food provides a whole lotta whole food nutrients for pups, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If all of this comes from just one leaf, which would you choose?
Vitamin A helps dogs maintain that healthy, sparkling fur coat. And while you won’t find any dog reciting the bottom row on the eye chart anytime soon, Vitamin A helps keep their peepers in working order.
Vitamin B is a major player when it comes to brain function, blood cell formation and nervous system maintenance. Three big ones, if we don’t say so ourselves.
Vitamin C has proven to play a key role in dogs’ immune function, much like it does for their two-leggers.
Vitamin K assists with the clotting process when a dog is nicked or cut, assuring their body can perform its own first aid in a pinch.
Calcium does what Mom always said it would: Bone health is pivotal for a growing pup. (P.S. no video games until you finish your milk.)
Iron is essential to the formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin. For dogs, a healthy iron intake means proper blood circulation and origination.
Lutein is a carotenoid that’s got an eye out for your pups’ eyes. This antioxidant helps fight off free radicals and reduce oxidative stress that can be damaging to the eyes
Fiber can help keep your dog, ahem, regular. And not just on the rear end. Fibrous diets can help create a feeling of fullness to prevent overindulgence.
Potassium keeps almost everything on the up and up, from the heart to the kidneys to the nerves.
Synthetic Vitamin A – The long list of impossible words at the end of kibble ingredient decks are piles of synthetic vitamins and minerals.
They have to be added to kibble because the food never offered them in the first place, or they were lost in the high-heat extrusion process.
If we can ditch the synthetics on an ingredient deck by including one ingredient, it’s really a no-brainer.
Yes, all that. From one little leaf. Impressed? Just you wait.
Why Feed Your Dog Spinach?
Still not convinced? Let’s get to the main event: It’s all about the antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin mentioned above.
But before we go any further, what exactly are antioxidants? And why does my pup need them?
Here’s the scoop: As a result of normal metabolic processes (chemical reactions that happen inside the body to keep us alive and healthy), free radicals get released. These may sound cool, but free radicals are not our friends.
They actually do some serious cell damage, which leads to oxidative stress, which contributes to our risk of disease including cancer as well as aging and age-related health problems. This shows up in humans and dogs in various ways, including:
- Graying hair
- Graying eyes
- Deteriorating vision
- Thinning skin
So where do the antioxidants come in? Well, antioxidants are the real MVP here because they reduce the oxidative stress caused by harmful free radicals (antioxidants are anti-oxidation… get it?!). Now this is making sense!
Science tells us antioxidants could actually be one of the most important components in the upkeep of necessary biological functions — everything from the inner ear all the way down to strands of DNA. Plus, research shows that antioxidants are pivotal to a carnivore’s traditional diet. (“Wait, my dog is a carnivore? Yes, your dog is a carnivore.”)
Dogs do produce antioxidants on their own, but the level decreases significantly as they get older — which means Mr. Paws McGee is going to need some supplemental antioxidants. And guess what, food is packed full of ‘em.
Yep, you got it: Spinach.
Super Powers Of A Superfood
While meat should be the primary means of nourishment for dogs, spinach complements their diet.
A side salad, if you will.
Some may warn against the oxalic acid in spinach, but realistically, there would only be cause for concern if a high percentage of your dog’s diet consisted of spinach– like platefuls of spinach for breakfast, lunch, elevensies, and dinner. While rabbits would dig in, that’s not an appropriate diet for your scavenger carnivore, so that’s really not relevant for your pup.
What is relevant are those antioxidants we were raving about earlier. Spinach gives your dog a turbocharged dose of antioxidants that’s tough to come by with meat and bones alone.
That could mean a stronger immune system, steadier heart health, and reduced risk of cancer for your dog. In fact, a 2005 Purdue study shows that adding some leafy green vegetables to your dog’s food three times per week causes a 90 percent decrease in cancer risk. You can listen to Rodney Habib talk about it here. Impressed? We are. Not too shabby for a little green plant.
Ways To Feed Your Dog Spinach
It doesn’t have to be glamorous. It doesn’t have to be seasoned. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be cooked. There’s more than one way to get your pup eating his greens.
For the sophisticated palate – if your dog is a leaf eater by trade, then by all means: chomp those leaves in all their green glory. It would take a whole lot of spinach for its acidic content to cause any digestive damage, but we still wouldn’t recommend it as a meal replacement so much as a supplement. Just be sure to rinse it off as well as you would your own salad (and always choose organic if possible). Dogs can stomach some pretty rough-and-tumble ingredients, but pesticides aren’t one of them.
For the picky pups (you know who you are)– if your dog doesn’t appreciate a nice side salad, you’re going to have to be a sneak. A few leaves at breakfast. A few leaves at dinner. Chopped finely and cooked simply, it’s fairly easy to sprinkle in some spinach with every meal.
How To Prepare Spinach
Try dicing up the leaves. They’re much easier to hide. Or blending them (smoothie, anyone?). Toss blueberries, a few carrots and kefir in there for good measure. Chop them finely, add bone broth and divy that tasty soup into ice cube trays for a special treat. If you’ve ever fantasized about having your own cooking show (like we clearly have), now is the time to show off for the canine food critic in your life!
Should I Cook It?
You don’t have to, but you can. For maximum antioxidant benefits, raw or lightly steamed is the way to go. But if Madame Booperton isn’t in the mood for crunchy leaves, cooking is a perfectly good solution.
Many of the best nutrients, including antioxidants are heat-labile meaning they break down when exposed to heat, so to get the most out of these leafy greens we want to keep the heat to a minimum.
The best way to do that is to steam the spinach on the stovetop for about two minutes, just until the leaves wilt.
Next best, would be lightly sautéing those leafy greens for about three minutes, pulling them once they’re wilted. You could mix it into a meat like ground turkey and voila– dinner served. (Note: This is a great option once in a while, but balance is everything in home-cooked diets.)
You could also take that sauteed supergreen, chop it finely, and sprinkle it into a warm bowl of bone broth. Or mix it into an extra drool-worthy treat of theirs – cottage cheese and kefir come to mind.
The point is there is so much you can do with this little leaf and any which way you do it will all have a big impact on your pup!
If this all sounds good in theory but not quite up your alley as a sous chef, check out the Simple Food diet. Allow us to explain.
How We Do Spinach
There’s a reason we don’t call our food kibble. Because it isn’t. It’s real food made specially for your carnivore. Every one of our recipes starts with tasty mainstay ingredients like spinach that make it easy to put real food on your dog’s plate daily.
And here’s the cool part: freeze-dried. Pun intended. That’s right, freeze-dried isn’t just for astronauts anymore. The amazing thing about freeze-dried food is that it retains about 97 percent of its original vitamins and minerals. This is especially important for those antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies like spinach.
Regardless which recipe your pup chooses, they all come with enough of the good stuff to help your dog benefit from those wonderful perks with every bite. Our Chicken & Turkey recipe, for example, includes organic spinach alongside organic carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins seeds and plenty more nutrient-packed yum. Same goes for our Beef & Salmon recipe: Organic peas, organic carrots and organic spinach come together to bring out a flavorful blend that’s one part surf, one part turf — and all parts free of the fillers, byproducts and synthetic who-knows-what that so many brands use to fill their bags.
Ultimately, it’s up to you how your dog enjoys their spinach, well and your pup. But if you’re asking us? Try to find a way to sneak it in where you can.