Lentils have been cultivated by humans for over 11,000 years, and they’ve been a staple in our diets for just as long. These lovely legumes are especially popular with vegetarians and vegans if Quorn is off the table, because they provide plenty of protein and iron which you’d normally absorb from eating meat.
With such awesome nutritional properties, it’s no surprise lentils can make appearances in recipes for some dog foods. But can dogs eat lentils, and are these pulses suitable as a staple in our doggy’s dinners?
Yes, dogs can eat lentils as long as they have been properly soaked and cooked, just like you would if you were eating them. In fact, lentils are even used as an ingredient in some brands of dog food. However, there is some growing controversy about whether lentils are suitable for dogs to eat in large quantities, which we’ll talk about a little later on.
Lentils are packed full of paw-some nutrients like iron and folate, which are always good for your dog to munch. They’re also very low in fat and calories, but rich in fibre and protein, meaning that these little legumes are perfect for helping your pup feel fuller for longer.
We humans love red lentils since they’re quick to cook and have a sweeter and nuttier flavour than other types of lentil. Just like brown lentils, red lentils are paw-fectly safe for your pooch to eat and in terms of nutrition, they’re almost identical to brown ones except they have slightly less fibre, because red lentils have been hulled.
Yes, dogs can eat green lentils. Although these lentils take longer to cook so we humans often prefer to use brown or red varieties, green lentils are just as tasty and packed full of antioxidants and minerals. They do have a more peppery taste though, which means your furry friend might not find them as appetising as other kinds of lentil.
A little bit of lentil soup shouldn’t hurt your dog, but it isn’t something you should feed.
Firstly, lentil soup has various spices in it that could irritate your dog’s stomach, or prove harmful. Since these spices often aren’t named on the label, it’s tricky to identify what exactly is in the can and whether it’s safe for canine consumption.
Lentil soup also contains onions, which are toxic to dogs. Although there’s not enough in there to poison your pooch, unless they somehow scoff a whole can, it’s best to avoid feeding them anything with onions in to prevent any potential illness.
Lentil chips have sprung up lately as a “healthy” alternative to crisps, but they’re certainly not a good snack for Fido. While they might have less fat than regular crisps, they’re still too fatty to be good for dogs.
They’re also higher in carbs and salt than your standard potato crisps, which is bad for pups. All in all, a single lentil chip shouldn’t hurt your dog if they eat one, but you shouldn’t deliberately feed them to your dog either.
Lentils aren’t necessarily bad for dogs, as they are not toxic and they have been used within doggy diets for a long time. But, there are reasons why you might not want your dog to eat lots of lentils.
Lentils and other legumes are known to contain lectins, which are a kind of plant protein that binds to sugar molecules. However, these proteins aren’t great for your dog because they prevent them from absorbing other nutrients from their food. Lectins also survive digestion and can stick to the walls of your dogs gut, causing abdominal pain and gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, diarrhoea, and leaky gut. These pesky proteins also interfere with the communication between cells in your dog’s body, which causes inflammation.
Lectins aren’t all bad though, because they also help with lots of useful functions like slowing the absorption of carbohydrates and preventing blood sugar spikes. They’re also strong antioxidants that can help to fight damage to cells, plus they’re full of important nutrients. In small amounts, lectins can be pretty good for your pup, but large amounts are a sure-fire way to give your pooch a pup-set belly, loose stools, and gas.
Luckily, soaking lentils and cooking them is enough to destroy lectins. Otherwise, you just have to make sure your pooch only eats lentils in small amounts to minimise the amount of lectin that they eat.
Some pup paw-rents are worried about an American FDA investigation of certain brands of pet food and their links with dogs developing a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy.
They’re investigating a range of foods, but the most scrutiny has fallen on grain-free formulas that contain a large number of legumes or potatoes. Of these, peas and legumes are more heavily associated with a potential link to DCM.
However, the investigation is yet to come to any conclusion or evidence that diet causes DCM. The FDA’s current stance is that it is “a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors”. At present, the FDA and vets aren’t advising paw-rents to avoid any sort of dog food.
All of the speculations about lentils and their risks of lectins and heart disease are based on dogs who eat lentils in their regular dog food, which they munch every meal of every day. And even then, the risks are very small. To put it into paws-pective, there were 320 reported cases of DCM in dogs in 2018, whilst the pup-ulation of dogs totalled 89.7 million. (In other words, 0.00035% of dogs were affected.) Meanwhile, if your pooch just has some lentils on occasion, they should be perfectly fine.
That being said, you might wonder just how healthy a dog food is for your fur baby if it is packed full of lentils and peas, especially if there’s little meat content. Legumes are cheap after all, and in large quantities, they might just be there as a filler food. The best thing to do is to examine your dog’s dinners to see if it provides perfectly balanced nutrition using natural, whole foods. And meat should always be the main ingredient!
As lentils contain plant protein, there is a possibility your dog may be allergic or intolerant to them. Proteins are common triggers for allergies, but the most common allergens for canines are things like beef, wheat, chicken, and soya.
Lentil allergies are very rare, but not impossible. So if your pup starts getting itchy or has an upset stomach after eating lentils, they might have an allergy to these little legumes!
Provided your pup is only eating a small amount of lentils alongside a balanced diet with plenty of quality protein, legumes can be good for your dog!
Lentils are non-toxic and perfectly safe for dogs to eat. They also provide some great nutrients as well as lots of protein and fibre. The fibre lentils provide is prebiotic fibre, which feeds the good bacteria in your dog’s gut.
Lentils actually pack a surprising amount of vitamins and minerals, including a ton of folate, and a good source of manganese, phosphorus, iron, copper, and potassium.
Dogs can eat lentils as long as they are thoroughly cooked and served plain. These little legumes are non-toxic and packed full of nutrition, and thanks to the fibre and protein-packed inside them, they can help your pooch to feel fuller for longer. It’s important your pup still eats lentils in moderation alongside a balanced diet and plenty of exercise.
However, rather than topping up your dog's diet with lentils to fill them up, why not feed them a diet that already has everything they need in it! Pure is packed full of nutrients, feel-good ingredients that will make your dog feel fuller for longer. Tell us all about your dog, their age, breed, size, allergies and ailments and we'll curate a personalised plan that will be complete, balanced and nutritious.
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.