Perhaps, you have already heard that eating flaxseed meals is important for your health. But did you know that you can use flaxseed for dogs and it is good for them too?
Flaxseed has been used for many centuries in complementary health and nutrition practices. More recently it created a buzz for a different purpose – improving hair quality.
People are now consuming ground flaxseed or applying its oil topically to make their hair stronger and facilitate better growth.
Flaxseed has the same benefits for dogs. It can soften and shine the coat of your dog and offer many other health benefits.
So, what is flaxseed for dogs?
What are the key benefits it offers for dogs? Does it have any side effects? And how should you include it in the diet of your dog?
This guide has all the answers to your questions.
What is Flaxseed?
Flaxseed comes from the Flax plant (Linum usitatissimum) and it is among the oldest crops. Its cultivation dates back towards the start of civilization nearly 5,000 years ago.
The crop also exists in two types, brown flaxseed, and golden flaxseeds, which are equally beneficial.
The versatility of this crop helped it hold the test of time. Actually, no part of this plant goes to waste and people use it to make many products.
It is used in wood preservers, textiles, health supplements, animal feeds, and more. When used for industrial purposes like making wood preservers, it is referred to as linseed.
However, it is known as flaxseed when used to make consumer products like health supplements.
A single serving (one tablespoon) of flaxseed provides a good amount of fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-6 fatty acids, fiber, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, thiamine, vitamins, and minerals.
Most of its benefits are, nevertheless, attributed to the fiber, omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids it contains.
Most health supplements for pets are made using flaxseed due to the high level of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the most important type of omega-3 fatty acid in flaxseed. It metabolizes into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) after entering the body of your dog and later into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
What are the Benefits of Flaxseed for Dogs?
Before adding the superfood to the diet of your pet, you should learn its main benefits.
Your dog requires essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins to remain healthy and flaxseed offers many of them.
Here are the benefits that this superfood has in store for your dog.
Shines and Softens the Coat
As we have stated, flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that your dog needs to develop a healthy coat.
So, if your dog has a dull coat and dry and itchy skin, flaxseed might help. Researchers from the National Center for Biotechnology Information claim that supplementing your dog with flaxseed brings softness and shine to the coat in addition to alleviating itchy skin.
We all know that dogs with rich, shiny hair coats are more likely in good health. On the other hand, the hair of those with dry skin experiences hair breakage, splitting, and falls out.
Boosts the Immune System
Flaxseed contains lignans or antioxidants, which will boost the immune system of your dog.
Any dog with a healthy immune system digests foods easily and maintains a healthier coat. The relationship between a healthy immune system and good digestion is intertwined.
Actually, the gut is responsible for the body’s ability to fight off most illnesses. Therefore, if you have realized that your dog has an illness or it is constipated, its immune system might be weak.
Add flaxseed to its diet to boost its immunity.
Flaxseed for dogs contains soluble and insoluble fibers. Insoluble fibers offer two benefits.
First, they work as a laxative, and secondly, they prevent constipation. The “Flax and Flaxseed Oil: An Ancient Medicine and Modern Functional Food” article published on J Food Sci Technol states that flaxseeds boost the fecal bulk and minimize the bowel transit time.
Another study published by the American Physiological Society, Flaxseed improves gut bacteria.
The researchers found that the fermentation of flaxseed fibers after they enter the digestive system changes the microbiota and therefore improves metabolic health.
Flexible Joints and Strong Bones
Flaxseed contains copper and phosphorous, which are important for dogs with joint or hip disorders. During puppy years, dogs grow at a very fast rate.
The dog will go from a handheld size to full adult weight and height within 12-18 months. That means that the puppy will need a bioavailable amount of the important nutrients to develop properly and also live a longer healthier life.
Offering the dog a good amount of flaxseed is a better way of ensuring that.
Older dogs may also develop joint and hip problems during the repairing of their joints and the production of healthy collagen reduces.
The omega-3 fatty acids available in flaxseed reduces the symptoms of inflammation so that the dog can remain springy and youthful.
Good for Adrenal Issues
Adrenal glands in your dog control the response to stress and ensure proper regulation of digestion, cortisol, and the other regulatory functions in the body.
The adrenal glands release the needed hormones in fewer amounts, therefore, affecting the exiting nature and energy level.
