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Can dogs eat kale?

by Scott Marshall June 23, 2024 10 min read

Can dogs eat kale?

Kale, often overshadowed by more commonly fed vegetables in a dog's diet, carves out its niche with an impressive array of nutritional benefits and ease of preparation. This leafy green stands out in the canine nutritional world, offering a unique blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can contribute positively to a dog's health. Key components of kale include high levels of vitamin K, vitamin C, and iron, alongside a rich fiber content that supports digestive health.

Each aspect of kale—from its nutrient composition to the way it should be prepared for canine consumption—presents its own set of benefits, potential risks, and guidelines to ensure it's a healthy addition to a dog's diet. Whether considering its role in supporting immune function, enhancing skin and coat health, or its potential to cause gastric irritation in some dogs, kale demands a nuanced understanding. The following sections will delve deeper into these areas, shedding light on the best practices for introducing kale into a dog's diet, the recommended amounts based on a dog's size and dietary needs, and alternatives for owners looking for varied ways to boost their pet's nutrition.

This comprehensive exploration aims to equip dog parents with the knowledge to make informed decisions about including kale in their furry friend's meals, ensuring it contributes to their overall health and well-being.

What is kale?

Kale is a nutrient-rich leafy green vegetable, belonging to the cabbage family, and is distinguished by its dark green color, slightly curly leaves, and robust flavor. It's packed with a plethora of health benefits, primarily due to its high levels of vitamin K, vitamin C, iron, and fiber. These components make kale an exceptional choice for enhancing overall health, facilitating digestion, and bolstering the immune system.

For canine nutrition, kale emerges as a valuable option for dog parents aiming to supplement their pet's diet with a natural, whole food source of essential nutrients, thereby supporting their pets' health and vitality.

Is Kale Safe for Dogs?

Yes, kale is generally safe for dogs to eat in moderation. However, it's important to consider the potential risks associated with its consumption. Kale is rich in essential nutrients for dogs - like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but it also contains isothiocyanates, which can lead to gastric irritation in some dogs.

Moreover, the presence of calcium oxalate in kale raises concerns about the possibility of kidney stones if dogs consume it in large amounts. Therefore, when introducing kale to a dog's diet, starting with small amounts and closely monitoring for any adverse reactions is essential. This cautious approach allows dogs to benefit from kale's nutritional offerings while minimizing the risk of negative health impacts.



Potential Risk

Signs of Intolerance

Vitamins (K, C)

Boosts immune system, aids in bone health

None directly, excessive amounts could lead to imbalance


Minerals (Iron)

Supports blood health

None directly, excessive amounts could lead to imbalance



Protects cells from oxidative damage

None directly



Supports digestive health

None directly, excessive amounts could lead to gastrointestinal upset

Diarrhea, constipation


Anticancer properties (in humans)

Can cause gastric irritation

Vomiting, diarrhea, gas

Calcium Oxalate

Supports bone health

Can contribute to the formation of kidney stones

Lethargy, difficulty urinating, decreased appetite

When introducing kale to a dog's diet, it's crucial to observe for signs of intolerance, such as vomiting, lethargy, difficulty urinating, or dogs with diarrhea. These symptoms could indicate an adverse reaction to either the isothiocyanates or the calcium oxalate present in kale. If any of these signs are observed, it's advisable to discontinue feeding kale and consult a veterinarian for further guidance. This table aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the benefits and potential risks associated with feeding kale to dogs, ensuring pet owners can make informed decisions about their furry friend's diet.

High in vitamins and antioxidants

Kale stands out as a nutritional powerhouse for canines, enriched with vital vitamins such as Vitamin K and Vitamin C, alongside a wealth of antioxidants. These nutrients are pivotal in safeguarding cells from oxidative damage and bolstering overall health.


Benefits for Dogs

Recommended Daily Intake

Vitamin K

Supports bone health and blood clotting

2.5 mcg/kg of body weight

Vitamin C

Antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and cognitive aging

50-100 mg/day for small dogs, 100-200 mg/day for medium dogs, 200-400 mg/day for large dogs


Protects cells from damage and supports the immune system

Not specifically established, but included in a balanced diet

Contains calcium and fiber

Beyond its vitamin content, kale offers a notable supply of calcium for strong bones and fiber for optimal digestive health. This combination supports both the skeletal system and gastrointestinal function in dogs.


