Chia seeds are the latest in a long line of superfoods, often cited as a nutrient-dense seed that benefits dogs and humans alike. Indeed, the ancient Mayans thought so—they first harvested chia seeds, giving them its name which means strength.
And it’s not only a name. Just like probiotics for dogs, the benefits of chia seeds have been revealed by several NIH studies.
These deceptively small, black seeds pack a powerful punch of nutrients. But can dogs eat chia seeds safely? And if so, what are the benefits of chia seeds for dogs?
Potent source of nutrients
Chia seeds are mostly composed of carbohydrates, some protein and lots of lipids (fats). But it’s the vitamins and minerals chia contains that are of most interest. In addition to their base nutrients, chia seeds also contain calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, folate and more [*]. The content of calcium, for example, exceeds rice, barley, corn, and oats.
Put simply: chia seeds are one of the most nutrient-dense foods around. They rightly deserve the title superfood based on their nutrient profile.
For dogs, that’s a critical benefit. Commercial dog food is required to contain a minimum level of a variety of nutrients, although it may not be the minimum canine requirement or even the optimum intake levels [*].
The same goes for homemade dog food dogs can eat, and chia seeds can help bridge the nutritional gap.
Improves coat and skin quality
Amongst the variety of nutrients it contains is the natural lipid antioxidant, alpha-linoleic acid. Indeed, chia seeds contain higher amounts of alpha-linoleic acid than almost all other seeds – including flaxseed.
But why is alpha-linoleic acid amongst the benefits of chia seeds for dogs?
Well, alpha-linoleic acid accumulates in the skin and fat tissue in dogs and other mammals. That's why chia may help your dog's fur and skin [*]
Indeed, one study found that dogs whose diets were supplemented with zinc and linoleic acid showed a significant improvement in coat gloss. Their skin was also more hydrated and appeared in visibly better condition [*].
Considering chia seeds are high in both zinc and linoleic acid, this study suggests chia seeds would share the same benefit.
A major problem in many dogs’ diets is that of insufficient fiber, the non-digestible part of food mostly composed of special complex carbohydrates.
It might sound strange for dogs to need a food with no "nutritional" value. But fiber serves many important functions in their diet, including:
- Making them feel fuller and reducing appetite
- Helping improve gut health
- Preventing constipation
- Enhancing immunity
- Reduce gut inflammation
A 2009 study found dogs supplemented with fiber were more likely to feel full quicker. That reduces the risk of obesity and helps mitigate canine diabetes [*].
Unlike these ingredients to avoid in diabetic dog food, chia seeds can actually help make dogs with diabetes healthier.
Chia seeds are known to be a very high source of dietary fiber. Per 100g, chia seeds contain between 34g to 40g of dietary fiber. In people, high amounts of dietary fiber don’t just help with obesity—it also reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer [*].
Given the digestive similarities, it's likely dogs would receive many (or even all) of the same benefits.
One of the greatest benefits of chia seeds for dogs is their anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a process whereby the body’s tissues respond to damage or infection. Immune cells flood the area, blood flow increases, and heat, swelling and redness develops.
Sometimes, however, inflammation goes haywire causing the body to attack itself. This is known as an autoimmune reaction.
One of the most common autoimmune diseases in dogs is rheumatoid arthritis, where the body attacks the joint tissues. It’s a chronic and debilitating disease.
Thankfully, alpha-linolenic acid and other omega-3 related fatty acids can alter the inflammatory response. One study of flaxseed, another potent source of alpha-linoleic acid, found it downregulated the body’s genetic inflammatory drivers [*].
In short: it prevented the body from fuelling inflammation, like a radio jammer in a warzone. With chia seeds being a more potent source of alpha-linolenic acid, it stands to reason it should have similar benefits.
Studies in rats have also confirmed the benefit. They found that chia seed oil reduced arthritis via anti-inflammatory effects in obese and non-obese rats [*].
Boosts heart health
You likely have heard how omega-3 is excellent for heart health. That’s in many ways due to the wonder-ingredient alpha-linoleic acid.
Some studies have suggested alpha-linoleic acid can protect against heart attacks in people [*]. And there’s also evidence of the beneficial effects against narrowing arteries, diabetes, and obesity—all of which negatively impact cardiovascular health [*].
And that’s not the only heart benefit of chia seeds for dogs.
In a randomised trial, chia seeds significantly reduced blood pressure [*]. Just as in humans, high blood pressure in dogs can cause a myriad of health problems including heart attack, stroke, kidney damage and more.
So with all of this scientific research done, let's get back to our initial question. Can dogs eat chia seeds? The answer is yes. With the variety of benefits it offers for heart health, anti-inflammation and digestion: chia seeds uniquely deserve their superfood title.
Not only do chia seeds reduce inflammation, boost heart health, provide a sublime source of nutrientsˆthey’ll also leave your dog's coat shinier and glossier than ever. That's why we include chia seeds in all of our dog food products because of their remarkable benefits.
However as we any food, be aware that overfeeding your dog chia seeds can cause negative effects. The key is moderation.Discuss on Twitter View Discussions