Should I Feed My Dog Flaxseed?
Flax is a pretty plant with bright blue leaves that produces tiny brown seeds which have some amazing properties. Flaxseed (sometimes called linseed) is an excellent source of the omega-3 α-linolenic acid, and if used correctly can help reduce inflammation by balancing the fats in your dogs diet.
WHY FEED FLAX
Flaxseed is a functional food and has been used medicinally since 5000BC, making it one of the oldest cultivated foods in the world! The biggest reason to feed flax is as a plant source of the omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Most commercial diets for dogs are heavy in omega-6, which can lead to inflammation and cause a whole host of health issues. It’s essential to provide enough omega-3 in the diet to counteract this process and reduce inflammation.
One obvious was to check for an imbalance in fats is checking your dogs coat. Dogs fed an omega-6 heavy diet will often have a dull hair and poor skin condition, instead of a shiny glossy coat. In this case adding omega-3 into the diet can usually help. A 2001 study showed that supplementing a dogs diet with flaxseed showed an improvement in coat and skin condition.
Beyond being a potent plant based source of omega-3, flax also has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Additionally it contains lignin which can improve the cardiovascular system and may be beneficial in fighting cancer. Flaxseed is also high in fibre, which can aid weight control in dogs.
Flaxseeds become soft when they get wet, turning into a jelly like consistency. This property means that they can help soothe the gut in small amounts. However larger amounts can cause diarrhoea so don’t over feed!
WHEN IS FLAXSEED THE BEST OPTION
Flaxseed is rich in ALA, which needs to be converted by the body into EPA and DHA if they are not already present in the diet. For this reason using whole fish or a fish oil may be a better option, depending on what your dog is currently eating. A good rule of thumb is to avoid flaxseed for ruminant based diets (like beef), but to use it for poultry based diets (like chicken). It’s important to get it right, so if you’re not sure consult your vet or nutritionist.
HOW TO FEED
There are two types of flaxseed, which have slightly different properties. Use the brown flaxseed rather than the golden flaxseed (called Linola), as the golden variety has a much lower levels of omega-3.
Whole flaxseeds will pass through the digestive system intact, so breaking them down is essential. Flaxseed oil goes rancid quite quickly once exposed to air so it’s important keep this in mind when feeding. For this reason always grind your flaxseeds fresh when adding to food. It can also be purchase in capsule form which will avoid the issue of rancidity.