Lentils have become a contentious subject for dogs in the last several years. As a source of protein and fiber, they can provide benefits for dogs. Many dog food companies use them as a plant-based source of protein. Unfortunately, their over-use in pet foods has also been linked to a heart problem in some dogs called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). What are the pros and cons of giving your dog lentils? Can dogs eat lentils or not? Let’s find out.
What are Lentils?
Lentils is such a broad term, let’s make sure we know what we’re discussing. Lentils are edible legumes. There are lots of different kinds. They can be split or whole, shelled or unshelled. They can be red, green, brown, and all different sizes. They look like seeds or very small beans. Lots of countries have their own popular varieties. The majority of lentils today are grown in Canada and India. Lentils are a low-cost source of protein for much of the world.
Lentils can be prepared in different ways. We’ll look at mature lentils, cooked and boiled without salt for nutritional information.
Lentils have 27 percent protein, 3 percent fat, and 70 percent carbohydrates.
They are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, folate, and manganese. They are also a good source of protein, iron, phosphorus, and copper, as well as magnesium, B vitamins, and zinc.
One cup of cooked lentils has 230 calories.
There are a number of health benefits that have been associated with eating lentils. Lentils may help lower cholesterol levels because of the dietary fiber they provide. They may help reduce risks associated with heart disease because they are low in fat and high in fiber. They may help lower blood pressure. They may also help with weight loss because their fiber helps you feel full between meals.
Lentils appear to be a good source of nutrition and health benefits for humans. However, some dogs can have problems digesting them.
Can Dogs Have Lentils?
Yes, dogs can eat cooked lentils in small amounts. Lentils can provide dogs with some of the same nutritional benefits that humans receive from them. But, some dogs have problems digesting lentils.
Lentils can be good for dogs with diabetes. The fiber slows digestion so it can help manage blood sugar spikes. They are also low in sugar. Talk to your veterinarian about how many lentils your dog can have if he has diabetes.
Lentils can be a good source of energy for dogs because of the iron they contain. Iron helps produce red blood cells which carry oxygen. It helps boost metabolic function and produces energy.
In small amounts, cooked lentils can make a nice snack for your dog. You can also add a small amount to your dog’s meal.
There are potential problems with lentils, however. According to one study on the digestibility of starches, out of six starches, brewer’s rice and cassava were the easiest starches to digest. Corn and sorghum were next in digestibility. Lentils and peas were the most difficult starches for dogs to digest.
In another study, lentils slowed down the digestion process in dogs. The more lentils, the slower the digestion process.
The bottom line for lentils and digestion appears to be that too many lentils can lead to stomach problems and gastrointestinal upset for dogs. If you give your dog too many lentils your dog could experience diarrhea or constipation, along with a gassy stomach.
Lentils and legumes in general also contain lectins which are a group of glycoproteins. Lectins can produce toxicity through bacterial growth in the gastrointestinal tract. Lectins can also interfere with the absorption of nutrients such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.
Your dog would have to eat an enormous amount of raw lentils or legumes to produce these toxic effects; and lectins can be greatly reduced by cooking lentils. That’s why it’s always recommended to boil lentils. (Crockpots and slow-cooking don’t seem to work as well.)
If you are feeding your dog a commercial dog food that contains large amounts of lentils in the first few ingredients, we recommend that you read the latest update from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The FDA has not advised anyone to stop feeding grain free dog foods but they have recommended that owners use caution and try to avoid foods that contain large amounts of peas, lentils, and legumes. They are still researching the nutritional DCM issue.
Noted pet food author Marion Nestle (no relation to the company) also has good advice about what to feed your pet if you are worried about dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
How Many Lentils Can You Give Your Dog?
If you want to give your dog lentils you should keep the amount small because of the potential for digestive problems. Make sure that any lentils you give your dog are cooked and preferably boiled.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Lentils?
It’s a good idea to limit how much and how often you give your dog lentils. While lentils can have some health benefits for dogs, too many can lead to gastrointestinal problems. You should be able to give your dog a few lentils once or twice per week without seeing any stomach problems.
If you plan to give your dog lentils, it’s best to buy them in natural form and cook them yourself. Be careful that the lentils you buy don’t contain any additives that might not be good for your dog. Salt and other seasonings can be harmful.
It’s not a good idea to give your dog any canned lentil soup or even homemade lentil soup if you don’t know all of the ingredients. Ingredients such as garlic and onion, for example, can be bad for your dog.
Lentils have some health benefits that can be good for your dog but it’s important that you only give your dog small amounts occasionally. Too many lentils, too often can lead to gastrointestinal tract difficulties. Be sure to cook any lentils you give to your dog. Boiling them is best. Plain lentils without salt or other spicy ingredients is the best option for your dog.