Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds? Sort of – Here’s What to Know

Written by Susan Olayode
Published: July 12, 2022
Image Credit manushot/Shutterstock.com
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Sunflower seeds are addictive. They’re nutty, crunchy, and ridiculously fun to eat. You might be sitting on your couch enjoying a handful of these seeds, and your trusted pooch eventually begs for some. You then wonder: Can dogs eat sunflower seeds?

The straightforward answer is yes, you can give your dog sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are generally not toxic for dogs, only if they’re fed in moderation. They might even benefit from these snacks. Still, precautions must be observed if you decide to toss some of these seeds to your precious pet.

Don’ts for Feeding Your Dog Sunflower Seeds

1. Don’t feed them the husks.

This is somewhat of a no-brainer since you wouldn’t eat the husk yourself, but it’s still worth mentioning. The husks can be indigestible and cause intestinal blockages if consumed in large quantities. They’re also too hard for most dogs’ teeth and gums.

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2. Don’t give them too many at one time.

Since they’re high in fat, it’s easy to overdo it by giving your dog too many sunflower seeds at once. A few seeds every now and then is fine, but don’t give your dog more than one tablespoon in a day.

3. Don’t use them as a dog food substitute.

These seeds are naturally high in calories, so they can be unhealthy for your pet. They also contain plenty of calcium, sodium, and phosphorus which can damage your dog’s kidneys if taken in high amounts. It’s best to use them as a treat rather than a meal replacement or part of your dog’s regular diet.

If you are looking for new dog food for your pet and would appreciate a good review of the ones on the market, this comprehensive guide can help you out.

4. Don’t feed them heavily salted sunflower seeds.

Many commercially available unshelled sunflower seed snacks for humans come with a generous seasoning of powdered salt. It goes without saying that your dog (or even you) will not benefit from this. Dogs don’t need a lot of sodium in their diet, so it’s best to avoid these types of seeds altogether.

5. Don’t feed them spoiled or moldy sunflower seeds.

These seeds get moldy quickly, especially if left in the open air for days. Make sure to feed your pup fresh seeds only.

6. Don’t feed them raw sunflower seeds.

While generally considered safe for humans and canines, raw seeds may contain bacteria that can harm your dog. Roast your seeds before feeding them to your dog, and don’t use oil or seasoning. Remember to also let them cool before serving.

Hand feeding dog
Sunflower seeds can be okay for your dog to eat as a snack every once in a while, but don’t give your furry friend too many or they will get sick!

manushot/Shutterstock.com

Benefits of Sunflower Seeds to Your Dogs

As with humans, sunflower seeds can provide dogs with a wealth of benefits, given, of course, that you keep an eye out on how much they eat. These tiny seeds are packed with essential nutrients that can extend the life of your dog and give your pup a boost of energy.

We have to make a disclaimer, however, that while we are confident the following nutrients are present in sunflower seeds, there is no concrete research yet showing whether dogs can absorb and use all of them the same way humans can; so take the following section with a grain of salt.

Vitamin E

This vitamin is crucial for maintaining healthy skin and fur. Vitamin E deficiency is associated with many skin conditions in dogs, including dry, flaky skin, a dull coat, and dandruff.

Vitamin B-Complex

Sunflower seeds also provide B-complex vitamins that are important for the nervous system and metabolism. These vitamins help support growth and development in puppies and maintain their heart health as adults.

Protein

This delicious seed is a good source of protein for your dog. A 1 oz portion of dry roasted sunflower seeds contains about 2 grams of protein. This amount provides approximately 17% of the daily value of protein for dogs weighing less than 25 lbs and about 13% for dogs weighing more than 25 lbs.

Healthy Fat

The high-fat content in sunflower seeds can help keep your dog’s coat shiny and healthy by strengthening their immune system and keeping their skin soft.

Linoleic Acid

Sunflower seeds are one of the few nuts containing linoleic acid, an Omega-6 fatty acid that aids digestion and controls inflammation levels in the body. This can help prevent some health problems such as allergies or arthritis later on in life and can help protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Dietary Fiber

Fiber keeps things moving through your dog’s digestive tract properly so that nothing gets stuck or backed up in there. A lack of fiber in your pup’s diet can lead to constipation or other digestive problems that can cause pain and discomfort. Sunflower seeds are a great source of fiber, making them a good addition to your dog’s diet if they don’t already get enough fiber from other sources such as fruits or vegetables.

Iron

Red blood cells in your dog’s body use iron as an essential mineral to deliver oxygen. Without enough iron, your dog may be tired and weak.

Zinc

Zinc is another vital mineral that helps with wound healing and tissue repair. This substance is essential for a dog’s immune system, growth, development, and reproduction.

Potassium

Potassium is an important nutrient for all living things and is especially important for your dog. It helps regulate blood pressure, prevents muscle spasms, and aids nerve function. Additionally, it supports appropriate blood sugar levels.

