With the warm summer months coming up, are you looking for a fresh, hydrating snack for your dog? According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), one option could be lettuce!
If it is the right variety and in the right amount. Many types of lettuce are 90 % water and can be a fun, new treat for your dog. On average, lettuce contains only 13-17 calories per 100-gram serving.
Lettuce can be used to help with constipation in your dog, and may even be used as part of your overweight dog’s diet plan.
What types of lettuce can dogs eat?
AKC mentions that the best varieties of lettuce for dogs to consume are romaine, arugula, and iceberg. They do not contain any chemicals that can harm a dog.
Kate Barrington, a freelance writer specializing in pet nutrition, states that most types of lettuce contain vitamins A, C, and K.
They also contain iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, which are all important nutrients for your dog.
A general rule of thumb to remember is, the darker the leaf, the more nutrients it contains. So, for example, if you want more bang for your buck nutrition-wise, choose romaine lettuce over iceberg lettuce.
Overall though, lettuce is mostly comprised of fiber and water. The water content in lettuce helps your dog to stay hydrated.
The water content may also contribute to “draining properties” which can be beneficial for your dog’s blood pressure.
The fiber helps to support healthy digestion. It helps to feed the good bacteria in your dog’s bowel, which is essential for a healthy immune system. When fed in small amounts, lettuce can even relieve constipation in your dog!
Is Lettuce Toxic to Dogs?
Not all types of lettuce are toxic to dogs, but some varieties should be used cautiously. Per the AKC, spinach, for instance, has a lot of vitamins A, B, C, and K, but also contains a lot of oxalic acids. Oxalic acid inhibits calcium absorption and can cause kidney failure.
According, to Modern Dog Magazine swiss chard, is also high in oxalic acid and should be given to your dog in moderation.
Another green with potential toxicities to dogs is kale. It contains calcium oxalate, which can cause kidney and bladder stones, and isothiocyanates that can lead to gastric irritation.
It is also important to be aware of where your lettuce, of any variety, was grown, in light of recent E. Coli and listeria outbreaks. Feeding contaminated lettuce to your canine could make them sick, just like you could get sick from it.
Herbicides and pesticides are also frequently used when lettuce is being grown. These chemicals also have the potential to harm your dog.
Be sure all of the vegetables, lettuce or otherwise, that you feed to your dog (or fellow humans, for that matter) are washed thoroughly prior to consumption.
Risks of Overeating Lettuce in Dogs
Per AKC, lettuce can be hard for a dog to digest, mainly because it is very fibrous. Due to this reason, it is best to chop lettuce up into small pieces before feeding it to your dog, to aid in the digestive process.
Another consideration to make when feeding your dog lettuce is that, in large quantities, it can lead to diarrhea. So, only give lettuce to your pet in moderation.
Kate Barrington suggests this tactic to avoid giving your dog too much lettuce: Start with one to two tablespoons of shredded or pureed lettuce. You can even mix it into your dog’s food.
If your dog still isn’t going for it, you could try to saute the lettuce in some coconut oil. If the dog tolerates that small amount of lettuce, you can slowly titrate up the amount of lettuce that you give them.
Modern Dog Magazine wants to remind you that all of that fiber can also cause your dog to be gassy, which can be unpleasant for both you and your dog!
It is important to remember that lettuce or any other treat food should only make up 10% of your pet’s diet. For instance, if your pet has an intake of 400 calories per day, they should only be receiving 40 calories from their treats.
If your dog experiences diarrhea or vomiting from too much lettuce, let them outside until symptoms subside. If it seems severe, be sure to take them to the vet to monitor for dehydration or any other potential toxicity.
Raw Lettuce or Cooked Lettuce?
According to Modern Dog Magazine, many dogs will like different varieties of lettuce in its raw form, due to the satisfying crunch when they eat it.
However, some greens, such as Swiss chard can have a bitter taste and be unpalatable to your dog. In this case, lightly steaming it can make it taste better for them.
Another reason to steam lettuce for your dog would be if is causing them to be gassy. Chopping the lettuce into small pieces and steaming can improve digestion and reduce gassiness in your pet.
According to Cuteness.com steaming lettuce can also increase nutrient retention. Which will help your dog get the most out of its leafy greens?
Can Puppies Eat Lettuce?
Kate Barrington suggests avoiding lettuce in puppies. Puppies can have a sensitive digestive system, and feed them lettuce could upset their stomach. Feeding them a more nutrient-rich vegetable may be a better choice.
Lettuce for Dieting Dogs
According to Smartdogowners.com, the dogs that are the best choice to be fed lettuce are overweight dogs.
The fiber in lettuce will help them to feel full longer and ask for food less often, much like fiber does in humans. While many “diet” dog foods are low calorie, high fiber, most “regular” brands of dog food do not contain a lot of fiber.
Feeding your dog lettuce in addition to its regular food can help keep them from being tempted to steal food from the table, countertops, or trash can.
