Can Dogs Eat Kale Safely?

Can dogs eat kale - dogfoodcare.com

Whenever anybody asks whether their dog can safely eat this or that human food, they certainly do not intend to give their dogs loads of it. Most dog owners know that each dog is unique, and reacts to different foods in different ways. So, when they ask: ” Can dogs eat kale safely?” they likely intend to introduce it gradually.

Therefore, I find it strange that those shouting “NO, definitely not.” and “NEVER give your dog kale!” base their answers on dog owners feeding their canines with bowls filled with something that could kill them. Instead, the question is whether small amounts of the life-threatening ingredient will harm their dogs. And, in most cases, it will not.

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What is Kale?

Let’s start at the beginning. Kale is a green, leafy, cruciferous vegetable that is rich in nutrients. It may offer a range of health benefits for the whole human body. Some regard kale as a Superfood that features in their health foods, smoothies, and salads. Therefore, it is only natural for them to want to share the kale’s goodness with their canine companions. 

In this article, we will look at the reasons some vets and other professionals say you should not give your precious pooch any kale. Then we will look at the opinion of others who believe you can, with some precautions, share the “superness” of kale with your dog.

Why do Some Vets Warn That Dogs Can’t Eat Kale Safely?

Various veterinarians warn that kale can cause medical problems for dogs.

It appears the most significant risks involve two natural compounds.

  • Calcium Oxalate: It is a natural compound that could cause kidney stones and bladder stones in dogs. The risk is significantly higher for dogs that already have health issues involving their bladders or kidneys. However, those dogs should also not eat roots and greens of beets, leeks, okra, quinoa, and leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard, collards, and parsley.
  • Isothiocyanates: Isothiocyanates are also present as a natural compound in kale, as it is in broccoli. In humans, Isothiocyanates are associated with reduced cancer risks—in humans. However, some vets say this natural compound can cause mild or even severe gastric irritation.
  • Thyroid Problems: Kale can also interfere with thyroid function, but only if fed kale frequently. Furthermore, dogs with hypothyroidism could suffer medication interactions if you feed kale in large amounts.
  • Thallium: There is concern about the presence of toxic heavy metals like thallium in the ground, which transfers to the Kale, making it a health risk. 

Strangely, vets don’t warn dog owners never to give their dogs broccoli. However, they do suggest keeping broccoli to no more than 10% of the dog’s daily diet. Therefore, it only makes sense to issue the same advice for feeding your dog kale.

If your dog ate broccoli or kale, you should look out for adverse reactions that could include changes in its urination habits, discomfort when urinating, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Serving Amounts to Ensure Dogs Can Eat Kale Safely

Remember that a small amount of kale for a large dog like a Doberman Pinscher can be a severely dangerous amount for a small or toy breed doggy like a Shih Tzu. If you are already used to ensuring you limit your precious pup’s treats to 10% of its daily diet by counting calories, you can do the same with kale. One 8-oz cup of raw kale contains 33 calories. You can always reach out to your vet if you are unsure about your dog’s safe amount of kale.

Any change to your dog’s diet is your choice, so let’s look at the opposing side’s reasons for encouraging dog owners to include small amounts of kale in their dog’s diets.

Why do Some Vets and Dog Food Nutritionists Say Dogs Can Eat Kale Safely?

Never lose sight of the fact that each dog is unique, and food that causes problems for your Labrador might have an adverse effect on your Boykin Spaniel. Moreover, see kale as a treat or an ingredient in your dog’s diet instead of a meal.

When kale makes up only a small percentage of a recipe or a meal, your dog can benefit from the nutritious aspects of this vegetable without suffering any harm.  If you keep moderation in mind, you dog can eat kale safely. Variety and balance are important in any nutrition plan.

What are the Benefits of Kale in a Dog’s Diet?

Kale, like many other leafy greens, is very nutrient-rich. Cruciferous vegetables are nutrition power-houses, with many potential benefits. Cruciferous veggies are a diverse group that includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, arugula, Brussels sprouts, collards, watercress, and radishes.

Feeding your dog kale in limited amounts can aid in muscle and blood health, higher energy levels, and a better immune system. It also comes with a cancer-fighting potential, as well as limiting other inflammatory diseases.

If your dog has a tendency to overeat or become overweight, kale is a great option. It’s a low-calorie treat that not only tastes delicious, but also can aid with digestion.

