Can My Dog Eat That? Kale

For those of you short on time, the answer is yes! Your dog can (and most likely should, unless he’s on anticoagulants or prone to kidney stones) eat kale!

Kale is one of those amazing “superfoods” that we all, people and dogs, should be eating a LOT more of .  I say a lot more because if you are like most people you have either never eaten kale or eat it on a very rare occasion.  Additionally, I’m willing to bet that your dog has never eaten kale.  Let’s rectify that oversight – now.

Before you rush out to buy a bushel of kale, let’s explain why kale is being haled as the latest “superfood” — a 2009 nutritional analysis of kale (as well as Chinese broccoli and collard greens) by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service department (their mission is to “develop innovative measurement systems for the determination of food components that influence human health” – basically, they figure out what’s in a food that makes it good, bad or indifferent for us) showed that there were “45 flavonoids and 13 other phenolics. Most of these phenolics are reported for the first time.” (ARS report - emphasis mine).  What are flavonoids and phenolics and why do we want to include them in our and our dogs’ diets?  Both are types of polyphenols.  Polyphenols are a type of chemical that has an antioxidant (protecting the body from damage done by free radicals) effect.  You have probably heard of the health benefits of green tea, dark chocolate, red wine and citrus fruits.  It is the high content of the polyphenol compounds that make these foods have supposedly anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory (quercetin in citrus), possess possible cancer fighting properties (Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea), antioxidants to prevent cellular damage (resveratrol, a non-flavonoid phenolic compound in red wines), and potential positive benefits to cardiovascular health (cocoa polyphenols in dark chocolate).

Great information but what does it all mean, you say?  Baseline is that dark green leafy veggies, of which kale is, are high in the chemicals that help keep our bodies healthy.  We aren’t getting enough of them – and neither are our dogs!  Kale is rich in vitamins A, C, and K as well as lutein and calcium; it is low in calories and high in fiber (35 calories and 5 grams in a cup); it has more iron per calorie than beef; it is fat-free and helps lower cholesterol.  It is widely used as a nutritional therapy to detoxify the liver (read this fascinating article on how kale helped one dog’s large lipoma disappear in 30 days!).  Between the high levels of vitamin K (over 600% RDA for adult humans in a cup) and a nice dose of omega-3 fatty acids, kale is great for helping combat inflammation.  Kale juice is reported to be antibacterial.  Kale is a nutritional powerhouse!

All this has convinced you that your dog needs kale in his diet . . . but how?  Easy. Sort of.  Remember that for veggies to be truly bioavailable within a dog’s short (relative to ours) intestinal system they have to be “prechewed” or the equivalent thereof.  Light steaming or pulping it up with a food processor are good ways to break down the cellulose fibers in the kale.  Once the kale is ready, you can mix it in with their regular food.  In my research I didn’t find any formula on how much kale one should feed a dog, but I’m going out on a limb and say that one leaf a day is safe for a medium-sized dog.  Obviously, if you have a tiny lap dog or a giant breed you’ll want to adjust accordingly.  Be warned that the additional fiber will probably cause a little gas but it should be temporary – to minimize this, you might want to start off with small amounts of kale and build up.

Another way of incorporating kale into your dog’s diet is as a snack.  Here’s a super simple recipe that you can make for yourself and your dog:

  • Preheat oven to 350 °F
  • Tear kale into individual, smaller leaves and wash thoroughly.
  • Place leaves on baking sheet
  • Mist lightly with olive oil
  • Bake in oven for 10 to 15 minutes depending on leaf thickness and oven variation.  Watch for browning/singeing along the leaves’ edges.
Cool before enjoying your gourmet and healthy snack with your dog.

At the beginning of the post I said that there were some dogs that should NOT eat kale.  Let’s review these points — dogs on anticoagulants shouldn’t eat kale because of the high levels of vitamin K that can interfere with the drugs; dogs that are prone to kidney stones shouldn’t eat kale because it contains oxalic acid, a compound that may contribute to their formation.

When buying kale, look for leaves that are crisp, dark green with a bluish tint.  Frozen kale is an option during times when it is hard to find, out of season or expensive.

Do you have a question about a particular food and wonder if your dog can eat that?  If so, send it to me and I’ll get you an answer!

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9 Responses to “Can My Dog Eat That? Kale”

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  1. Faith says:

    I started making kale chips with olive oil and Ms Dash for myself and decided to let my dog Coop have a try one night and was shocked when he took right to them. They are one of his favorite treats now, and it makes me feel great that I am not giving him a processed chemical treat. Coop is kind of picky but took right to these.

  2. Katelyn S. says:

    What in the world would I do without the internet? I just made kale chips b/c my mom insists that they are healthy with olive oil and iodized salt. I was eating them from a bowl and my sweet schnauzer came up for a looksie… I gave her some and the rest is history! Thank you for this site

  3. Jason says:

    Tonight i was eating some kale with dinner. I decided to give my dog some, figuring she should eat more vegetables. This was about 3 hours ago. She just threw up. Maybe its because we gave her the stalks? We gave her about half a leaf plus the stalk. She’s a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, about 90 pounds

  4. Alexis says:

    Hi Jason! It’s entirely possible that it was the kale that caused her to throw up. One, if your dog isn’t used to eating veggies at all, introducing kale as a first veggie is a bit like jumping in the deep end of the leafy green pool. It is much more fibrous (part of what makes it healthy) than, let’s say, spinach – particularly the stalk, which is tough to digest. This is all especially true if the kale is raw. I would recommend trying it steamed and chopped up so your pup can actually digest it and gain the benefits of its nutritional value.
    On the other hand, if she continues to vomit – it might not have anything to do with the kale and is just odd timing. She could have something else going on. If she continues to get sick take her to the vet to rule out an undiagnosed illness.

  5. Julie says:

    I have a 90 pound Doberman that I make food for. I make a weeks worth at a time. In that I put a number of different vegetables but I also add a cup of food processed kale. Rocky loves it and of course gets all the valuable nutrients from it. I add all the vegetables at the end and cook them very little maybe simmer for 2 to 3 minutes max .

  6. Nancy says:

    My dog LOVES kale! As soon as I go for the bag, he goes crazy for it. I crisp the leaves in the oven and use it as treats.

  7. Allison says:

    So, could it be a problem to give your dog raw kale? And if not, is there any nutritional value the pup could get from eating it raw? When I make my smoothies, my pitbull terrier, Nellie, goes nuts for the stalks; I just hand it over and she’ll chew ‘em and eat ‘em. I will definitely start giving her some cooked parts in the future, but curious what the effect of our current habit is.

    Thanks!

  8. Alexis says:

    Hi Allison! You can absolutely give your dog raw kale! I’m sure there is some nutritional value to giving Nellie the stalks as you do now, but I doubt that it’s much – the reason why is because the trip from her “entrance to exit” is pretty short and doesn’t allow for the fiber in the kale to break down sufficiently to draw the nutrients in as it passes through the intestines. The upside to this, though, is that it is a great crunchy treat that is all-natural (no chemicals or artificial anything! YAY!) that is also very low in calories. So keep indulging Nellie’s desire to chew with the stalks, and definitely begin including a small amount of pulped up kale so she can really get the nutritional benefit of it, too!

  9. Ruby says:

    My dogs love Kale. It’s kind of odd how much my dogs could inhale! Thanks for the info.

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