Leafy greens are some of the healthiest foods humans can eat, but what about our canine companions? Can dogs eat lettuce?
Yes, dogs can eat lettuce. So, if your pup just snuck a piece off the counter, you have nothing to worry about. And if your best friend is staring up at you with that eager expression in their eyes, it’s okay to share a leaf of lettuce.
However, you should only share plain lettuce with your dog — never salad. And, if you’re choosing lettuce specifically for your furry friend, some types are healthier than others (we’ll get into that below).
Discover the best practices for sharing lettuce with your best friend. We’ll cover the best types of lettuce to share and the potential risks and health benefits of feeding a dog lettuce. Plus, we’ll share some other green veggies that may be even better for your best friend.
Why Can Dogs Eat Lettuce, but Not Salad?
So, why is lettuce safe for dogs when salad isn’t? It all comes down to the other ingredients in salad.
Lettuce leaves are mostly water with a few vitamins and minerals. Most types of lettuce lack chemical compounds that can harm your dog. But the same other ingredients in salad may be harmful.
While some salad ingredients are safe for dogs — including tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, radishes, cucumber, berries, and apples — other salad ingredients are toxic to dogs. For example, dogs should never eat onions. Grapes are also toxic to dogs. And while English walnuts aren’t poisonous to dogs, the significantly less common black walnut is. So, your Waldorf salad may be a double threat.
Macadamia nuts are also poisonous to pets, and your pooch shouldn’t eat large amounts of nuts in salads or otherwise. Their high fat content could trigger pancreatitis in dogs. Plus, salad dressings are bad for dogs because they’re high in fat and salt and often contain seasonings that are toxic to dogs, like garlic, onions, and chives.
So, whenever you let your dog eat lettuce or any other pup-approved human foods, follow this rule: The plainer the better. Only share safe whole foods without added oils or seasonings.
What Types of Lettuce Are Best for Dogs?
All types of lettuce are non-toxic to dogs, meaning they won’t cause a reaction that requires emergency medical care. However, some leafy greens come with long-term risks.
These are the safest types of lettuce to share with your pooch:
- Bok choy
- Butter lettuce
- Coral lettuce
- Green leaf lettuce
- Iceberg lettuce
- Little gem lettuce
- Romaine lettuce
- Swiss chard
Can Dogs Eat Spinach?
Spinach is an excellent human food to share with your dog. Some say spinach isn’t the best option for dogs because of its high oxalic acid content. Consuming high amounts of oxalic acid can make it harder for the body to absorb calcium — this is true in both humans and dogs.
But, much like in humans, veterinarians believe the health benefits of spinach far outweigh the risks for dogs. Dogs would also need to consume an extremely large amount of spinach before they experienced any of the negative effects of oxalic acid.
Spinach is a common ingredient in many highly reputable dog foods, and it has better nutritional value than many of the other types of lettuce on this list, making it one of the best leafy greens to give your best friend.
But, if you’re still worried about the oxalic acid content in spinach, you can give your dog cooked spinach instead of raw. According to studies cited in Consumer Reports, cooking spinach — even for a short time — can reduce the oxalic acid content by as much as 40%.
Can Dogs Eat Kale?
Kale is a different story. While kale also has higher nutritional content than most of the other types of lettuce on this list, it also has more risks. Kale contains calcium oxalate, which can lead to kidney and bladder stones (also called calcium oxalate crystals) if your dog consumes kale regularly.
While you don’t need to worry if your dog consumes a small amount of kale, you shouldn’t make this leafy green a regular part of your dog’s diet. As a general note, dogs who regularly suffer from bladder issues may benefit from a daily air-dried Bladder Chew.
How Much Lettuce Can Dogs Eat?
Whenever you introduce a new food into your dog’s diet, it can cause an upset stomach — especially if you give your dog a large amount on their first try. If your dog has never had lettuce before, start by feeding them just one or two bites at a time to avoid upsetting their digestive system.
If your dog adjusts well to eating a couple bites of lettuce, you can feed them a few more bites in the future. Keep in mind that vets generally recommend that dog treats and human food combined shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake.
How to Feed Lettuce to Dogs
Before you give your dog lettuce, make sure to wash it well. And whenever you can, try to buy organic lettuce. Leafy greens often top the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of produce with the highest pesticide content. In addition to pesticides, lettuce leaves can be contaminated with bacteria, like E. coli and Listeria. Washing lettuce thoroughly will reduce the risk of bacterial contamination for pet parents and pets alike.
If you’re feeding a small lettuce, like arugula or baby spinach, you can give your dog a whole piece of lettuce. But, if you’re feeding a larger green, like butter lettuce or romaine, make sure to break it into bite-sized pieces. Feeding small pieces can reduce the choking hazard for dogs that swallow their food whole.
As long as it’s served plain with no added oil or seasonings, dogs can eat both raw and cooked lettuce (yes, cooking lettuce is common, and it even offers benefits). Just remember to stay away from salad dressings, as well as added salt and oil.
Is Lettuce Good for Dogs?
Eating lettuce can have several benefits for our pet’s health. It’s a low-calorie snack, so it’s a great choice for overweight dogs. Its high water content also makes it a hydrating snack. And leafy greens are a great source of fiber, which can help keep your pet regular.
Plus, lettuce contains several vitamins and minerals that have nutritional benefits for our besties. Here are the main micronutrients in lettuce:
- Beta-carotene: This nutrient, also found in carrots and sweet potatoes, is famous for promoting better vision, but it can do much more than that. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which helps promote healthy bone growth and immune health.
- Antioxidants: Lettuce contains antioxidant polyphenols, flavonoids, and vitamin C, which help support the immune system, fight free radicals, and reduce the risk of cancer.
- Vitamin K: This essential nutrient helps red blood cells clot. Most dogs will get enough vitamin K from their diet, as long as they’re eating a complete-and-balanced dog food. But lettuce can give your pet an extra boost.
- Potassium: Lettuce contains a small amount of potassium, an electrolyte that helps support your dog’s muscular and nervous system.
Darker lettuce and red leaf lettuce typically have a better nutrient profile than lighter lettuce. Iceberg lettuce has such a high water content that it leaves very little room for other vitamins and minerals. Red romaine, on the other hand, is rich in nutrients and will provide more health benefits.
Which Other Green Veggies Can Dogs Eat?
Like humans, dogs benefit most from a varied diet. So, don’t limit your dog to just one healthy human food snack. There are a variety of dog-friendly fruits and veggies that can give your dog a nutrient boost.
Here are some other healthy green veggies for dogs that love lettuce:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Green bell peppers
Give Your Dog Greens
Dogs can eat lettuce, as well as a wide variety of other green veggies. And leafy greens can offer a lot of nutritional benefits for dogs. These veggies are low in calories and high in fiber, and they can provide your dog with a variety of micronutrients.
As long as you thoroughly wash your lettuce and break it up into bite-sized pieces before feeding it to your dog, it’s safe for them to eat. But while all types of lettuce are technically safe for dogs, we recommend against adding kale to your dog’s diet. Regularly eating kale can cause calcium oxalate crystals to build up in your dog’s system, leading to bladder issues.
If your dog regularly experiences bladder issues — even when you avoid kale — try adding an air-dried Bladder Chew to their diet.
At Native Pet, we understand the importance of adding functional whole foods to your dog’s diet. That’s why all our pet supplements are made using all-natural, whole food ingredients (like the cranberries in our Bladder Chews) that are gently air-dried to preserve their nutrient profile.
To learn more about your pet’s health and wellness, check out the Native Pet blog.