Especially if the weight loss plan you are using in your dog is reducing the amount of “regular” dog food they receive each day.
Concerns about Feeding Your Dog Lettuce
According to Pawculture.com, while it is fine to feed your dog lettuce, there are very little health benefits from it. “The health benefits are negligible. While lettuce will provide your dog with some vitamins and fiber, there are better options if you want to introduce something healthy into your dog’s diet.”
Per PetMD, Asparagus is a healthy vegetable option for your dog because of its assortment of vitamins, including A, B vitamins, C, K, folate, iron, copper, fiber, manganese, and potassium.
AKC disagrees with this statement and does not agree with giving your dog asparagus. They say, while there is nothing harmful in it, it is very tough and fibrous, and there is no reason to give it your dog. So, perhaps there are better options out there.
Watermelon contains lycopene, which is an antioxidant that is helpful in cancer prevention and heart health. Watermelon also contains large amounts of vitamins A, B-6 and C, as well as thiamin.
Due to its high water content, watermelon may be a suitable substitute for lettuce if your dog does not enjoy or tolerate it.
Blueberries contain resveratrol and are also used in cancer prevention and heart health. These could be a fun and delicious addition to your dog’s diet.
Another useful compound, tannins, found in blueberries may be useful in avoiding urinary tract infections. So if your dog is prone to UTIs, blueberries could be worth a try.
Sweet potatoes contain many vitamins (A, B-6, C, and E, also calcium, iron, folate, potassium, copper, and thiamine) and are a safe food to give to your dog.
Pumpkin contains large amounts of fiber, vitamin A, and antioxidants to help regulate your dog’s digestive tract and provide cardiovascular benefits.
Apples contain a large number of antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber. These three nutrients promote cancer prevention, immune system support, and digestive tract regulation.
Your dog will likely enjoy the crunchy texture. Be sure to cut the apple into slices before feeding to your dog. Apple seeds contain minute amounts of cyanide and consumption over time could be harmful to your dog.
Another vegetable dogs seem to enjoy is green beans. Significant amounts of Omega-3s and vitamins K, A, and C are found in green beans.
These nutrient-dense legumes also contain significant amounts of beta-carotene, calcium, copper, fiber, folic acid, iron, manganese, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, and thiamin.
These may be another good alternative to lettuce, given that beans are full of fiber, like lettuce, but contain more nutrients in a smaller package. If you are looking for a way to get more vitamins to your dog, green beans are a good way to go.
Cantaloupe is delicious to humans and dogs. Not only is it that yummy, it also promotes eye health, thanks to vitamin A and beta-carotene.
As a bonus, these vitamins also help keep cells healthy and are instrumental in cancer prevention. Cantaloupe contains many other important nutrients, including vitamins B-6 and C, folate, fiber, potassium, and niacin.
Not everyone likes Brussels sprouts, but your dog just might! Brussels sprouts may be a great leafy green alternative to lettuce. They contain vitamins K, G, A, B1, B6 manganese, folate, fiber, and potassium.
It is important when preparing food for your dog, to do so in a way that will ensure your dog’s health and safety. For an instructional video on preparing many vegetables (and fruits) for your dog, Watch these YouTube video
If Lettuce is Good, Is a Salad Better?
Please keep in mind that some ingredients, such as onions and garlic are toxic to your dog, so use caution before giving your dog bites of a salad that contains more than just lettuce.
The oils in salad dressing can also contain garlic or onion and can have too high-fat content for your dog.
Other toxic fruits and or vegetables to dogs are cherries:
There is cyanide in parts of cherry plants which can be extremely harmful to your dog. Cyanide stops red blood cells from being able to deliver oxygen to the rest of its body.
If your dog eats cherries, some symptoms of cyanide poisoning may be dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, and red gums.
This could also be true if your dog consumes a large number of apple seeds or pits of fruits in the peach family. The fleshy fruit surrounding the seeds is safe for your dog though.
Avocado is a favorite superfood in humans, but it is not appropriate to feed to your dog. This is because of a toxin called persin that exists in all parts of the avocado plant.
The edible part of the avocado doesn’t contain as much persin as other parts, but can still lead to vomiting and diarrhea in your dog.
Find another way for your dog to get healthy fats, using fish oil instead, perhaps. (Also, f you remember, earlier we mentioned green beans contain omega 3s!)
So, to wrap up our session on feeding lettuce to your furry friend, lettuce can be a good source of water and fiber for your dog and can provide a low-calorie treat.
It has a small number of other nutrients that are important in your dog’s diet but does not contain a significant amount.
It is important to not give your dog too much lettuce, due to some potential toxicities and digestive intolerances.
There are many fun options, aside from lettuce, in the fruit and vegetable classes that your pet may enjoy.
It is fun to experiment and see what they will like best and what will provide the best nutrition. But, as always, be sure to consult your vet with any nutrition questions regarding your dog.