Magnesium

These savory seeds are a good source of magnesium, which is essential for blood clotting and muscle relaxation. Magnesium also plays a role in nerve function and bone growth.

Calcium

Sunflowers seeds are rich in calcium, which is essential for strong bones. If your dog has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, these seeds may help prevent the worsening of this condition.

Potential Drawbacks of Sunflower Seeds For Your Dogs

Sunflower seeds don’t have any known toxicity, so if your pet eats a few seeds here and there, it will probably be fine. However, there exist some potential drawbacks to feeding your dog sunflower seeds in excessive quantities.

High in Fat

While fat is necessary for an animal’s diet, too much can cause weight gain or gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea or vomiting.

Relatively High Calories

A single ounce of shelled sunflower seeds contains about 160 calories. That’s comparable to a small piece of bread or two ounces of cooked chicken breast!

Too Much Linoleic Acid

Too much linoleic acid in a dog’s diet can potentially cause pancreatitis. While these are good for people, they can cause inflammation in dogs’ bodies, leading to digestive issues like diarrhea or vomiting.

Risk of Indigestion

Regardless of how careful you are as a fur parent, you might still run the risk of feeding your dog sunflower seed husks. Another scenario is when you neglect to dispose of the husks properly, and your dog might end up consuming them and suffer stomach upset or indigestion.

Risk of Allergic Reaction

Allergic reactions might occur if your pup has a delicate stomach or another health condition that makes them more susceptible to food allergies or sensitivities. Dogs who have allergies may experience hives or itchiness after consuming sunflower seeds.

Sodium

Sunflower seeds can also have excessive sodium, which can cause dehydration and even death if consumed in large quantities.

In Case Your Dog Eats Too Many Sunflower Seeds

As mentioned, regardless of how careful we are with sunflower seeds around our dogs, accidents can happen. If your dog eats too many of these seeds, it’s best to induce vomiting right away.

Please keep in mind that it is always best to consult with your trusted veterinarian before attempting this. Even if you intend to induce vomiting at home instead of taking your dog to the clinic, calling the vet is still a good idea because they can guide you through the process.

According to the American Kennel Club, a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide remains one of the most effective ways to induce vomiting. The way it works is that it aggressively irritates the dog’s digestive tract, causing it to throw up in about 10 to 15 minutes upon administration.

Steps to Make Your Dog Vomit

  1. Make sure the hydrogen peroxide you have is a 3% solution variant as more concentrated ones might be toxic for your pet.
  2. If the dog has not consumed anything in the past couple of hours or so, feed it a small snack as it might help speed up the vomiting.
  3. Use a feeding syringe to squirt the hydrogen peroxide quickly to the dog’s mouth. The amount varies depending on your dog’s body weight. Use one tablespoon if your pet is 5-9 pounds heavy, two tablespoons if they’re 10-15 pounds, and three tablespoons for heavier dogs. Doses should never go beyond three tablespoons in volume.
  4. Stay with your pet in the next hour or so to make it comfortable and to ensure it doesn’t eat its own vomit.
  5. Collect samples of the vomit to have it analyzed by your vet later on. 
  6. Be sure to schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible

Conclusion

There is a time and place for sunflower seeds for dogs. While they offer some benefits, they also can present some risks. If you want to explore alternative nuts you can give your dog as treats, check out this article.

To sum things up, sunflower seeds should not be a primary part of your pet’s diet. They should be served as a treat for your dog, not something you give to them everyday. If you intend to feed your dog these tasty seeds, just make sure you are mindful of the aforementioned precautions.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What will happen if my dog eats sunflower seeds?

In the right amount, unshelled and unseasoned sunflower seeds can be beneficial for your dog. But if they accidentally overeats the kernels or ingests the husks, your dog might suffer from diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems.

What is the safe quantity of sunflower seeds I can feed my dog?

As a general guideline, you should only feed 10-20 seeds to a small dog and about 30-40 seeds to a bigger one twice a week, maximum.

Are sunflower seeds considered toxic to dogs?

No. Technically, they are not toxic to dogs. But like most foods, giving your pet too much of it can be bad for them.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. LoveYourDog.com, Available here: https://www.loveyourdog.com/can-dogs-eat-sunflower-seeds/#:~:text=Deshelled%20sunflower%20seed%20kernels%20are,remove%20the%20husks%20before%20feeding.
  2. American Kennel Club, Available here: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-to-make-a-dog-throw-up/#:~:text=Hydrogen%20peroxide%203%2Dpercent%20solution,dog's%20travel%20first%20aid%20kit.
  3. Healthline, Available here: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sunflower-seeds
  4. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower_seed#:~:text=In%20a%20100%2Dgram%20serving,21%25%20protein%20(table).