Like people, dogs are omnivores. And just like us, they’re healthier when they eat a diet that contains a variety of fruits and vegetables. But not all of the vegetables we eat are safe for dogs. So, what about kale? Can dogs eat kale safely?
Yes, healthy dogs can eat kale. In fact, kale and other cruciferous vegetables — like broccoli and Brussels sprouts — are among the best veggies you can give your furry friend. But if your dog has any health problems, you should talk to your vet first. Kale can make some canine health conditions worse.
It’s possible for your dog to have too much of a good thing, even when that thing is a superfood like kale. If you feed your dog too much, this veggie can disrupt their complete and balanced diet. And you should think twice before giving your dog leftover kale from last night’s salad.
We'll tell you how to safely feed your dog kale, which health conditions may make kale bad for your dog, and the health benefits your pet could get from this leafy green.
How Can Dogs Eat Kale Safely?
Whenever you prepare vegetables for yourself, you take steps — like washing, chopping, and sometimes cooking — to make the veggies healthier and easier to eat. Preparing veggies for your dog is no different. Dogs can eat kale if it's properly cleaned and served safely. Taking these steps before you share kale with your pooch will help keep them healthy.
Wash Kale Thoroughly
Kale ranks third in the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” — a list of the 12 types of produce that contain the most pesticides. Thoroughly washing kale helps remove some of the pesticide residue on this plant before you feed it to your pup.
Pet owners who have extra room in their budget can opt for organic produce instead of conventional. Choosing organic is the only way to ensure there’s no pesticide residue on your and your pet’s veggies.
But even when you choose organic, you should still give those greens a good wash. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leafy greens, including kale, are a common source of E. coli and Salmonella, which can lead to food poisoning. Washing your greens can help remove harmful bacteria and prevent foodborne illness.
If you don’t enjoy washing and drying leafy greens, buy pre-washed kale to keep you and your dog safe. According to the CDC, pre-washed produce is ready to eat and doesn’t need to be washed again.
Feed Kale Raw or Cooked
Can dogs eat kale raw or cooked? Dogs can safely eat raw and cooked kale. A small amount of nutrients and fiber is lost in the cooking process, so raw kale is slightly healthier than cooked kale. But even when it’s cooked, this vegetable is still loaded with beneficial nutrients — just make sure it isn’t loaded with salt, oil, and added seasonings.
Whenever you cook kale for your dog, keep it as plain as possible. Dogs can eat kale safely when it's baked, steamed, or blanched. Fried kale, like kale chips, and sauteed kale should be avoided because the oil adds a lot of calories and fat. The fat levels in fried foods are especially dangerous for dogs and can contribute to pancreatitis.
You can also puree kale for dogs — we use kale puree to make these frozen dog treats. But keep the kale smoothies to yourself. Smoothies that include large quantities of fruit can have unhealthy levels of sugar for your pup (something that plain kale does not have).
Avoid Seasonings and Other Additives
Many of the seasonings we add to human food when we cook are bad for our furry friends. For example, garlic, onions, and other members of the allium family are toxic to dogs. These are common ingredients in salad dressing, so you should never give your dog leftover kale leaves from your salad.
Spicy peppers, like cayenne or red pepper flakes, can cause extreme discomfort if your dog eats them. And while dogs need a small quantity of salt in their diet, any dog that’s eating a complete and balanced dog food is already getting all the salt they need. Adding more salt to their diet can lead to health issues like high blood pressure.
When it comes to roasting your kale, a small amount of olive oil is okay as long as your dog doesn’t suffer from pancreatitis. But you should use as little oil as possible to avoid adding too many calories to this otherwise low-calorie snack.
Share Small Quantities
Whenever you’re introducing a new food into your dog’s diet, you should start with small quantities. Just because dogs can eat kale doesn't mean they can have a human-sized serving. Adding large amounts of any unfamiliar food can disrupt your dog’s digestive system and lead to an upset stomach or diarrhea — even if that food is typically safe for dogs. Start by giving your dog just one or two bites of kale at a time.