Benefits for Dogs

Recommended Daily Intake


Essential for bone health and muscle function

50 mg/kg of body weight


Aids in digestion and helps maintain bowel health

2.5-4.5% of the total diet

Potential risks: Isothiocyanates causing gastric irritation

Despite its benefits, kale harbors isothiocyanates, compounds that can lead to gastric irritation in some dogs. This underscores the need for moderation in its inclusion in a dog's diet to prevent discomfort.


Potential Effect

Symptoms to Watch


Can cause gastric irritation

Vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain

Risk of kidney stones due to calcium oxalate

A further consideration is kale's calcium oxalate content, which poses a risk of kidney stones when consumed in excessive amounts. This highlights the critical importance of feeding kale in moderation to avoid health complications.


Potential Effect

Comparison to Other Foods

Calcium Oxalate

Can contribute to the formation of kidney stones

Higher in kale than in many other vegetables; moderation is key

How to introduce kale into a dog's diet

Introducing kale into a dog's diet should be approached with gradual steps to ensure its benefits are maximized while minimizing any risks. Initially, incorporate small amounts of kale into their regular meals, carefully observing for any allergic reactions or signs of digestive discomfort. It's beneficial to mix kale with their usual food to help them become accustomed to the new flavor and texture.

Ensuring the kale is thoroughly washed is crucial to remove potential pesticides, and steaming or boiling the kale can soften its fibers, making it easier for dogs to digest. It's important to avoid adding oils or spices, which could be harmful to your dog. By closely monitoring your dog's reaction to kale and adjusting its quantity as needed, you can safely introduce this nutrient-rich vegetable into their diet, contributing to their overall health and well-being.

Start with small amounts

Begin by incorporating small amounts of kale into your dog's meals. For small dogs (under 10 lbs), start with 1-2 small pieces (about 5 grams) of kale mixed into their regular food. For medium dogs (10-50 lbs), 3-5 small pieces (up to 10 grams) can be introduced.

For large dogs (over 50 lbs), starting with 5-10 small pieces (up to 20 grams) is advisable. This cautious method allows for a gradual introduction, helping to ensure your dog's digestive system can comfortably adjust to the new addition.

Observe for any allergic reactions

After adding kale to your dog's diet, it's essential to closely monitor for any signs of allergic reactions. Symptoms such as itching, swelling around the mouth or ears, or digestive discomfort (e.g., excessive gas, diarrhea within 24-48 hours after ingestion) can indicate that kale might not be suitable for your dog.

Mix kale with their regular food

To ease the introduction of kale, mixing it with your dog's regular food can be beneficial. A good starting ratio is 90% of their regular food to 10% kale. Gradually, you can adjust the amount of kale based on your dog's size, health, and reaction to the new food.

Always ensure that kale constitutes a minor portion of the meal to maintain a balanced diet.

Preparing kale for dogs

Ensuring kale is both healthy and safe for your dog involves crucial preparation steps. Firstly, thoroughly wash the kale to eliminate any pesticides or harmful contaminants. Opt for steaming or boiling as your cooking methods to soften the kale, aiding in your dog's digestion.

It's imperative to avoid adding oils or spices to the kale; these additives can be detrimental to your dog's health. By adhering to these preparation guidelines, you can safely introduce kale into your dog's diet, leveraging its nutritional benefits while safeguarding against potential risks.

Wash thoroughly to remove pesticides

Ensuring kale is clean and safe for your dog starts with thoroughly washing it. This crucial step helps to eliminate any pesticides or external contaminants, safeguarding your dog's health.

Steam / Boil / Blend to soften

To enhance kale's digestibility, it's advisable to steam or boil the leaves. This process softens the kale, making it easier for your dog to digest and absorb the valuable nutrients it offers. Another common option is to add kale to a blender or food processor with small amounts of water. In the end you are looking for baby food consistency with any of these methods.

Avoid adding oils or spices

It's important to avoid adding oils or spices when preparing kale for your dog. Such additives can lead to digestive issues or adversely affect your dog's health, thus keeping the kale plain ensures its safety and nutritional integrity.

Recommended amount of kale for dogs

Finding the optimal quantity of kale for your dog involves striking a balance to leverage its nutritional benefits while mitigating risks. The amount of kale your dog can safely consume depends on their size, weight, and overall health. Below is a detailed table providing a more precise recommendation for kale portions, possibly in relation to a dog's total caloric intake.

This guidance aims to ensure that kale serves as a beneficial addition to your dog's balanced diet.

Dog Size

Weight Range

Recommended Amount of Kale



1-10 lbs

1-2 small pieces (1-2 tsp)

Start with the smaller amount and observe for any adverse reactions.


