If you watched television in the early 2000s, you remember the Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Pet commercials. Growing your favorite character or icon was an easy and fun feat with these inexpensive kits. Since then, chia seeds have made their way into the mainstream market in a different way — in puddings, drinks, and even salads.
The benefits of chia seeds, like their high fiber and omega-3 content, have made them a fan favorite on social media. Many stores and restaurants serve these delicious little seeds. With that said, you may be wondering if these tasty treats have any health benefits for your furry friend, or if they are safe for dogs at all. Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are the seed of the Salvia hispanica plant, a flowering species native to Central America. They were used historically by the Aztec and Mayan peoples, as one of the main foods in their diet.
These Mesoamerican cultures also used chia seeds as a sacrifice in certain religious rituals, and they were considered sacred. Many people believed that chia seeds held supernatural powers, including the ability to give the person consuming them great strength. In fact, the word ‘chia’ in the Mayan language means ‘strength’. It is said that great warriors could sustain themselves on just one tablespoon of chia seeds for the day.
It was valuable to have a food source that could provide such benefits in such a small package. The seeds could be stored for long periods of time, ground up into flour, used as medicine, or pressed into oil. The ability to use the seeds in multiple ways only enhanced their value to these civilizations.
Chia Seeds Today
In modern times, chia seeds aren’t quite supernatural, but they are recognized as a very valuable and tasty food. Gaining their popularity through social media and the healthy eating movement, the seeds are often called a ‘superfood’ by celebrities and nutritionists. This is due to their high content of nutrients, healthy fibers, and vitamins.
Just two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 4.7 grams of protein and 5 grams of alpha-linolenic acid — a type of omega-3. They are high in healthy fibers, and contain 14% of the daily value of calcium, and 12% of the DV of iron. Rich in magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, as well as B1 and B3, this small amount of seeds really packs a punch. For a meager two tablespoons of seeds, this is an amazing nutritional profile.
Are they safe for your dog?
After hearing about the numerous benefits of chia seeds, you’re likely wondering if they are just as healthy for your dog to consume. The answer is yes! Chia seeds are safe for your dog and can provide them with numerous health benefits. However, they shouldn’t be given in huge quantities or replace a healthy diet of dog food. They pack a lot of nutrients into just two tablespoons, and so should not be overdone.
Lots of Fiber
Chia seeds contain a high amount of healthy fiber, which is great for your dog’s digestive system. If your dog has stomach issues adding these seeds to their diet is a great way to keep them regular. It has also been shown that chia seeds can aid in weight loss by making them feel fuller faster. So if your dog is obese and having trouble losing weight, adding these seeds to their diet may help. Some anecdotal evidence has shown that eating chia seeds can also help with impacted anal sacs.
Shiny Coats and More
Because of their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds can help your dog’s coat and nails. Most dogs get a large amount of omega-6 fatty acids through their diet of regular dog food. While most people don’t realize this, omega-6 acids need to be balanced by omega-3s. This is where chia seeds come into play. Eating omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid can make a big difference in your dog’s coat. They can also improve eyesight and cognitive function, and relieve some joint issues.
Larger breed dogs, particularly golden retrievers, can be known to develop a painful condition called hip dysplasia. Eating chia seeds regularly may prevent this condition from developing because of the omega-3s. Especially if given from a young age, chia seeds can help set the proper foundation for healthy bone and joint development.
Because of their high protein content, chia seeds can prevent a condition known as muscle wasting or atrophy that occurs in older dogs. This is a loss of muscle mass that’s usually due to a lack of exercise and improper nutrition — particularly a lack of protein in their diet. Adding chia seeds to their regular diet of dog food can prevent this condition or improve it.
Chia seeds can help regulate blood sugar levels for your pup and support insulin function. They do this by slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar. In turn, this causes your dog’s digestive system to process the food your pup eats slower and prevents spikes in blood sugar. While diabetes isn’t a preventable disease by nature, if your dog is at risk of developing this condition there is anecdotal evidence that eating chia seeds regularly may improve or prevent it.
Full of Antioxidants
Just like us, dogs need to consume antioxidants to manage free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that exist in our bodies and our pups and occur naturally as a product of normal metabolism. However, free radicals can become unbalanced and cause conditions such as allergies, illnesses, aging, and diseases such as cancer.
Antioxidants work by counteracting the free radical cells and essentially canceling them out. There needs to be a healthy balance of free radicals and antioxidants for the body to work correctly — whether canine or humankind. Chia seeds can help provide your dog with some great antioxidants in just a few bites.
How To Feed Chia Seeds to Your Dog
Chia seeds are already very small, so they don’t need to be chopped or ground to be added to your pet’s food. Chia seeds can be ingested raw, dry, or wet, but it is recommended that you soak the seeds before giving them to your dog. It’s best to soak the seeds for at least 30 minutes and then sprinkle them onto your dog’s food. Some owners also bake dog treats with chia seeds as a way of incorporating them into a healthy snack.
Chia Seed Risks
Since the seeds are so small and dry, they can cause a choking hazard if they aren’t soaked first. Also, because chia seeds soak up many times their weight in water, they could cause an intestinal blockage if eaten dry. Despite these risks, some owners still choose to give their dog dry seeds by sprinkling them over their food. Dry or soaked, it’s key to provide your dog with plenty of fresh water to drink along with the seeds.
Chia seeds have a high fiber content, which is beneficial, but can cause some stomach upset like gassiness. There’s also the chance of your dog having an allergy to chia seeds, so look out for reactions after consumption. While uncommon, an allergy is possible and could cause symptoms like scratching, rashes, vomiting, or diarrhea.
While there aren’t many risks to feeding your dog chia seeds, it’s key to ask their veterinarian before adding any supplement to their diet. When giving the seeds, start with a small amount to see how your dog reacts.
The rough estimate for chia seed consumption is ¼ teaspoon daily for every ten pounds your dog weighs. So for example, a 70-pound golden retriever should be given 1 ¾ teaspoons of seeds. This is just an estimate, so it’s best to speak to your veterinarian about the dose recommended for your dog.
The Final Word
Yes, dogs can eat chia seeds. They are perfectly safe for your pet in small amounts along with plenty of water. Chia seeds can help with a few health conditions and are usually well-liked by pups. The seeds can make a great addition to your dog’s diet along with their daily dog food. If you want to make sure your pup is eating the best food they can get, check out our list of the best dogs here.
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