We always want what’s best for our cuddly canines. They bring so much love and joy into our lives. So, in return, we should provide them with the best nutrition and diet possible. Incorporating flaxseed into their diet is definitely one way to help accomplish this. Flaxseed is a powerful dietary supplement for dogs and humans. It contains a whole host of health benefits, including being a rich source of omega fatty acids and promotes a healthy immune system.
What is Flaxseed?
Flaxseed… surprisingly comes from the Flax Plant (Linum usitatissimum). Ok, not much of a surprise there, but what you might find surprising is the fact that flaxseed may be one of our oldest crops, with its cultivation dating back towards the beginning of civilization, around 5,000 years ago.
Its versatility helps it to withstand the test of time. No part of the flax plant goes to waste and it is used in a multitude of products. It can be found in textiles, wood preservers, animal feeds, health supplements, and more. When flaxseed is used for industrial purposes like a wood preserver it is referred to as “linseed”. However, when it is used for consumption in products such as health supplements it is referred to as “flaxseed”. Today we are talking flaxseed.
What’s really interesting is the amount of attention flaxseed has received in the last two decades due to its potential health benefits. What’s even more astonishing is that dogs can gain these potential benefits as well!
Needless to say, some healthy supplements for dogs are made using flaxseed. The flaxseed adds high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The most significant omega-3 fatty acid in flaxseed is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
In your dog’s body, the overall metabolic process is ALA metabolizes into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which then metabolizes into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), but this process is not very efficient. Or, to put it in simpler terms:
ALA → EPA → DHA
While EPA and DHA are very important and beneficial fatty acids, when you provide flaxseed, the benefit gained is really from that ALA starting point.
So What’s So Special About Alpha-Linolenic Acid?
The most important benefit of ALA is its effect on skin. Dogs with atopic dermatitis, known as eczema in people, show improved skin condition when receiving flaxseed oil supplementation. According to the National Research Council (NRC), providing your dog ALA will help with general health status, cell turnover (the process of replacing old cells with new cells), and cell function (how well cells in the body are working).
What are the Benefits of Flaxseed for Dogs?
In addition to ALA, flaxseed also contains lignans and fiber. These components, however, are only found in the whole or ground flaxseed, not the oil. The main lignan in flaxseed is secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG). Hardworking intestinal bacteria can take the SDG that your dog eats in flaxseed and turn it into other lignans, including enterodiol (END) and enterolactone (ENL). These enterolignans mimic some effects of estrogen hormones, putting them into a classification known as phytoestrogens.
Now, what does all that mumbo-jumbo mean? Secoisolariciresinol diglucoside has been associated with many positive health effects in people, including improved cardiovascular health and antidiabetic activity. The phytoestrogen effects of lignans may influence the amount of estrogen naturally produced by the body. In people, increased levels of enterolignans have been associated with a decreased incidence of breast cancer. In dogs, lignans are combined with the hormone melatonin as a possible treatment for a condition called atypical hyperadrenocorticism.
Three Primary Benefits of Flaxseed for Dogs
- A healthy coat (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids).
- Healthy immune system (lignans).
- Healthy digestion and GI tract (natural fiber).
Has your little hound ever experienced digestive issues or constipation? No dog poop may sound like a dog owner’s dream but it’s no joking matter. This is a sign something’s wrong in your pup’s tummy. Fortunately, flaxseed is also a great source of fiber. This makes it a great candidate for supporting digestive health and treating constipation in dogs.
A 2013 study in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, points out that omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed are technically nutraceuticals. This is just a fancy way of saying that they are nutrients that have medicinal purposes. Consequently, flaxseed is most effective when you integrate it into the regular dietary regimen for your dog. Think of it like supercharged nutrition. It will both feed your dog and keep them healthy.
What Types of Flax Products Are There?
Finally, there are a number of different flax products, including:
- Whole processed seeds – These are the form that is the easiest to store, although they are also the most likely to pass through your dog’s gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) without being digested.
- Flaxseed oil – This is the most concentrated form, but it must be refrigerated in order to prevent spoilage.
