Protein is an important building block of your dog’s bones, muscles, and cartilage. This macronutrient is also essential for healthy skin and blood. As with humans, canines usually get their protein from animal products such as egg and meat.
However, there are cases when dogs develop hypersensitivities to meat. Beef and chicken happen to be the most common culprits of food allergies in dogs.
What if your dog is hypersensitive to certain meat products? Will you consider plant-based sources of protein, like quinoa? In today’s post, we’ll discuss why it’s okay to look at quinoa as a viable food option for dogs.
Can Dogs Have Quinoa?
First things first, can you give a dog quinoa without worrying that it might make him sick? Yes, quinoa is definitely safe for canines. It’s so versatile you can use it in a variety of healthy home-cooked meals for your pup. In fact, it is becoming an increasingly popular ingredient in commercially produced pet food particularly in the high-quality varieties.
It’s one of the healthy grains for our furry little friends. Quinoa is an ultimate source of protein as it contains all the essential amino acids: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, cysteine, methionine, threonine, histidine, tryptophan and valine.
Quinoa is not cheap, though. It is more expensive than other types of grains and rice because harvesting them also takes more time. They are best grown in mountainous terrain unlike rice that grows on farmlands. If you don’t mind spending a lot more for your dog, you will be glad to know that quinoa is worth the price.
Just don’t over-feed your dogs with quinoa. Your dog could suffer from abdominal pain since this cereal grain is a bit hard to digest. It is also loaded with fiber so it’s not advisable to offer it in large amounts.
How to Prepare Quinoa for Dogs
Rinse the quinoa before cooking them for your pet. Quinoa should always be cooked because the raw sprout contains a coating that can be toxic to humans and dogs. Never give your dog raw quinoa. Rinsing and cooking quinoa makes it easy to remove the saponin or the natural coating in it.
There are actually pre-rinsed quinoas being sold in the market. Although you should really rinse your grains under cold water, it’s still more convenient to buy the pre-rinsed ones than the raw ones. This way, you don’t need a lot of time for rinsing and straining the grains. It’s easier that way and will be more convenient especially if you are in a hurry to cook.
Some people soak or sprout the quinoa first before cooking them. Allegedly, this reduces the phytic acid in it. Phytic acid could bind with all the other minerals in quinoa, such as the magnesium, iron, and zinc. This, in turn, decreases their absorption.
However, some experts do not agree with this. Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known advocate of integrative medicine, said the saponins can leach into the seeds when you soak them.
When you’re feeding it for the first time, introduce quinoa gradually. You can give a spoonful of quinoa as it is. You can also mix it with fish, vegetables, or meat. If you want some homemade quinoa recipes for doggies, check out our suggestions below.
Some people toast quinoa before putting them in the water. This is optional but you can still try this if you would like to have a fluffy quinoa. For a perfect quinoa recipe, it is best to reduce it to a simmer for around 15 minutes after bringing it to a boil.
Benefits of Quinoa to Canines
A 100-gram serving of quinoa provides 11.5 grams of protein. The protein in quinoa is thrice as the amount of protein found in brown rice. It’s also higher compared to wheat and barley. That’s already impressive but there is more to quinoa than its protein content.
It is good for the teeth and the bones. Half a cup of quinoa already provides 15 grams of calcium. As we all know, calcium is very crucial for dogs as it is for humans. The recommended calcium intake for dogs is 50 mg per kilogram of body weight on a daily basis.
It is safe for dogs with gluten intolerance. Quinoa is gluten-free so it’s a safe bet for dogs with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. Gluten is a protein found in many other grains. This protein can destruct the villi in your dog’s small intestine. When damaged, it will no longer function well and that could result to poor absorption of nutrients for your dog.
It contains lower amounts of fat compared to meat products. If you’re trying to limit your dog’s fat intake without sacrificing his protein needs, try giving him quinoa instead of meat. Half a cup only has 2 grams of fat, relatively low compared to beef of the same amount. A 1/2 cup serving of lean ground beef has 15 grams of fat.
It’s helpful for anemic canines. Dogs with anemia are required to have a special diet rich in iron, protein, and vitamin B12. Quinoa contains plentiful amounts of these vitamins and minerals.
It supports healthy digestive system. A 100-gram serving of quinoa provides 1.4 grams of niacin. Also known as Vitamin B3, niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that helps function in the digestive system as well as nervous system.
It has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effects. This is because of the rich antioxidants found in quinoa. It has plenty amounts of quercetin and kaempferol. These flavonoids are known for their ability to reduce inflammation and even chances of having cancers.
