Beans are healthy for us humans to eat and are a brilliant source of protein, so it can be easy to see why many dog food recipes include beans and other legumes in their recipes. But are the beans in our cupboards safe to add to a dog’s dinner, or should we owners steer clear? Can dogs eat kidney beans, for example, or are they to be avoided like baked beans?
With kidney beans, there are a few rules about what your pooch can and can’t eat. We’ve explained when it is perfectly safe to give your pup kidney beans, and what you should avoid feeding them to keep your furry friend happy and healthy.
Yes, dogs can eat cooked kidney beans. Kidney beans are a great source of protein and fibre as well as being packed full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Kidney beans are a member of the legume family, which includes foods such as green beans, black beans, chickpeas and lentils.
Beans include vitamin A which helps to maintain a healthy heart and eyes, as well as vitamin C and K which both help to support the immune system and healing. Meanwhile, beans are also rich in minerals like iron, vital for healthy red blood cells, magnesium to support hormone production, and potassium for healthy muscles and bones.
Kidney beans are also low in fat and can help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels thanks to the antioxidants in them. These antioxidants also help to fight cancer, so they’re a great addition to your dog’s diet.
Meanwhile, the high fibre and protein in beans make them a filling food despite being low in fat. Adding some beans and other vegetables to your dog’s diet could help them to feel fuller for longer and contribute towards weight loss.
In fact, there’s even been a fad diet for dogs that uses green beans to promote weight loss (which we do not recommend following). It replaces a large proportion of a dog’s kibble with beans. The weight loss does not come from the inclusion of lots of beans though. Instead, weight loss begins with the reduction of kibble because dry dog biscuits are packed with sugar and carbohydrates which make a dog prone to weight problems, amongst other common illnesses.
If you’re worried about your dog’s weight you should talk to your vet to develop an appropriate treatment plan which will include increasing your dog’s exercise levels and potentially switching your dog to a healthier diet made with fresh ingredients.
Despite the nutritional benefits kidney beans provide, you must feed them to your dog in moderation as they can make your pooch sick if overfed.
Technically, yes, canned beans are “safe” for your dog to eat in small amounts. Because canned kidney beans are already cooked, there’s very little chance of your dog being affected by Lectin poisoning, (We’ll talk in detail about Lectin below.)
However, much like other canned vegetables, canned kidney beans are high in sodium and may contain other additives and preservatives to extend their shelf life and maintain their freshness.
Some brands of canned kidney beans are preserved in water, with no other listed ingredients beyond water and beans. That makes these more suitable for your dog to eat.
If you’re going to feed your dog canned kidney beans, drain and wash the beans before boiling them for at least ten minutes to ensure they are soft and edible. If the beans are palatable, they’re safe to eat.
If you’re worried about the amount of sodium or the presence of other preservatives in canned beans, you can try buying dried kidney beans instead. Dried kidney beans are cheaper to purchase and have no additives, but they are raw so they must be cooked thoroughly before being fed to your dog.
Dogs must only eat cooked kidney beans. This is because raw kidney beans have high levels of Lectin which will cause severe gastrointestinal upset both in humans and dogs if eaten.
By the time kidney beans are cooked enough to be edible, the Lectin levels have been reduced and the beans are perfectly safe for consumption.
Kidney beans can be a great addition to your dog’s diet as long as they are thoroughly cooked and always fed in moderation. It is important to stick to these rules, otherwise, your dog could become sick.
Firstly, as we humans have found out, beans tend to make us quite gassy. No one likes a stinky dog, so make sure you only let them eat a small number of beans to prevent them from being full of flatulence.
Excess gas also leads to bloating, which can be life-threatening for dogs. Therefore, limiting the number of beans your pup can eat will not just stop them from being smelly, but it will also keep them safe and healthy while still being able to take advantage of the nutritional benefits of kidney beans.
Secondly, overeating beans will likely make your pet sick. Dogs don’t need to eat lots of vegetables to stay healthy and overeating them will cause mild gastrointestinal upset, which might include diarrhoea. That’s why it’s important to always feed veggies in moderation and make sure your dog is eating a healthy diet with plenty of protein that is biologically appropriate for their needs.
Finally, it is important to only feed your dog cooked kidney beans because raw kidney beans are toxic.
Raw kidney beans are toxic to both dogs and humans and will cause illness if they are eaten.
This is because raw kidney beans, and many other kinds of beans, contain a compound called Lectin. Lectin can be found naturally in many plants although beans contain higher concentrations of it. Both people and pooches will suffer gastrointestinal issues if they consume too much Lectin, but because dogs are smaller than us humans, they can only tolerate small amounts.
Cooking kidney beans dramatically reduces the levels of Lectin and makes them safe for consumption. In fact, it takes less time to cook beans enough to render the Lectin harmless than it does to cook the beans to be palatable. Therefore as long as you cook your kidney beans so that they are soft and edible, they are perfectly safe for you or your dog to eat.
Canned kidney beans have already been cooked and so they are “safe” even with minimal cooking. However, if you buy dried kidney beans these are still raw and require sufficient boiling before being eaten. If your dog somehow manages to eat dried and raw kidney beans, monitor them for any signs of illness and contact your vet for advice.
Loss of appetite
If your dog shows any symptoms of illness after eating, or you have reason to believe they’ve eaten raw kidney beans, you will need to contact your vet urgently.
Yes, dogs can eat kidney beans as long as they are cooked. Just remember to feed beans in moderation to prevent overeating and illness.
As we know, kidney beans are a great source of fibre to encourage great digestion and gut motility. If you're wanting a good source of fibre for your dog, rather than adding it onto their original diet, try a tailored dog food plan like Pure.
Pure recipes are packed full of fibre from brown rice and vegetables, working wonders for your dog's digestive health.
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.