Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Yes, dogs can eat sunflower seeds in moderation. Sunflower seeds are a tasty snack that is found in many homes. With the list of potential health benefits that sunflower seeds have to offer, many wonder if they can help our canine friends as well. So can dogs eat sunflower seeds?
In this article we will dive into the details of sunflower seed consumption in our canine friends, and help you understand the potential pros and cons this tasty seed offers!
What Are Sunflower Seeds?
Sunflower seeds are the fruit of the beautiful sunflower plant. With being plentiful in some regions of the US, this flower has grown in popularity around the world. The sunflower is well known for its beauty, but also for the nearly 2,000 seeds that can be harvested from a single flower head. These seeds are referred to as sunflower seeds, and are packed with flavor and health benefits.
There are typically two forms of sunflowers, one harvested for seeds and one harvested for oil. The flowers that are known for harvesting seeds create a tiny buff colored seed, encased in a black and white shell. The seeds themselves have a mild and nutty flavor, and are often enhanced with flavor for the consumer’s benefit.
Can Sunflower Seeds Be Poisonous To Dogs?
Anytime we stumble across a food item with potential health benefits, we may wonder if our pets can benefit as well. So are sunflower seeds bad for dogs? The answer is no, as long as you follow a few safety guidelines when offering them.
When sunflower seeds are offered in their pure form, they can be enjoyed by our dogs in small amounts. The issue is that many sunflower seed products are altered to taste better for us, and are covered in harmful ingredients like salt and other seasonings. When offering our canine friends sunflower seeds, it’s up to us to make sure they are free of any harmful ingredients or additives.
Sunflower seeds with any type of seasoning are best to avoid when offering them to our pups. Not only can high levels of sodium lead to an upset stomach for our furry friends, but it can lead to serious medical complications if too much sodium is consumed.
Though your dog would have to eat a large amount of salted sunflower seeds for this to happen, they can experience a condition called sodium toxicosis. This is a life threatening medical emergency, and can lead to serious symptoms such as vomiting, disorientation, and seizures.
Another factor to consider is the shell that surrounds the sunflower seed itself. When you and I consume sunflower seeds, we are easily able to remove the shell ourselves and only consume the kernel. Unfortunately, our dogs do not have the luxury of understanding this process.
The shells that cover a sunflower seed are extremely rough, and unable to be broken down by a dog’s digestive process. Due to this, the outer shells can lead to serious abdominal discomfort and gastrointestinal upset. Dogs that eat sunflower seed shells may experience vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and anorexia.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Sunflower Seeds?
The potential health benefits of sunflower seeds have been researched by a few medical organizations. Most of these studies have been performed based on human consumption, but it is believed that these benefits can improve the lives of our canine friends as well. Though our dogs have different metabolic processes than we do, they can suffer from a few of the same ailments and conditions as you and I.
First, it’s important to mention the list of nutrients that are in each serving of sunflower seeds. These seeds are packed with vitamins and minerals such as Thiamine, Vitamin E, Copper, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B3, Selenium, and Manganese. The combination of these nutrients can promote health in multiple canine body processes, causing many pet owners to include it in their dog’s nutrition plan.
According to a study regarding the consumption of sunflower seeds in dogs, sunflower seeds and oil can promote overall skin and coat health in our canine companions. It proved that one month of sunflower seed supplementation led to improved skin and coat heath in dogs, as compared to dogs who were not receiving the seeds.
Other potential health benefits of sunflower seeds in dogs include:
- Boosting heart health (1)
- Promoting a healthy immune system due to vitamins and minerals
- Managing diabetes (2)
- Prevent aging of the skin (3)
- Managing cholesterol levels (4)
- Combat anxiety and stress (5)
The above studies have been performed based on use in humans, but may offer support for canines as well.
What Health Concerns Are There With Sunflower Seeds?
The impressive benefits of sunflower seeds that we mentioned above may be enough to get you on board with offering them to your pup, but there are some health concerns to be aware of. Just as any other human food that is not formulated for dogs, you will need to exercise caution when giving your dog sunflower seeds or sunflower oil. To help you understand the specific health risks, let’s break down each individual concern.
