Can Dogs Eat Romaine Lettuce
You don’t have to go far these days to find a supermarket where you’ll see the familiar green head of lettuce on display in plastic bags alongside other foods like pasta, rice and cereal. But what does it mean when we eat this leafy green? Is it safe for our pets? Yes. Lettuce is relatively harmless to them — although they may prefer their own version of lettuce.
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) comes from a family of plants known as nightshades, which includes tobacco, tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants among others. The leaves are made up of three layers: an upper epidermis, a middle mesophyll layer and a lower hypodermal layer beneath. This structure prevents lettuce from absorbing nutrients such as iron and calcium from its soil or water source.
The first lettuce was cultivated around 8000 B.C. by the Aztec people who ate it raw with chili peppers. In the 19th century, American colonists would pick the young heads of butterhead lettuce, cut them into pieces and toss them into soups or salads. Today, there are more than 100 varieties of lettuce grown worldwide.
Because lettuce contains no fat, cholesterol or sodium, it is considered one of the healthiest vegetables available. Not only does lettuce provide fiber, vitamins A, C and K, folate, potassium and magnesium; it’s also high in antioxidants. And unlike other greens, lettuce has virtually no calories. That means if you’re watching your weight, lettuce is a great alternative to potato chips.
But lettuce isn’t all pretty pictures and healthy talk. Although most varieties of lettuce are fine for humans to consume, some varieties of lettuce are toxic to cats and dogs. For example, members of the daisy family, including dandelions, chicory and endive, should never be fed to animals, especially dogs. These types of lettuce contain toxins called saponins that cause vomiting, diarrhea and even death.
On the next page learn why lettuce is OK for dogs but still watch out for those other kinds of lettuce.
Eating Healthy With Your Dog
Leaf lettuce is safe for dogs. Even though it belongs to the same plant family as dandelion and chicory, it doesn’t contain any of the saponin compounds found in those types of lettuce. Saponins are bitter-tasting chemicals that make the leaves taste bad. They act as irritants in the digestive system, causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs can easily digest lettuce without any problems. Just keep away from the outer leaves, since those tend to taste the worst.
If your pet enjoys eating lettuce, it makes sense to give him his own special blend. You can mix together different types of lettuce for a unique flavor. Some popular blends include red leaf lettuce mixed with romaine lettuce, and radicchio lettuce with Bibb lettuce. If your pooch likes romaine lettuce, try giving him a few slices every day. He’ll likely start begging for more!
If you’ve got an overweight dog, lettuce can actually help trim down his waistline. One reason is that lettuce is so low in calories. Another reason is that lettuce is mostly composed of water. Water takes up less space in the stomach than food, making it easier for the stomach muscles to expand and fill up on the food instead of storing it as excess body fat.
Like many things, dogs need exercise. When dogs get enough activity, they burn off extra energy through play — and the resulting heat creates the perfect environment for their internal thermometer to register a normal temperature. So take your lazy pup outside once in awhile to enjoy fresh air and sunshine while burning calories.
One thing to remember is that lettuce will absorb moisture from the ground and become slimy over time. To avoid this problem, store your salad greens in sealed containers in the refrigerator until ready to use. Or better yet, buy prewashed organic lettuce at the grocery store.
For recipes featuring lettuce, check out the links on the following page.
Dogs aren’t the only ones who can benefit from lettuce. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans spent almost $8 billion on lettuce alone last year — and that number is expected to grow to $10.6 billion by 2015. More than half of those dollars were spent on buying prepared lettuce mixes. People spend billions of dollars on lettuce because it’s nutritious and delicious. No wonder dogs love it too.
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