It’s a fact that dog food trends often follow human food trends. As people became more health-conscious in the 1970s and ‘80s, they started looking for dog foods that were healthier. Companies eventually produced foods with better ingredients and some foods for dogs with various health conditions. Today, many people are vegetarian or vegan, or they are trying to include non-meat options in their diets. Beans are a popular non-meat protein for humans but can dogs eat beans?
If you are curious about including beans in your dog’s diet, we have the low-down on bean nutrition and whether they are good for your dog.
Beans are part of an enormous family (there are about 400 kinds of edible beans) so it can be hard to generalize about them from a nutritional viewpoint but popular varieties do have many things in common. They are a food staple in many countries. Thanks to the growing popularity of hummus, chickpeas (garbanzo beans) are now the most popular bean in the world so we’ll use them as our point of reference.
One-half cup of chickpeas, cooked and salted has 160 calories. They have 10 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, and 26 grams of carbohydrates, along with 5 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of sugar. They provide 80 mg of calcium, 310 mg of potassium, and 290 mg of sodium. They are also a good source of folate.
Like other beans, chickpeas are a great source of protein and they are high in fiber, with just moderate calories. Studies suggest that the protein and fiber in chickpeas may help you feel full throughout the day so help with appetite management.
Chickpeas contain almost all of the essential amino acids, except for methionine. This makes them a good choice for anyone eating a meat-free diet. The amount of protein is similar to that found in black beans and lentils but it may be a higher quality than other legumes.
Chickpeas are not a whole source of protein since they do not contain all essential amino acids (this is true of other beans, as well). For this reason it’s important to include other protein sources in your diet.
If you are considering adding chickpeas or other beans to your dog’s diet, you must make sure that your dog is getting plenty of protein sources, such as meat or fish protein, that contain all of the essential amino acids. Dogs, for example, need methionine in their diet, along with cysteine, so they can synthesize their own taurine. Since chickpeas do not contain methionine, other sources of protein that contain methionine must be included.
Chickpeas are low on the glycemic index. Along with their protein and fiber content, this may help support blood sugar control. This is helpful for anyone with diabetes or heart disease.
The fiber in chickpeas is mostly soluble. It may help digestion. It also encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and discourages unhealthy bacteria.
Chickpeas have also been studied for their role in lowing bad cholesterol and reducing inflammation in colon cells. Chickpeas also contain saponins – plant compounds which may prevent the occurrence of certain cancers.
Chickpeas are the poster child for beans but many other beans have similar benefits. They can be a very healthy food for humans. They can also be a nice addition to your dog’s diet, though you should not depend entirely on them as a source of protein for your dog since they do not contain all of the essential amino acids that your dog needs. Aside from the debate about whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores, your dog requires some nutrients that come from animal and meat sources.
There are many dog foods today – especially grain free dog foods – that contain chickpeas and other beans. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is currently investigating cases of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) that appear to be linked in some way to foods that are high in peas, legumes, and lentils. This would include some foods that are high in beans as a source of protein. The link has not been proven so far, though theories have been advanced. The FDA has suggested that dog owners avoid feeding foods that have high amounts of these ingredients but they have not said to stop feeding them completely. Adding small amounts of home-cooked beans to your dog’s meals would probably not pose a problem unless your dog was already prone to heart disease.
If you have concerns about giving your dog beans of any kind; or about feeding your dog a dog food that contains beans, peas, legumes, and/or lentils, talk to your veterinarian.
Different Kinds of Beans
Of course, dogs don’t care about research and nutrients. Most dogs want to eat whatever they see you eating. Here’s a look at some of the most popular beans.
Pork and Beans
Available in many different versions on your grocer’s shelves. There are several well-known brands such as VanCamp’s. You can also make them yourself on the stove top or in a slow cooker. The earliest version of this dish probably dates back to the early 19th century in America when it had just three ingredients: a quart of beans, a pound of salt pork, and pepper. Introduced as a canned food around 1880, it may have been the first convenience food. Today canned pork and beans usually contains very little pork.
Today the recipe for the commercial version is usually made with navy beans in tomato sauce, and a very small amount of salt pork or rendered pork fat. If you prefer to make your own, Betty Crocker has a recipe that calls for barbecue sauce, brown sugar, navy beans, and boneless center-cut pork chops.
Good for dogs? Well, your dog would probably like it but the sauce and sugar are not great for dogs. You could let your dog have a taste or a spoonful but pork and beans (from a can or homemade) isn’t really something that you should give your dog. If you’re camping with your dog and you open a can of pork and beans – sure, why not share a little with him.
Baked beans are another old-time favorite. The dish has a history as a food made by Native Americans. They would mix beans, maple sugar, and bear fat in earthenware pots, then place them in underground “bean holes,” lined with hot rocks to cook slowly. British colonists in New England were happy to adopt the dish. They substituted molasses for the maple sugar and bacon or ham for the bear fat. Different colonies favored different kinds of beans.
