This seems like an odd question to ask. Especially because many people would never have thought to give their dog lettuce. However, it is well worth exploring in a bit more detail. We know dogs love meat, bacon, and even aniseed. Yet when it comes to plants, they really aren’t that much of vegetation lovers. You may wonder why that is. You would think that in the wild they came across many plants that were good to eat. We think it is time to get to the root cause of this behavior and debunk any myths we may have about dogs eating lettuce.
The Root of the Behavior
First, we must look at the history of dogs to get a better understanding of their dislike for lettuce. Dogs are the ancestors of wolves. Wolves in the wild are primarily carnivores. Which goes to show you why dogs do have the characteristics and some of the diet of carnivores. Dogs have the teeth, digestive tract, and behaviors that significantly resembled that of a carnivorous animal. However, dogs today are often recognized as omnivorous. Also, it is quite important to note that a dog’s digestive tract is not set up to withstand eating a lot of plant materials. Their stomach was meant for meats. That does not mean they can’t have plant material at all, in fact, dogs do eat a lot of carbs. It just means that their were built to have more meat in their diets.
Carnivores lack an enzyme in their saliva called amylase. Herbivores and omnivores actually have this. This is what starts to break down food before you swallow. Dogs do have this enzyme however it is found in their stomach, not in their mouth where they chew. This enzyme helps break down carbs and complex sugars. Since dogs don’t start digesting food until it reaches their stomach, it makes digesting plant-based foods a lot harder. Have you ever thought dogs just don’t like lettuce? It doesn’t have much of a smell or a taste to it anyway. Dogs can smell meat a mile away but most times they just leave salads alone. Of course, some dogs may eat lettuce, we are not saying all dogs hate lettuce. But the majority of them prefer bacon to lettuce. We are the same way, aren’t we? You can even shred a few pieces of lettuce up and put it on top of their food in their dog dishes. This may make the lettuce a bit easier to digest. Never leave a head of lettuce out. Some dogs still may eat it and it can make them sick if they eat too much. If you believe your dog has consumed too much lettuce, consult your vet immediately.
Encouraging the Behavior
It is okay to give your dog some lettuce from time to time if they will eat it. However, never force lettuce on your dog. Eating lettuce on occasion can have some great nutritional benefits for your dog and will aid with proper hydration. However, because of their digestive systems, it is not recommended to give your dog lettuce in large amounts or too frequently. So feed it to them sparingly. To encourage the right nutritional behaviors, you should look at your dog’s diet.
It is important to give your dog the basic nutritional needs he or she needs to stay healthy. High-quality commercial dog food is a great start. High-quality commercial dog food is designed to give your pooch all the nutrition, proteins, and vitamins he or she needs. You can, on occasion, supplement with apples, eggs, fish, lettuce, certain grains, and treats. However, use these in moderation since your dog gets the majority of his nutrition from dog food. It’s really not good to give your dog too much human food since this can cause obesity and other health issues. And don’t forget to always have a clean bowl of water out of your dog. Dogs, just like humans, need to be hydrated.
Other Solutions and Considerations
There are certain foods that you should avoid giving your dog because they could be harmful or even deadly. Foods like chocolate, grapes, walnuts, onions, garlic, and avocados are never safe to add to your dog’s diet. Meat is usually a good supplement, just remove small bones before giving it to your dog. Raw, unprocessed meat is usually okay too. However, before you make any changes in your dog's diet, you should talk to your veterinary provider. Also, if you have any concerns, do consult your vet before supplementing with certain foods because it is better to be safe than sorry.
Your dog may or may not like lettuce and that is okay. Never force your dog to eat something he or she doesn’t like. Lettuce is okay in moderation so if your dog does like it, don’t hesitate to add it to his or her diet once in awhile. The key to a happy and healthy dog is proper nutrition, so be sure to check your dog’s diet to see that he or she is getting everything they need from their diet before supplementing.