- Processed flax meal – This is a form in which the flaxseed is ground and is an excellent source of fiber, though it must also be refrigerated to avoid spoilage.
- Raw unprocessed flaxseed or flax meal – This form is the most likely to cause toxicity or poisoning in dogs.
- Flax plant – This is the form that you will find growing outdoors before any of the flaxseed is harvested. It can cause dermatitis as well as skin irritation and causes negative effects if ingested in large amounts.
Each of these different flax products can affect your dog quite differently. Therefore, it’s important to only use products from a trusted company with extensive quality control.
Is Flaxseed Safe for Dogs?
If used properly and within recommended dosage amounts, flaxseed is very safe for dogs. However, just like everything you put in your dog’s body, there is the possibility of giving your dog too much and creating a situation where they overdose. While rare, the most common symptoms of flax poisoning include:
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness/extreme fatigue
- Difficulty walking
- Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
There are also a number of factors that may increase the risk of poisoning, including:
- The owner giving their dog too much of a flax supplement (be sure to follow the directions very carefully).
- The dog chewing open a bottle or bag of capsules, treats, or oil.
- A supplement that has been improperly processed.
- Ingestion of raw or unprocessed flax seed.
- Ingesting flax plants that may be growing in the garden or yard. This is because raw flax plants have cyanogenic glycosides, which may lead to cyanide poisoning when ingested in large quantities.
It is normal for your dog to have loose stools when they start on a flaxseed supplement (likely due to the high fiber content). However, if the symptoms are severe or if they appear to be seriously sick, it is imperative that you contact a veterinarian immediately and follow their directions.
How Much Can I Give My Dog?
There are several ways to administer flaxseed to your dog based on its weight. Let’s define our units of volume as:
- 1 teaspoon = 5 milliliters
- 1 tablespoon = 15 milliliters
- ¼ cup = 59 milliliters
You may add ground flaxseed to their food in the following amounts:
- Under 20 pounds – 2 teaspoons daily
- 20 to 40 pounds – 2.5 teaspoons daily
- 40 to 60 pounds – 1 tablespoon daily
- 60 to 80 pounds – 1.5 tablespoons daily
- 80 to 100 pounds – 2.5 tablespoons daily
- Over 100 pounds – ¼ cup daily
You may also use flaxseed oil in the following amounts:
- Under 20 pounds – ¼ to 1 teaspoon daily
- 20 to 40 pounds – ½ to 2 teaspoons daily
- 40 to 60 pounds – ¾ to 3 teaspoons daily
- 60 to 80 pounds – 1 to 4 teaspoons daily
- 80 to 100 pounds – 1 & ¼ to 5 teaspoons daily
- Over 100 pounds – 1 & ½ teaspoons to 6 teaspoons daily
Remember that the form of the flaxseed influences how it will metabolize within your dog’s body, hence the different dosages for ground flaxseed or oil.
How to Use Flaxseed for Dogs
As discussed above, you can:
- Add ground flax seeds to food, including plain yogurt or peanut butter (always make sure dogs are well hydrated if you are giving them flaxseed).
- Drizzle flaxseed oil over their dry or canned dog food.
On the other hand, you could also use a supplement or product that already has the flaxseed added in safe and therapeutic amounts. Look for dog treats with flaxseed along with other beneficial additives. For example, HolistaPet Heart & Immune Care dog treats are specially formulated to optimize your dog’s cardiovascular health and immune function by including the following active ingredients:
- Blueberries – These are rich in powerful antioxidants like polyphenols.
- Flaxseed – healthy coat, skin, immune system, and GI tract.
- Hemp seed powder – much like the flaxseed, this is rich in omega fatty acids as well as nutritious protein.
- Cannabidiol (CBD oil) – this is a cannabis extract that interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS helps modulate pain, inflammation, nausea, stress, and other responses.
Furthermore, All HolistaPet dog treats are:
- Gluten and dairy-free
Just remember to keep them out of reach of your puppy so that they don’t grab the bag and eat the whole thing!. Learn more here.