In the U.S., white beans are generally used. Molasses, brown sugar, or maple syrup is used as a sweetener. Other ingredients can include salt pork, mustard, onions, or tomato sauce. Recipes vary.
Bush’s, Heinz, and VanCamp’s all have good versions. It’s not hard to make your own. We liked this recipe because it really is from scratch. A lot of recipes we looked at started with canned beans or even pork and beans!
Can your dog have some? As with the pork and beans, there are some ingredients here that aren’t great for dogs but one or two bites won’t do any harm for a special occasion. Just don’t make it a habit.
Black beans are native to the Americas and they are wonderful in many Latin and Caribbean cuisines. You can buy them in cans or dried. Wondering what to do with black beans? Here’s a great list of 12 things you can do with a can of black beans and they all sound delicious.
Can you share them with your dog? Eliminate the spicy recipes and you can let your dog have a taste of some of the others. As with the other beans mentioned here, just let your dog have a taste. These meals aren’t really designed with dogs in mind.
Kidney beans get their name from their kidney shape. They come in red, light speckled, red speckled, and white colors. The white kidney bean is also called cannellini in Italy, lobia in India, and safaid (white) lobia in Pakistan. So, this is a very well-known bean.
Kidney beans are a rich source of protein, folate, iron, and phosphorus; with moderate amounts of thiamin, copper, magnesium, and zinc.
Kidney beans are popularly used to make red beans and rice as well as chili.
If you are cooking dry kidney beans, it’s recommended to boil them at least 30 minutes to destroy the phytohemagglutinin toxin in the bean. Other beans also contain this toxin but kidney beans contain more of it. Using a slow cooker with these dried beans is not recommended. However, it is safe to use canned kidney beans because they have already been cooked.
Should you let your dog have any red beans and rice or chili? Dogs may like chili, especially if it contains meat, but if it has any spices in it – especially hot spices – it’s probably not a good idea to let your dog have more than a bite. As for red beans and rice, your dog might like a little. Red beans and rice is usually made with ham hocks or other pork pieces so make sure that it doesn’t contain any bones that might be dangerous for your dog. No Tabasco sauce for your dog though.
Green beans can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, stir-fried, or baked. They are a popular dish as a green bean casserole or battered and fried. In the South they are often seasoned with bacon or other pork.
Green beans are a good source of folate, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fiber, and antioxidants such as flavonols, quercetin, and kaemferol. They’re also low in calories. One cup of ½ inch pieces contains only 31 calories. Yet the fiber content in green beans is very filling.
Because green beans are so filling and healthy, they are a favorite food to give dogs that need to lose a little weight. If you add some cooked green beans (unseasoned) to your dog’s meals, especially if you have cut back on his dog food a little, it can help him feel full until his next meal. (This same trick works with humans on a diet.)
Canned green beans are okay to give your dog but low sodium is best.
Can I Give My Dogs Beans?
Yes, dogs can eat most beans, in small amounts. It’s always best to check out the individual bean and make sure that it is safe for your dog. You should also take into consideration whether the beans are plain or if they are prepared with other ingredients that might be harmful to your dog.
For example, cooked plain green beans are often recommended for overweight dogs. However, green beans in a green bean casserole that includes lots of onions would be a big NO for your dog. Always ask about the ingredients before you share something with your dog.
How Many Beans Can You Give Your Dog?
Beans come in different sizes and it takes different amounts to make a serving size. In general, you should consider beans a treat unless you have thoroughly checked them out and know that it’s safe to give them more.
Some dogs can be very sensitive to some beans and become gassy after eating just a few beans. It’s best to just give your dog a few beans or a couple of bites of some beans to see how he reacts before you let him have more on another occasion.
Gas and stomach discomfort are often the two biggest drawbacks to letting your dog eat beans.
Preparing Beans for Your Dog
Many beans come in canned form. These foods are safe to give to your dog, in small amounts, as long as they do not contain lots of sodium, sugar, or artificial preservatives.
You can also buy most beans in dry form. If you do this you should soak the beans overnight before cooking them. Soaking them longer will let more gas bubble off from the beans. This means that less gas will be produced in your dog’s stomach.
After soaking the beans overnight you should drain them and cook them according to package directions. Cook the beans slowly. Do not add salt or spices. Keep the beans plain since they are for your dog.
After the beans have finished cooking you can mix some of them with rice, meat, or some vegetables to add to your dog’s meal. Use in small amounts as a topper or treat.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Beans?
If you are using beans as a food topper or to mix with your dog’s regular meals, keep in mind that most beans are very high in fiber. It’s best not to give them to your dog every day. Consider them a special treat and give them once or twice per week.
If you are giving your dog green beans for his diet, just add a small amount to his meals. You don’t have to add a lot.
If your dog seems gassy after eating beans or green beans, cut back on the amount you are giving him.
Many people interested in healthy eating are looking at giving their dogs beans as part of their diet. Some beans can be good for dogs. Always check individual types of beans to make sure they are safe for your dog. Before sharing any bean dish with your dog, check the other ingredients to make sure they are safe for your dog to eat.