Can Dogs Eat Quinoa? What Amount Is Safe?

There's one chemical in quinoa that's concerning.

Quinoa is a healthy alternative grain to standard wheat products, and it’s grown in popularity among health food communities within the last decade. But can dogs eat quinoa, too? Or is it just a healthy staple for their humans?

We reached out to a vet to learn more about how quinoa can be added to your dog’s diet (that is, if it should be added at all), and why it may not be a good idea to make it an ingredient in your dog’s daily meals.

Is quinoa healthy for dogs?

Quinoa can be healthy for dogs to eat, but only if served in a specific way.

“Dogs can eat quinoa, and it can be a healthy alternative to wheat and soy that is used in canine kibble diets,” veterinarian Dr. Alex Schechter told The Dodo.

“But despite quinoa's nutritional profiles with vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, etc., it can cause intestinal [issues] in canines as quinoa plants produce saponin,” Dr. Schechter continued. “Saponin can cause intestinal irritation.”

Saponin is a plant-derived chemical that is produced by some legumes as a way to defend themselves against insects. It’s a bitter-tasting compound that is believed to cause stomach upset in both humans and animals if eaten in large quantities.

Luckily, the amount of saponin found in quinoa grains is small enough that it’s rare to have a reaction to it. But it’s unknown if dog digestive systems are more sensitive to saponin than ours.

How to feed your dog quinoa

So, with that in mind, quinoa should only be served to your dog in small quantities, if at all.

As Dr. Schechter mentioned, many dog foods use quinoa as an alternative to rice and wheat, so quinoa can be worked into your dog’s diet via his dry kibble. The amount in each kibble is safe and shouldn’t cause upset in most dogs’ digestive systems.

Or, you can feed your dog small amounts of cooked, unseasoned quinoa every so often. Never feed your dog quinoa that has been cooked with onion, garlic or salt seasonings, as these seasonings are dangerous to dogs.

If saponin is a concern, you can wash your uncooked quinoa grains before cooking to remove most of the compound.

Can dogs eat quinoa every day?

Dr. Schechter recommends not feeding your dog quinoa every day, as it may still cause intestinal upset if eaten too regularly.

“Keep an eye on [your dog] when starting feeding quinoa,” he suggested to those who want to use quinoa as a special treat. “Observe signs like vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, losing appetite, etc.,” as these may point to either a saponin or other allergic reaction.

If you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog after feeding him quinoa, stop feeding and contact your vet ASAP.

Quinoa can be OK for dogs to eat as long as it’s fed to them in small amounts and unseasoned. But if the presence of saponin makes you worried, you can easily leave quinoa out of your dog’s diet altogether.