Love it or hate it, kale has become the poster vegetable for super-foods. Full of vitamins and antioxidants, it’s hard to beat kale regarding nutritional benefits. Not only does kale have a proven record in cutting cancer risk, but it also helps prevent heart disease.
But is it as good for our dogs as it is for us? Can our dogs gain the same nutritional benefits that we can from this green powerhouse of food? Can dogs eat kale?
What is Kale?
Kale is a green, leafy, cruciferous vegetable and a mustard or Brassicaceae family member. As a member of the cruciferous family that includes broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, it’s a versatile vegetable that can be cooked, eaten raw, or pureed and hidden in your daily smoothie.
What’s more, there are over a dozen different varieties, including;
- White Russian
- Walking stick
- Red Russian
- Kamome Red
The benefits of kale
Kale’s reputation as a super-food is well earned. Not only is it very low in calories, but it’s an excellent source of;
- Beta carotene
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium
- Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
- Rich in Lutein
Also rich in fiber, Kale contains sulforaphane which has been linked to lowering the risk of cancer. What’s more, it also contains lutein, nicknamed the eye vitamin, a carotenoid antioxidant that supports eye function and health.
But Kale’s secret weapon is its antioxidants or phytonutrients, which help prevent inflammation, protect cells from stress and assist the liver with its detox ability.
But can our dogs reap the same benefits that we do by adding kale to their diet? The simple answer is yes; just like some other super-foods, small amounts of kale can be a great addition to your dog’s diet. In fact, because of the health benefits of kale, it has already made its way into some commercial dog foods and healthy treats.
The risks of kale
Despite kale being such a healthy vegetable, there are some things to consider before feeding kale to our dogs.
Firstly, although this green powerhouse of a vegetable is an unlikely source, some dogs suffer from food allergies, so introduce any new food slowly, a little at a time. And while kale certainly isn’t toxic, it can cause gastric irritation and diarrhea in large amounts.
Secondly, like all members of the cruciferous family, kale can increase the likelihood of wind. Which is another reason for introducing it slowly as it helps minimize any problems in this area. Even though the wind isn’t a major cause for concern in most dogs, it can become uncomfortable when it’s excessive.
Lastly, and most importantly, kale should be avoided if your dog has any problems with its kidney and bladder stones.
Due to the high levels of calcium oxalate and isothiocyanates that kale contains, it can interfere with the absorption of certain minerals, including calcium, iron, and magnesium. In excess, oxalic acid can lead to joint inflammation and increase the risk of kidney stones.
However, having said that, for a healthy dog to be affected, they would need to consume a lot of kale, so there should be a minimal risk if given as part of a healthy diet.
Can dogs eat kale?
Yes, dogs can eat kale, and it’s a great addition to a dog’s diet when used in moderation. The health benefits of this green powerhouse of nutrition are huge and the risk small. Although not appropriate for all dogs, kale is finding its way into more commercial dog foods and offers anti-cancer and healthy heart benefits to our dogs.
Despite this, kale wouldn’t naturally be part of our dog’s diet, so it’s worth remembering that although our dogs are scavengers, their primary food source is meat. Human and dog digestive systems are different, so moderation is key. Organic kale is the best choice as it is one of the most likely vegetables to contain residual pesticides.
Kale is a versatile vegetable, so it can be eaten raw, cooked, or even dried and sprinkled over a meal, but it’s best to finely chop it as it can be tough to chew in larger pieces.
If your dog isn’t keen on the taste of kale on its own, why not have a go at making some homemade treats that disguise the flavor.
Kale, apple, and oat dog treats
- 3 cups oats
- 2 apples
- 2 cups kale chopped
- 2 Tbsp honey
Place 2 cups of the oats in a food processor and grind until it has a flour-like consistency. Put the ground oats in a large mixing bowl.
Roughly chop the apples, removing the seeds and core. Grind in the food processor until it begins to resemble apple sauce. You may need to scrape down the sides. Some chunks are okay. Scoop the apple mixture into the mixing bowl.
To the mixing bowl, add the remaining 1 cup of whole oats, kale, and honey. Mix to combine. Add additional oats or kale if the mixture is too wet and honey or water if it is too dry.
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly flour your surface as the mixture will be sticky. Roll out the dough to approximately 1/4″ thick. Using your desired cookie cutter, cut out the treat shapes and place them on a silicone pad or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Bake treats at 350F for 15 minutes. Please turn off the oven, leaving the cookies inside, and let them sit for two hours. This will make the cookies crunchier. For soft cookies, remove them after 15 minutes to cool at room temperature.
Store soft treats in an airtight container, kept in the refrigerator, for up to 2 weeks. Hard treats can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.