When that happens, the mood will change, the appetite will reduce, and the hair will start deteriorating. Flaxseed for dogs helps with adrenal issues in old dogs because it provides the needed lignans.
Adding Flaxseed To Your Dog’s Diet
Giving your pet the right kind of flaxseeds is important. Ground flaxseed for dogs and flaxseed oil are the safest forms of flaxseed to give to them.
Remember to refrigerate the ground flaxseed to prevent spoiling.
Alternatively, you can buy vegetarian-formulated supplements for dogs that contain flaxseed.
Such supplements will provide your dog with healthy fiber and improve its coat and skin health. Talk to your veterinarian to know the right dosage.
Watch out for loose stool after including flaxseed in your dog’s diet. Further, you have to provide a small amount at first and then increase the dosage slowly.
Because high fiber content may cause stomach upset when introduced very fast.
The Available Types of Flaxseed Products:
The market offers a wide range of flaxseed products. Here are some of them.
- Whole processed seeds: This is the best choice for people who would want to store flaxseed for a long time because they are easy to store. However, the flaxseed may pass through the digestive system of your dog before it can be digested.
- Flaxseed oil: This type of flaxseed is the highest concentrated type of flaxseed. However, it requires refrigeration to prevent it from going rancid fast.
- Flax meal that is processed: This is the flaxseed available in ground form. It is a great source of fiber but it requires refrigeration to keep it from spoiling.
- Unprocessed Raw Flaxseed: This is not a good choice for pet owners because it can cause poisoning or toxicity in your dog.
- Flaxseed plant: Is a type of flaxseed that grows outdoor before harvesting. It is known to cause dermatitis and skin irritation. Further, it may cause many bad effects if ingested in huge amounts.
The above types of flaxseed products affect pets differently. Therefore, you will have to choose products from the trusted brands alone.
What Type Of Flaxseed Do I Use?
As I noted above whole processed seeds are the easiest to store for both dogs and humans. So this is what I buy.
However, as I also said above that using them whole the dog does not get the best benefit before it passes through the digestive system. So I grind mine fresh before adding it into treats or food.
I have found the best way to grind whole flaxseeds is to use a simple coffee grinder. It will grind them up into a fine powder like you get when you buy flaxseed meal.
But because you are only grinding what you need at the time, you don’t have to worry about it going bad fast or having to store it in the fridge.
What are the Side Effects of Flaxseed for Dogs?
Flaxseed is very safe when used properly and in the recommended amounts.
However, the possibility of giving your dog too much and causing overdose exists. Even though overdosing is rare, it can cause many side effects.
Here are the common symptoms.
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme fatigue/weakness
- Difficulty walking
- Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
Still, some factors may increase the risk of toxicity. They include:
- Administering the flax supplement in large amounts. Follow the producer’s directions.
- The dog chewing-open the bags or bottles of the oil, treats, or capsules.
- Administering a supplement that was processed improperly
- Ingestion of unprocessed or raw flax seed
- Ingesting flax plants grown in the yard or garden. Raw plants may contain cyanogenic glycosides that cause cyanide poisoning if ingested in a large amount.
Mostly, dogs will have loose stool after they start consuming flaxseed because of the high content of fiber. Contact a vet if the symptoms are severe or the dog appears seriously sick.
Treatment and Recovery for Flaxseed Poisoning
Diarrhea and vomiting are the commonest symptoms of flax poising. The symptoms will mostly resolve without any medication.
But you must monitor your dog and contact your vet if they do not resolve themselves within 24-48 hours.
If there is a need for treatment, the vet will induce vomiting. This needs to happen under the supervision of a professional in a vet’s office to prevent more issues.
If your dog has cyanide poisoning due to the high consumption of flax, immediate treatment will be important. A vet will administer sodium thiosulfate and sodium nitrate as an antidote. They may also provide oxygen to supplement breathing.
If your dog develops dermatitis after contacting raw flaxseed plants, use clean water to wash the area gently. Your vet may recommend the use of topical ointment if the symptoms are severe.
Conclusion to Flaxseed for Dogs:
Adding flaxseed for dogs or flaxseed oil to your dog’s diet is important for the health of your dog.
Avoid feeding whole flaxseed plant, unprocessed/raw flaxseed, or unprocessed flax meals to your dog because they can cause toxicity.
The main signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, abnormal breathing, and seizure. Consult your vet if your dog shows any of the symptoms.