Is Quinoa Good for Dogs?

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We are now up to the letter “Q” in our dog food ingredient series. Today we are writing about the use of quinoa in dog food.


What is Quinoa?

Although quinoa is consumed like a cereal grain (e.g. oats and wheat), it actually belongs to the same food family that contains spinach, beets, and Swiss chard. It is not technically a grain, and is often referred to as a pseudo cereal.
Mixed quinoa seeds with  a wooden spoon.

Common names for Quinoa

Common names of quinoa include kinua, parka, sweet quinoa, and dacha. In dog food we will only see quinoa listed in some foods’ ingredients.


Why is Quinoa in Dog Food?

Quinoa is added to dog food because it is a source of protein and provides many health benefits (see below) due to its vitamin and mineral content.


Is Quinoa Commonly Used in Dog Food?

Quinoa is growing in popularity as a human food and it seems like this popularity is extending to pet food. We found quinoa in about 3.25% of all dog foods. It is more common in dry foods, most likely due to the fact that it is a source of protein and dry foods, on average, are lower in protein than wet foods.


Common Benefits or Risks of Quinoa

Quinoa is high in protein and essential amino acids. It is also a source of alpha-linolenic acid, an essential Omega-3 fatty acid with potentially anti-inflammatory benefits. Quinoa is a good source of fiber.


Quinoa is also a good source of vitamins and minerals. Quinoa is rich in the vitamin B complex (niacin, folate, thiamin), as well as vitamin E, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also contains the anti-inflammatory flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. Minerals that are abundant in Quinoa include iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, and zinc, to name a few.


One half cup of cooked quinoa has about 4 grams of protein or twice the amount of protein found in other cereal grains, it also has 2 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of fiber, and 20 grams of carbs and 110 calories.


There are no known risks of using quinoa in the food of normally healthy dogs. However, it is important to note that quinoa seeds naturally have a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making them unpalatable in the wild. Most of the commercially available quinoa has been processed to remove this coating. The toxicity category rating of quinoa saponins treats them as mild eye and respiratory irritants and as a low gastrointestinal irritant.


Slimdoggy Ingredient Comfort Level

slimdoggy smileyQuinoa is a healthy ingredient to have in a dog food recipe and it gets the SlimDoggy Happy rating. However, as a plant based protein source, it is not as efficiently digested and utilized as meat and fish based proteins. Thus, as a dog food ingredient, Quinoa’s appeal is in its vitamins and minerals and its comparatively high protein levels versus other ‘grains’.


Miscellaneous facts about Quinoa

The United Nations had declared 2013 as the “International Year of Quinoa”.


Quinoa gained popularity as far back as 3000 BC, when its consumption became widespread in the Andes mountains regions of South America. Quinoa is able to survive high altitudes, thin and cold air, hot sun, salty or sandy soil, little rainfall, and sub-freezing temperatures. It is one touch plant.


Sources and Further Reading


Editor’s note: to view all of the dog food ingredients we have covered, search on the tag “ingredients” or click here:

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  1. So glad u shared this. My last Dog had IBD and quinoa was recommended as her main protein. We opted not to do that but still believe in it as one part of a diet. Dex doesn’t eat it but we do 🙂
    Carol recently posted…The Mystery of a Dog Mouth #SmoochYourPoochMy Profile

  2. TY for all of your research on products found within our dogs’ food. What I wonder about, is why each and every brand I have tried, as well as different bags of the same food (ranked highest on your scale), sparks in the microwave like tin foil when heated with broth. I would not want to eat something that flames up in the microwave, and I don’t want to give my dog something like that either. After over a year, I need help……….. please help!

    • Interesting question…we will dig in and share what we learn.
      mkob recently posted…Is Quinoa Good for Dogs?My Profile

    • Also, since dog food is already cooked, there’s really no benefit to putting it in the microwave. We typically ‘warm-up’ Jack & Maggie’s food with warm water. But to be honest, they probably don’t care if it’s warm or not.
      mkob recently posted…Is Quinoa Good for Dogs?My Profile

