As we become increasingly aware of the role of diet on our good health, we project that onto our pets. Fad diets, superfoods, and antioxidants are all the rage these days. Anyone who focuses on how diet can contribute to vitality naturally tries to tie it to their pets.
Have you ever enjoyed a plate of or a bowl of quinoa and wondered if your dog could also benefit from it? What if you just put a spoonful into his dish? Can dogs eat quinoa?
What is Quinoa?
Although it resembles a grain, quinoa is most closely related to spinach. Is it any wonder that it is considered a superfood?
Classified as a pseudocereal, quinoa is harvested from the Chenopodium quinoa plant. This plant is an ornamental crop that flowers and produces seeds annually.
Quinoa is rich in protein, magnesium, iron, and potassium.
Quinoa makes an excellent snack for humans because it satisfies the craving for crunchy foods. More often it is used in meals to enhance salads and soups or as a healthy side dish.
Can Dogs Eat Quinoa?
You sit down to breakfast on the first day of your new resolve to eat healthier. Before you is a freshly prepared bowl of toasted quinoa with maple syrup and pecans.
You glance over at your Clumber Spaniel. Should you share?
Dogs can eat quinoa unless they are sensitive to it. Remarkably, it can provide several benefits for dogs.
- Complete amino acid profile – Unlike grains and most vegetables, quinoa has nine essential amino acids.
- Low glycemic index – This is beneficial for diabetic dogs and may help regulate blood sugar through diet.
- Contains naturally-occurring prebiotics – Many experts suspect that we have only scratched the surface of the importance of probiotics in digestive health and immune function in dogs. Prebiotics fuel these microbes.
- Low calories – Quinoa could be an interesting supplement to the diets of overweight dogs. A cup of quinoa, or 222 grams, only has 120 calories. The high fiber content of almost 2 percent further supports a feeling of fullness from feeding.
- Hypoallergenic – Not only is quinoa a novelty carbohydrate and protein source, but it is also a non-grain alternative to wheat.
- Rich in vitamins and antioxidants – Quinoa contains B vitamins, Namely B-1 and B-6, as well as calcium and vitamin E.
- Good source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
How Much Quinoa Can I Give My Dog?
Quinoa is neither a toxin nor an essential food for canines, so it is difficult to determine a specific amount to feed to dogs. The safest approach is to feed quinoa as a treat or supplement.
When you give your dog a meal, no more than 10 percent should be comprised of quinoa. Specifically, you can give your dog about two teaspoons of quinoa for every cup of dog food.
If you are like me and feed your dog scraps of meat, balance the quinoa accordingly.
Is Quinoa Bad for Dogs?
Many times the question of whether a food is bad for our pets boils down to whether animals need it. In moderate quantities, quinoa is not bad for most dogs.
From an evolutionary standpoint, several would argue that dogs would never encounter quinoa in the wild and therefore, should not eat it. Practicality has necessitated the use of alternative protein sources for dogs as opposed to what a pack of wolves might choose to hunt. Some of the choices are better than others.
Quinoa is a better choice than cereal grains to supplement your dog’s diet. Its low glycemic index makes it superior to potatoes and rice in hypoallergenic diets. With the rising concern about using excessive pea protein in canine diets, quinoa presents a viable option.
With all that is great about quinoa, normal precautions should prevail. Always keep in mind quinoa is a collection of seeds from a plant, and dogs are extremely inefficient at digesting vegetation. Some dogs may not tolerate quinoa at all.
Is Quinoa Safe for Dogs?
The seeds that comprise quinoa are coated with a bitter-tasting deterrent designed to fend off insects and birds. Saponin is a toxin only present in tiny amounts in quinoa, but it can cause digestive upset in sensitive individuals. Dogs are much more sensitive than humans and some canids more vulnerable to ill effects than others.
If you take proper precautions when you prepare quinoa, it is safe for you to feed to your dog. There are a few exceptions.
Although quinoa allergies are rare, individuals can develop hypersensitivity to the plant. Other dogs are intolerant because they cannot digest it no matter how it is prepared. Do not feed quinoa to dogs that experienced the following symptoms with previous exposure.
- Skin – itching, rash, hair loss, or hives
- Digestive – lack of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea
It may seem obvious, but not pressure your dog to eat quinoa if she does not like it. The health benefits to canids are not such that it is worth pushing onto a reluctant subject.
An objectionable taste is not a widespread problem if you wash quinoa. The seeds generally have a mild flavor easily overwhelmed by meat and fish. Saponin is a large part of what makes quinoa bitter.
How Should I Serve Quinoa?
You should always wash quinoa thoroughly before cooking it. This removes the bitter-tasting and potentially toxic soapy coating, saponin. You also want to cook quinoa before serving it to your dog to improve its digestibility.
When cooking quinoa for yourself, add garlic, onions, and other spices to bring out its nutty flavor. If preparing it for your dog, it is a completely different story.
Toast lightly with no flavoring. Make sure the quinoa you buy is plain. With the advent of its popularity, you can now find quinoa in many different forms to enhance its appeal. Avoid tasty varieties for your dog.
Simple Quinoa Dog Treat Recipes
Among the safest and most effective ways to get your dog to incorporate quinoa into his diet is to serve it in a treat. Quinoa complements the texture of homemade treats without adding too much to the flavor.
I have found a couple of treats that I love baking when I have extra quinoa sitting around. One, in particular, is a salmon-based cookie made of only four ingredients. They take a while to bake, but that is a sure way to know the nutrients remain intact.
I have made the same recipe with chicken and catfish if I didn’t have salmon handy. They are extremely enjoyable to make if you own a dehydrator.
My other go-to recipe is sweeter and more traditional, but just as healthy with molasses and honey.
The salmon recipe is grain-free while the grain-free recipe uses the hypoallergenic and highly digestible buckwheat.
Summary: Can Dogs Have Quinoa?
If you have been hit by the quinoa “superfood” craze and want to allow your dog to partake, you are not alone. Provided your dog is not sensitive to it, you can safely feed it to her.
We see many more benefits of quinoa for humans than for dogs. However, quinoa is can be a healthful snack given in moderation to our canine friends. We recommend giving it occasionally with food or in the form of a treat.