- The Shell: The shell of the sunflower seed is a major health concern for dogs. Dogs are unable to remove the hard exterior on their own, and are also unable to digest the shell once they have eaten it. These shells will travel through the digestive tract, leading to potential irritation along the way. These shells can even become trapped if too many are consumed, causing potential obstructions. Due to a dog’s inability to break down the shells, this could lead to vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, obstruction, and other uncomfortable GI symptoms.
- The Seasoning: Many sunflower seed products are covered in seasonings for added flavor. These seasonings can be salty, spicy, and even sweet depending on the product. Flavored sunflower seeds are extremely high in sodium, which is something our dogs do not tolerate well, especially in abundance. Excessive salt intake can lead to gastrointestinal upset, increased thirst, and even sodium toxicosis in severe cases.
- The Portion: Even pure sunflower seeds without the shell can be harmful if your dog eats too many. Many of the benefits of eating sunflower seeds comes from the healthy fats, which is wonderful in limited amounts. However, too many sunflower seeds can be too much fat for your pup, leading to serious gastrointestinal upset. If you are offering your dog sunflower seeds, it’s important to offer no more than ½ to 1 tablespoon of seeds at a time.
Should You Add Sunflower Seeds To Your Dog’s Diet?
Now that you’ve learned about the pros and cons of offering your dog sunflower seeds, you may wonder if it’s an item that you should incorporate into their regular diet. The answer of whether or not you should add sunflower seeds to your dog’s food is entirely up to you, as long as you factor in the potential risks.
If you think your dog can benefit from the nutrients that sunflower seeds have to offer, you can certainly begin to incorporate sunflower seeds or sunflower seed oil. Just be sure to only offer ½ to 1 tablespoon of seeds at a time, and no more than 1 teaspoon of sunflower seed oil. These options should be free of any seasoning, shells, or other additives.
What About Sunflower Seed Oils?
Sunflower seed oil is another popular way to offer a dog a serving of healthy fats. Sunflower seed oil is lower in saturated fats than many forms of animal fat, making it a popular addition to many homemade dog diets. This oil is said to improve coat and skin health, boost a dog’s immune system, while also promoting cardiovascular health. Just be sure to only offer up to 1 teaspoon of sunflower seed oil daily, and monitor your dog for any signs of gastrointestinal upset.
We also suggest speaking to your veterinarian before offering your dog any form of sunflower seeds, or changing their regular diet in any way.
Are There Better Alternatives To Sunflower Seeds?
We may have discussed the long list of benefits of giving your dog sunflower seeds, but there are other ways to offer your dog the same benefits. Some dogs have sensitivities to seeds or the oil form of this plant, making other options better for them in the long run. The main benefits coming from sunflower seeds are the healthy fats and nutrient contents, and many products have found a way to recreate that in other forms.
The closest alternative to consuming sunflower seeds is offering your dog an omega supplement that targets immune health, coat health, and more. There are multiple dog supplements and treats that contain just as much nutritional value, and even more than the average sunflower seed serving.
These omega supplements will often be derived from some type of fish oil. They may also include flaxseed oil, probiotics, and a long list of vitamins. Purchasing these supplements may be more expensive depending on your dog’s weight range, but can provide even more support in the long run.
Sunflower seeds are a safe treat for our dogs when following a few safety guidelines. The benefits of these seeds can improve a dog’s health in many ways, ranging from immune support to a strong and healthy coat. Be sure to review the information that we discussed above, and you can better determine if you should offer your canine friend sunflower seeds going forward.
My name is Amber. I am a dedicated animal lover that turned my passion into my career. I am a Licensed Vet Tech with 10 years of experience in veterinary medicine, but I recently took my career online to help spread accurate information on animal care. With how vast the online world is, I have a strong desire to ensure that the reader always walks away with helpful pet advice. With the experience I’ve gained from my time in this field, I have been able to travel the world, offering my services to as many animal rescues as I can find. If I am not at my laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find me somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that I can find! Read more about us here.