It can help your dog shed some pounds or maintain his current body weight. Quinoa is an excellent source of insoluble fiber. Every 185 grams have as much as 17-27 grams of fiber, higher than most grains. Insoluble fiber helps increase the volume of food your dog eats without adding much in terms of calories. This can be a great addition to your dog’s diet if he needs to shed extra weight.
How to Select the Right Quinoa for Your Dog
There are different varieties of quinoa. When buying for your dog, always select the white variety. It has the mildest taste among all variety and is less bitter compared to the red and black ones. Aside from white, red, and black, there are also orange and purple quinoas. They taste just like the black ones that are slightly sweet and nutty.
It also pays to check the labels. While quinoa is supposed to be naturally gluten-free, some brands may contain gluten. A research by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2012 revealed that two brands of quinoa contained certain amounts of gluten. It’s important to check this especially if your dog is allergic to it.
When it comes to quinoa, there’s no need to worry if it’s organic or not. The saponin in quinoa exerts a repellent or deterrent activity that keeps pests away. Thus, farmers don’t really need to spray the quinoas.
Risks of Giving Quinoa to Your Dog
Be careful in offering quinoa to your dog if he has a history of grain allergy. It’s not a common cause of canine food allergy, but it can still cause hypersensitivities. If your pet suddenly became itchy and is licking obsessively, better stop giving it to him. It would help to contact your vet as well to identify if it’s really quinoa that is causing the issue.
Another concern we see with quinoa is the fact that it can be quite difficult to digest. Thus, it is best to start slowly and only give it in small amounts. In case your dog threw up, suffered from diarrhea or constipation after consuming quinoa, avoid feeding it to him again.
Quinoa Recipes for Dogs
Salmon, Quinoa, and Broccoli
This recipe is a mishmash of flavors so it’s going to be one tasty treat for your pooch. The quinoa gives this dish a bit of crunchiness and creaminess. The salmon is subtle and refreshing while broccoli is sweet and earthy. When you’re in a hurry, use canned salmon. Consider the low sodium options when buying though.
- In a pan, cook 3 lbs. of deboned salmon with enough water just to cover it. Wait for around 5 minutes or until the fish changed from translucent to pink.
- Bring 1 and 3/4 lbs quinoa to a boil.
- In a saucepan, boil or steam 2 and 1/2 lbs of broccoli for around 6 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when you can pierce it using a fork.
- Put the broccoli, salmon, and quinoa in your dog’s bowl. Mix everything nicely and serve.
Mighty Dog Quinoa Balls
This one is bursting with sweetness, but you don’t have to worry since it contains natural ingredients. For this recipe, you can simply use water if you don’t have a beef broth. When buying broth for your pet, always look for the low-sodium variety. Some brands contain monosodium glutamate and additives that could harm your dog. You can also substitute honey for maple syrup.
- In a pot, boil one cup of quinoa with 2 cups of beef broth or water for 20 minutes. Set aside without draining the quinoa.
- In another bowl, mix 1/2 cup of natural peanut butter and 2 tablespoons maple syrup.
- Add in 2 teaspoons of ground flaxseed, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.
- Mix in the quinoa. It should be warm so it will blend easily with the remaining ingredients.
- Firm it up by refrigerating for around 15 minutes.
- Scoop it using an inch size cookie scooper.
- Place the balls in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Put in the freezer an hour for it to firm completely before serving to your pet.
Quinoa, Ground Turkey, and Carrot Dinner
Ground turkey is now being used as an alternative to ground beef. It’s actually a healthy option for dogs, too since it is rich in B vitamins, potassium, and protein. Avoid the skin and dark portions though because they can be quite fatty.
- Sauté 2 pounds of ground turkey in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook until the meat browns. Set aside.
- Boil a cup of quinoa for 10-15 minutes or simply follow the instructions on the package.
- In a food processor, puree 1/4 cup of chopped carrot.
- Put all the ingredients in your dog’s bowl. Mix until the quinoa is well-combined with the turkey and the pureed carrot.
- Serve to Fido. You can also add his supplement to the meal to make it healthier.
Quinoa is definitely a wholesome addition to a dog’s diet. When prepared accordingly, quinoa gives out a creamy and nutty taste. If your dog likes brown rice and oatmeal, he will surely love quinoa too because it tastes just like them.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with quinoa. You can give it to your dog as it is but you can also use it as an ingredient to his favorite home-cooked dishes. Just a reminder, rinse and cook it well before serving to Fido. We also recommend that you inform your vet first if you are thinking of adding it to your dog’s regular diet.