Chia Seeds: Improve Your Dog’s Health With This Superfood!
Humans have been boosting their smoothies, salads, and yogurt with chia seeds for their healthy and therapeutic properties. These tiny seeds are packed with nutritional benefits! They are a good source of soluble fiber, omegas, protein, and phytonutrients, all which can benefit our dogs too! Chia seeds are a simple, safe, and supportive whole food that you can add into your dog’s meals to give them a nutritional boost.
This ancient seed is native to Mexico and Guatemala and has been a part of our diets since 1500 BC and was even used as medicine by the Aztecs and Mayas. It’s no wonder we still use this functional food in modern times to help treat and prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and inflammatory and nervous system disorders. Chia seeds have huge potential with promising results in not only human health and nutrition but also for animals.
So why give your dog chia seeds?
Fiber for healthy gut: First, it’s an excellent source of soluble fiber! Soluble fiber absorbs water (chia seeds absorb 15 times their weight in water) and turns into a gel-like consistency unlike insoluble fiber (in whole wheat, for example) which is indigestible and can interfere with nutrient absorption. Soluble fiber is great for pups with loose stool, absorbing excess water and adding bulk to stool. And it can be used for constipation too by pulling water into stool (this is how Miralax works) while the gel texture helps to ease passage and keep bowel movements regular. Plus, the fiber from adding some chia seeds to a raw diet is a great way to help keep your dog’s anals glands healthy! The right amount of fiber has also been shown to help with diabetes by slowing digestion and the release of glucose, improve intestinal health, and reducing cholesterol.
Mix in a scoop of soaked chia seeds into your homemade doggy protein bars, perfect for a hike!
Because of the fiber and absorptive properties, it also helps our dogs to feel fuller longer and keep their energy stable. This is especially great for active or overweight dogs. Because it slows digestion, nutrients have more time to be fully absorbed by the body.
Omegas for healthy skin and coat: With an almost perfect omega 3:6 ratio of 3:1, chia seeds are also a good source of essential omega fats, mostly the omega 3 ALA and omega 6 LA necessary for a healthy skin and coat. Fat is so important for almost every cell in the body so making sure your pup gets the right amount of omegas leads to healthy eyes, joints, brain, and more! Note that although dogs can break down ALA into its useful components (DHA and EPA), the process isn’t super efficient. It’s better to feed an oily fish which is high in DHA and EPA. However, for dogs that can’t tolerate fish or are allergic, chia seeds may be a better option to help balance the omega ratio in their diet!
Protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and so much more!
Chia seeds are also high in protein (20%), B vitamins, and minerals including calcium, phosphorous, potassium, iron, copper, and zinc. They are gluten free and a good source of antioxidants, giving them their anti-inflammatory nature. Chia seeds contain phytochemicals that protect your dog’s body from cancer-causing free radicals. In comparison, chia seeds have 5 times more fiber than quinoa, 2 times more protein than corn, a higher amino acid profile than soybeans, and over 2 times more iron than liver! They also have more calcium than milk and more magnesium than broccoli. No wonder why this humble seed is considered a superfood. It also outperforms its competitor, flaxseed in that it lowers blood glucose faster and by a greater amount.
To feed, sprinkle a small amount in your pup’s meal or into homemade treats. Since they absorb so much water, it’s best to pre-soak them until they form into a gel (30 min-2 hrs) to help your dog digest them more easily. You can feed them dry if given infrequently, but chia seeds absorb liquid and if left dry, will absorb water in the body which can lead to dehydration and blockage in extremely severe cases. If adding to kibble, you should pre-soak the chia seeds. Make sure to give your dog access to fresh water at all times! Another option is to ferment your chia seeds! Fermenting seeds allows the nutrients to be more bioavailable, or accessible for their bodies to absorb. For dosing, start with ½-1 teaspoon for small dogs and 1-2 teaspoons for large dogs and ¼ tsp for every 10 lbs of body weight.
Like other seeds and nuts, chia seeds have a high fat content so it is not recommended to give them to dogs with pancreatitis or other health issues. Remember, a little goes a long way! Chia seeds are concentrated in nutrients and like everything else, moderation is key. Too many seeds can lead to minor side effects like dandruff and dry skin from too many fatty acids. An overdose on omegas causes the opposite effect! A better option would be to rotate your fatty acid food source, for example whole fish or fish oil for a few days then chia seeds. Chia seeds are very shelf stable at 2 years in the pantry or 4 years in the freezer! This tiny nutrient powerhouse is easy to add to your dog’s diet for added fiber, omegas-3’s, and protein!