Other potential benefits of feeding your dog kale:

  • Leafy greens, including kale, are high in iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, to support healthy bones, and a healthy heart.
  • Kale provides iron, which is important in the dog’s body’s hemoglobin production, enabling blood cells to carry oxygen. With insufficient iron, the dog could develop anemia.
  • Loaded with vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C, feeding your dog kale can support vision, fight off infections, promote colon health, and aid in liver detoxification.
  • Vitamin K in kale helps in blood clotting by enabling your dog’s body to make proteins involved in the blood clotting process.
  • Kale is an excellent source of antioxidants that stabilize free radicals and stop them from reacting with your dog’s cells and DNA. An imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in your dog’s body causes oxidative damage.
  • Kale is a great source of two main antioxidants (lutein and zeaxanthin) which can protect against cancer.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin are two critical carotenoids, which are pigments produced by plants that give fruits and vegetables a yellow to reddish hue. Both are potent antioxidants and offer a range of health benefits.
  • Beta-carotene is a pro-vitamin A carotenoid. This means it converts into vitamin A in your dog’s body. And vitamin A is essential for your dog’s skin, coat, muscles, and nerves. 

Why is Balanced Nutrition Essential?

Whenever you add anything to your furry friend’s diet, remember that dogs are naturally carnivorous, and 75-85% of their diet should be meat-based. 

Feeding your dog too much kale can cause nutrient deficiencies—specifically amino acids, as it’s low in protein. Therefore, kale should always be fed in moderation alongside a source of protein. It can help minimize the need for supplements when fed in moderate amounts.

“Kale is rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron, which, when compared with AAFCO, FEDIAF (the trade body representing the European pet food industry), or ancestral standards, are short in many meat-based diets. Mineral-rich vegetables reduce the need to add supplements to meet standards.”— Steve Brown, pet nutrition expert.

How to Prepare Kale for Dogs

As mentioned, your dog may be intolerant of new ingredients in its food bowl. Similar to any new food that you would try, introduce it slowly. If your doggy dude surprises you with unexpected gassiness after eating kale, it will be a sign of intolerance, and you’ll know that kale is not a suitable supplement for him.

If that happens, there are plenty of green alternatives for your dog to snack on that don’t pose any potential health problems. Peas, green beans, and cucumbers are safe for most dogs, and your veterinarian can provide you with additional information about healthy treats and homemade diets.

Due to the difference in human and canine digestive systems, you would prepare kale for your pup differently from the method you would use for yourself.

Whether you steam and serve the kale as a treat or a topper for your four-legged friend’s kibble, there are several ways to prepare and serve the kale for your four-legged friend. It can also be cooked, as long as you add no other additives.

Helpful Hints

Other useful information to keep in mind when preparing kale for your dog:

  1. Buy organic whenever possible.
  2. Always wash the kale thoroughly before feeding it to your doggo. Unless it is from your own vegetable garden, you’ll never know whether the kale is covered in pesticides.
  3. To make digestion easier, try a puree, or chop the kale up finely before adding it to your furry friend’s food.
  4. You can serve the kale cooked, steamed or raw–whichever way your pup prefers for it to be prepared. However, cooking or boiling kale removes most of the nutrients. However, if you use the water in which you boiled the kale for a broth or other additive to his food, the nutritional benefits won’t be lost.
  5. Remember, balance is key! Always serve kale or other leafy greens with a source of protein like beef or chicken.
  6. Avoid additives like seasonings, oils, herbs, and spices that can be toxic to your dog. Make sure to serve plain or with other vegetables.
  7. Kale is safe for dogs when you serve correctly prepared kale in small quantities in a gradual process. It can be a wonderful and nutritious addition to your dog’s diet. It will also be easier to monitor potential side effects early.

Bottom Line

This quote by Dr. Karen Becker sums it up well:

“Follow your grandma’s advice: everything in moderation! The crucifers are the warrior veggies that knock out cancer; don’t deny your dogs the benefits of the indole-3-carbinol found in these healing foods, but use them in rotation. Buy crucifers grown in organic soil to avoid thallium contamination from environmental pollutants.”

Remember: When in Doubt, Consult Your Vet 

Before introducing any new food or supplement into your dog’s diet, it’s always best practice to consult your vet. However, ultimately, the decision is yours. Pet owners should make sure to do their research, and gather many sources of information before making up their minds.

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Mari Serfontein