11-30 lbs

2-3 small pieces (1 tbsp)

Gradually introduce kale into their diet and monitor their health.


31-50 lbs

3-4 small pieces (2 tbsp)

Ensure kale is given in moderation and is not a primary food source.


51-90 lbs+

4-5 small pieces (2-3 tbsp)

Adjust the amount based on activity level and overall health.

Small dogs: A few small pieces

For small dogs, it's best to start with a few small pieces of kale. This portion size allows them to enjoy the health benefits of kale without overburdening their digestive system.

Large dogs: Larger pieces but in moderation

Large dogs may be given larger pieces of kale, yet moderation remains key. Despite their size, ensuring kale is a supplement rather than a main component of their diet helps maintain nutritional balance. Notes:

  • These recommendations are based on the assumption that kale will be introduced as a supplement to a well-balanced diet.
  • Always start with the smaller recommended amount for your dog's size and gradually increase to the suggested maximum as tolerated.
  • Monitor your dog closely for any signs of digestive upset or allergic reactions, and adjust the amount of kale accordingly.
  • Consult with a veterinarian before introducing kale into your dog's diet, especially if your dog has pre-existing health conditions or dietary restrictions.

Signs of an adverse reaction to kale in dogs

While kale can offer nutritional benefits to a dog's diet, it's crucial to monitor for signs of an adverse reaction. Symptoms to watch for include vomiting or diarrhea, abdominal pain, and decreased appetite or lethargy. These reactions could be due to kale's isothiocyanates, which may cause gastric irritation, or its high calcium oxalate content, which can lead to kidney stones.

If any of these symptoms appear after your dog consumes kale, it's important to stop feeding kale and consult a veterinarian. Early detection and action are key to preventing more serious health issues and maintaining your dog's health and happiness.

Vomiting or diarrhea

Vomiting or diarrhea are clear indicators that kale might not be agreeing with your dog's digestive system, signaling a potential intolerance or adverse reaction. If the vomiting or diarrhea is persistent (occurring more than twice in a 24-hour period), or if you notice blood in the vomit or stool, these are signs that the reaction may be severe, and immediate veterinary consultation is advised.

Signs of abdominal pain

Be alert for any signs of abdominal pain in your dog, such as whining, restlessness, or a hunched posture, which could indicate discomfort from consuming kale. If your dog appears unusually lethargic, refuses to eat, or shows signs of discomfort when their abdomen is gently pressed, these could be signs of a more serious condition requiring veterinary attention.

Decreased appetite or lethargy

A sudden decreased appetite or noticeable lethargy after eating kale can be signs of an adverse reaction, suggesting that kale may not be suitable for your dog's diet. If your dog shows no interest in their regular meals for more than a day or if their lethargy persists or worsens, it's crucial to seek veterinary care as these could be indicators of a significant health issue.

Alternatives to kale for dogs

If kale isn't the right fit for your dog, or you're simply seeking to diversify their diet, numerous nutritious alternatives exist. Carrots, blueberries, and cooked pumpkin offer a variety of health benefits that can complement or even enhance your dog's nutritional intake. Below is a detailed table showcasing these alternatives, their specific health benefits, and recommended serving sizes to ensure your dog enjoys a balanced and varied diet while steering clear of any potential risks associated with kale.


Health Benefits

Recommended Serving Size

Preparation Notes


High in beta-carotene (vitamin A), fiber for digestive health, and dental benefits through natural chewing action.

1-2 small carrots for small dogs, 2-3 large carrots for large dogs.

Wash thoroughly. Can be served raw for a crunchy treat or cooked for softer texture.


Rich in antioxidants, supporting cellular health and boosting the immune system. Low in calories and high in vitamin C and fiber.

A small handful, depending on the dog's size.

Wash thoroughly before serving. Can be given fresh or frozen for a refreshing treat.

Cooked Pumpkin

High in soluble fiber, aiding in digestive regularity. Excellent source of vitamin A, potassium, and iron.

1-4 tablespoons, depending on the dog's size.

Ensure it's plain, cooked pumpkin without added sugars or spices. Canned pure pumpkin is a convenient option.

Scott Marshall
Scott Marshall

Scott has been feeding a raw dog food diet for over 13 years. He lives in Utah with his wife Arianne, his 11.5 year old german shepherd Wolken, and his 2.5 year old labradoodle Montu. Scott has been teaching others about raw feeding since 2013, started Raw Feeding 101 in 2017, and has been solely focused on simplifying the process of pet parents meeting their dogs’ daily nutrient requirements since 2018.

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