    • From the USDA:
      Arcing (pronounced “AR-king”) is sparks inside the microwave oven caused when microwaves react to gold paint on dishes, twist ties and other metallic materials. Some foods such as raw carrots and hot dogs can cause arcing while being microwaved. In hot dogs, this can be due to the uneven mixing of salts and additives. In carrots, it can be due to the minerals in the soil in which they were grown. Whatever the cause, turn off the oven immediately to end the sparks. Prolonged arcing can damage the oven and/or the utensil. If caught at once, arcing should not damage the oven. Remove the offending utensil or food from the oven and either substitute a microwave-safe utensil or cook the food by other methods.
      mkob recently posted…Is Quinoa Good for Dogs?My Profile

  3. wow, I have never heard of this one!!! Doesn’t look very tasty! BOL!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
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  4. TY for all of the information about the arcing. It’s a little dog, not my Lab, so she is old and fussy. If I do not add some people food into her dog food, she won’t eat which will lead to her vomiting yellow bile. This is why I heat up gelled broth from chicken and turkey to add to her food – otherwise it would not cover her food and she won’t eat the food. Does it seem likely that the dog food has what the hot dogs have, which as you state is the “uneven mixing of salts and additives?” If so should I, or should I not be alarmed? It is definitely not the dishes her food is placed in. TY so much for your help!

    • It’s likely a combination of the salt/additives and even some minerals possibly. I would heat up the broth separate from the food if you are concerned, but it’s likely to harm your microwave more than your dog.
      mkob recently posted…Is Quinoa Good for Dogs?My Profile

  5. TY!

  6. I like the option of perhaps adding this to Harley’s food as an occasional substitute for his additional source of protein instead of fresh ground chicken or eggs. As always, I will run it past the Doodle Doc first. Like the idea though, thanks so much for the information. I will check out the other links also.

  7. Another one we have never thought of for dogs!
    Emma recently posted…How To Travel With BananasMy Profile

  8. many thanks for the information, I never heard of quinoa, but it sounds like a good ingredient :o)
    easyweimaraner recently posted…easyblog PUPDATEMy Profile

  9. Wow! I can’t believe you are already at “Q” again! I’ve seen quinoa for humans but have not noticed it as a dog food ingredient. As long as it makes you smile, I’m good with it!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…HSNWLA on Tuesday’s TailsMy Profile

  10. We just started eating quinoa and it would make sense that it’s probably good for dogs too since it’s high in protein and fiber. The hardest part is trying to pronounce it, haha. I believe it’s pronounced ‘keen-wa’.
    Elaine recently posted…Finding the Best Names for DogsMy Profile

  11. I don’t feed Ace many grains (although, I see quinoa is not really considered a grain), but I give him pieces of my healthy food most days for variety. I haven’t given him quinoa before, but I might next time. I know he sometimes gets itchy skin from certain “grains” so I would just give him a small amount.
    Lindsay recently posted…Hey! Pick up that poop!My Profile

  12. I think I had recently been seeing some dog treats that were advertising quinoa as an ingredient that would be desirable. I didn’t really know if that was really good or not though, so thanks for the info!
    Jan K recently posted…Monday Mischief – Don’t Eat That!My Profile

  13. Well I like it. I like the texture. I had it at a banquet recently in a salad with tomatoes. I need to figure out that recipe. It was yummy.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Baking Up Special Birthday TreatsMy Profile

  14. We enjoy Quinoa quite a bit around here, but it took us a while to figure out how to pronounce!
    Jessica Shipman recently posted…Hold the Turkey and Pass the Pumpkin Banana Cheddar Balls!My Profile

  15. Thank you so much for this! We have started home cooking Cooper’s food. He just doesn’t tolerate processed anything, and we couldn’t get him on a dog food that worked. We’ve been cooking quinoa for him as his grain this week, and so far, so good!
    Maggie recently posted…The best eco-friendly pet productsMy Profile

  16. very interesting, never heard of it, I wonder since it is a good source of fiber you could you it like pumpkin to added fiber to the dogs diet to firm up poop and help out the anal glands.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Wordless Wednesday~Glory’s Boyfriend SilasMy Profile

  17. Personally I love Quinoa. I have a wheat intolerance so Quinoa has been good for me. The key to it is rinsing the Quinoa before cooking. I rinse well in a screen colander. I use this in place of pasta or rice for dinner (add a little butter and cheese) and I’ve also made nice summer salads using Quinoa. Rinse and cook Quinoa and then add some olive oil, crushed garlic, chopped walnuts, craisins and I’ve even used chopped apples or pears, and cilantro. You can make it quite tasty.

    But I have never given it to my dogs.
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