A small amount of kale will look different for a small dog than it does for a large dog. Your small dog will never need more than a bite or two of kale at a time. But a larger dog may be able to eat more once they’ve been introduced to the food. In either case, your dog should never get more than 10% of their daily calorie intake from kale, other human foods, and dog treats combined.
So, can dogs eat kale? Yes, in small amounts. If kale makes up more than 10% of your dog’s diet, it can lead to nutritional imbalances and increase the likelihood that kale will cause health problems.
Can Kale Cause Health Problems in Dogs?
If you've asked yourself, "Can dogs eat kale?" you've probably already considered that this veggie might cause health problems for your pet. If you have a healthy dog and you follow the guidelines above for feeding kale safely, then this vegetable is more likely to benefit your dog’s health than to cause harm. But if your dog already has one of the following health problems, kale could make it worse. And if you feed your dog too much kale (more than 10% of their daily diet), the leafy green could actually cause these health problems.
Kidney and Bladder Stones
Kale contains calcium oxalate. This is the same mineral that makes up bladder and kidney stones, aka calcium oxalate uroliths. Scientists don’t fully understand what causes bladder and kidney stones, but if your dog is prone to this condition, it’s safest to avoid kale and other foods that are high in calcium oxalate, like spinach, collard greens, and Swiss chard.
Kidney and bladder stones are extremely painful and can be deadly if they completely block your pet’s urethra. So, if you notice your dog struggling to pee or asking to go out multiple times but peeing very little on each outing, you should contact your vet.
Isothiocyanates are another chemical compound found in kale. These compounds are linked to cancer prevention in people. They act as an antioxidant, helping to ward off free radicals and keep cells healthy. However, in some dogs, isothiocyanates can cause extreme gastric irritation.
When you're wondering, "Can dogs eat kale?" you have to consider your pup's system. If your dog has a sensitive stomach, you may want to avoid feeding kale and other leafy greens, or start off by combining the kale with digestive support from a probiotic supplement. After the first few times you give your dog kale, watch them to see how their body responds. If you notice vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than 48 hours, contact your vet.
Can dogs eat kale? The answer depends on your dog's thyroid health. Kale may decrease thyroid function, which can be dangerous for dogs with hypothyroidism, a condition where a dog’s thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the hormone that controls their metabolism. Hypothyroidism can lead to hair thinning, weight gain, reduced activity level, and sudden aggression. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, contact your vet for treatment.
What Are the Nutritional Benefits of Kale for Dogs?
Many dogs can eat kale and enjoy health benefits from it! As long as your dog doesn’t have a pre-existing condition, kale is full of nutrients that can help support their overall health. Here’s a look at the various benefits of adding kale to your dog’s diet.
- Antioxidants: In addition to isothiocyanate, kale also contains the antioxidants vitamin C, lutein, flavonoids, and polyphenols. All of the nutrients, in appropriate levels, can help protect your dog’s immune system and stave off damage from free radicals.
- Beta-carotene: Your dog’s body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is essential to their whole-body health. This nutrient helps support your dog’s vision, reproductive health, and immune system.
- Electrolytes: Kale is full of potassium, magnesium, and manganese — all of which are essential minerals that you may recognize from your favorite electrolyte drink. These minerals help your dog’s muscles and nervous system function.
- Vitamin K: This essential nutrient helps blood clot. It may also play a role in memory health in humans. Kale is a good source of vitamin K.
If your dog eats a complete and balanced dog food, they will already be getting all of the nutrients they need from their diet. But adding healthy snacks, like kale, will provide an extra dose of vitamins and minerals to help your dog stay healthy.
Share Your Love and Your Kale
If you want to share human food with your best friend, dog-safe veggies like kale are a great choice. Just make sure you carefully select and prepare your kale. Washing helps protect your dog from pesticides and bacteria, while sticking to small quantities ensures that your dog’s diet remains complete and balanced.
While healthy dogs can eat kale without issues, this potent vegetable can cause problems in dogs with pre-existing health conditions like kidney and bladder stones or hypothyroidism. So, if your dog has one of these conditions, look for other dog-friendly veggies like bell peppers, green beans, or cucumbers instead.
For more information on your dog’s health and wellness, check out the Native Pet blog.