Can I Give My Dog Kale?

Can I Give My Dog Kale?If you’ve studied up on the benefits of kale you may be wondering if it’s something that your dog can benefit from as well. Of course it will still give them the same nutrients it gives humans, but the real question is whether or not a dog needs them.

In the wild a dog wouldn’t be drawn to eating kale, and would stick to hunting down other animals that might eat kale. In that sense they might get some of the benefits of this vegetable by consuming another animal, but a dog’s preferred diet does not include vegetables for their own sake.

It’s hard to deny that kale has many benefits, but most of those are for humans, and this is because our digestive system is good at eating plants, especially leafy greens like this. Our large and small intestines stretch for several feet, and the kale has time to get broken down and absorbed by the body.

Can I Give My Dog Kale? Answer: Yes, on occasion

However, the canine digestive system is somewhat different from ours. They process meat better than greens.

When they eat something like kale it doesn’t spend as much time in their system as it does in ours, and their body isn’t going to break it down as much before sending it on its way. They also don’t require the same sort of nutrients we do, so it’s definitely not a necessity.

They’d actually be better off if you stuck to their dog food, which is formulated in a way that makes it easy for them to digest and break down. If you buy a good brand it will be formulated in such a way that it will mimic what they’d be getting in an ideal situation. It’s silly for us to think that living with us and eating foods meant for us is best for them.

Any Digestive Troubles

If you’ve already given your dog kale, or if they got into some, there’s no need to panic. If they ate a lot of it you might see them have a case of diarrhea. It will certainly move through their system more quickly than most other foods you feed them.

But, just like eggplant, it’s not toxic for them. There shouldn’t be any other negative effects unless your particular dog is allergic to it.

Evolution & Domestication

Dogs were on there own for millions of years before they started hanging with us. They haven’t adapted to our diet completely, and they still retain many of the same traits as their wolf cousins. Perhaps a few million years of domestication will change things, but at this point in time it’s best to give them what they’re used to consuming.

Some owners follow an all raw diet for their dogs, giving them raw pieces of meat and bones to replicate their diet in the wild. This is a hard thing to do for most people, which is why dog food is still the most popular way to go. If you’re worried about your dog getting a bunch of food that they don’t really need, check the ingredients list of the food you give them. If you see that the first ingredient is a veggie or a grain, it might be time to upgrade.

The first ingredient should be an animal-based protein. It’s okay if they mix in some vegetables and grains along with it, but having it as the first ingredient makes it a filler, and is a way for the dog food company to keep costs down while still producing something that looks like dog kibble.

Conclusion on Kale

Dogs will eat just about anything. But you don’t see dogs actively seeking out vegetables if they have other food sources available. For this reason there’s no need to give them vegetables, like kale, just because they’re so good for us.

Develop your own system for determining what you’re going to give your dog. Some owners are very lax, giving them whatever they feel like. Others are very strict and wouldn’t give them things such as kale or other human foods, sticking only to a high quality dog food.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer July, 2014

Thanks for the advice about kale. I’ve been using organic Italian kale in smoothies but I only use the ruffly part of the leaves, not the stem. I’d been throwing the stems away but this morning I decided to try giving one to my dog. He’s a Terrier. He treated it half like a toy and half like a snack. When he got bored, I threw the rest of the stem away.

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Erica April, 2014

My dog just ate two helpings of kale, and then ate his kibble. “You don’t see dogs actively seeking out vegetables if they have other food sources available.” I guess you’ve never met a dog raised by a yuppie vegan millennial in Seattle.

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Terence May, 2014

Kale is good for your dog. This is a case where it instinctively knows what’s good and goes for it.

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Clare March, 2014

My dog often eats grass in the warmer months and I feel like he does it because his body craves some sort of green plants to complement his diet, but I could be wrong. He doesn’t do it to throw up.

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Terence March, 2014

A few theories exist to explain this seemingly odd behavior, though no answer is definitive.

The most common explanation for grass-eating is that it helps dogs purge their systems. Like humans, dogs can suffer from gastrointestinal issues including upset stomach, nausea, bloating and illness from pathogenic microbes.

In a 2008 study in the journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science, researchers found that while grass consumption didn’t often lead to vomiting, dogs that seemed ill before eating grass were more likely to vomit than dogs that appeared to act normally beforehand.

Another theory is that the dog may even be seeking out grass to get additional nutrients it may not have in its normal diet, such as fiber, minerals or digestive enzymes. Indeed, a 2009 dog study in the journal of Veterinary Behavior found that puppies were more likely to eat grass if their mothers did while nursing.

Finally, another explanation is that dogs chew grass to get the chlorophyll! The chlorophyll is alkalizing when the dogs are overly acidic (i.e. stomach is upset). They generally don’t mean to swallow the blades but some inadvertently do. Dogs, like most mammals, can’t digest the fibers in grass, because they don’t have two stomachs like cows, so if they swallow the blades, they will usually throw them up.

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Terence February, 2014

Recent studies show that green foods like kale can activate the liver’s ability to detoxify as well as directly influence many other genes that reduce cancer risks.

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JJ July, 2013

I’ve seen dogs pull out radishes, carrots and greens directly from the earth and consume them.

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James July, 2013

JJ, that’s how it has been for ages. People used to eat like that too. What part of the country are you located? Here, you just don’t see dogs doing stuff like that because we live in more of an urban environment.

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