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 a potent anti-inflammatory agent.
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 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-linoleic 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). Or, to put it in simpler terms:
- ALA → EPA → DHA
So What’s So Special About These Omega Fatty Acids?
According to recommendations for pet food as determined by the National Research Council (NRC) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), omega fatty acids are crucial because they:
- Provide metabolic energy.
- Aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
- Decrease inflammation by acting as metabolic precursors to eicosanoids and prostaglandins.
- Help the body build cellular structures like cell membranes.
What are the Benefits of Flaxseed for Dogs?
Remember that the ALA in flaxseed turns into EPA and DHA during metabolism. So what exactly does this mean for your dog’s health?
Well, an enzyme known as cyclooxygenase acts upon the EPA and DHA in order for series-3 prostaglandins to develop. These prostaglandins are extremely important as they are notable for their anti-inflammatory effects.
Flaxseed is also rich in antioxidants known as lignans. Lignans are effective in reducing inflammation as well. Flaxseed combines lignans and prostaglandins to work together and create a seriously powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
Flaxseed & Inflammation
It’s useful to remember that inflammation is an important process of your dog’s body. Inflammation serves as a defense mechanism against a variety of potentially damaging factors. However, if it continues unchecked, it can cause serious damage to the mammalian body. In fact, according to a 2010 research review in Cell, unchecked inflammation may result in:
- Autoimmune or auto-inflammatory disorders, including autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or pemphigus.
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Tissue damage
- Cellular degradation
So what does this mean? Essentially, a necessary process like inflammation can, under certain conditions, start damaging the mammalian body in severe and profound ways. As a way to counteract this situation, it is crucial to give your dog a diet rich in anti-inflammatory compounds. This is where flaxseed, and its fatty acids, comes in. Consequently, there are four primary benefits of flaxseed for dogs.
Four Primary Benefits of Flaxseed for Dogs
- A healthy coat (omega-6 fatty acids).
- Healthy immune system (omega-3 fatty acids).
- Joint health and mobility (alpha-linoleic acid).
- 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.
Furthermore, according to a 2007 study in The International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine, flaxseed may also decrease obesity in dogs. Obesity in dogs may lead to cardiovascular complications and increase arthritic symptoms in dogs.
Additionally, flaxseed can be useful in treating certain types of diseases. For example, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed are useful in treating the following conditions in dogs:
- Dermatologic disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Renal disease
- Gastrointestinal disease
- Orthopedic disease
This same study points out that these fatty acids are technically nutraceuticals. This is just a fancy way of saying that they are nutrients 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 cause 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. The most common symptoms 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. 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:
- Puppies – 1 teaspoon daily
- 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:
- Puppies – ¼ teaspoon daily
- Under 20 pounds – ¼ to 1 teaspoon daily
- 20 to 40 pounds – 1.5 to 2 teaspoons daily
- 40 to 60 pounds – 1.5 to 3 teaspoons daily
- 60 to 80 pounds – 1.5 to 2 tablespoons daily
- 80 to 100 pounds – 2.5 to 3 tablespoons daily
- Over 100 pounds – 3.5 tablespoons to ¼ cup 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, joints, 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) which 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.