When someone says “chia”, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? For millions, the answer is “Chia Pet!” But now, chia has become very popular as a nutritious “superfood” for people … especially as a base for a healthy pudding.
But what about chia seeds for dogs? Here’s a look at their health benefits for your dog … and how to give them. First, some background on chia.
What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia, or Salvia Hispanica, is known today as the forgotten crop. Domesticated in 2600 BC, chia is a flowering plant native to southern Mexico and Central America. It was cultivated by the Mayans and Aztecs and one of the main foods of their diet and was even used as trade currency. Aztec warriors and runners are said to have sustained themselves on just a tablespoon of chia seeds a day, providing them with abundant energy and endurance.
Because of the plant’s ability to increase stamina and energy over long periods, chia seeds were considered quite magical. Due to its superior nutritional value, chia became a holy seed among these ancient civilizations, used in religious ceremonies and offered to their gods.
Related to the mint plant family, there are two varieties, white chia and black chia. Chia oil is a component of many ointments due to its emollient properties. Each seed is potent enough to prevent infections, with 19-23% protein (which is gluten free), 34% oil and 25% fiber.
Are Chia Seeds Good For Dogs?
Chia seeds are good for dogs in small amounts. Chia seeds offer an excellent source of B vitamins and they’re rich in omega fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, and minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Let’s talk about some chia seeds benefits for dogs.
Omega Fatty Acids
Dogs need omega-3 fatty acids to balance out omega-6 fatty acids (which are high in most dog’s diets). Omega-3 fatty acids are important for many of the body’s functions, including …
- Immune system
- Skin and coat
- Brain development and maintenance
- Eye development and maintenance
Omega-3s also help lower inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is the root of many diseases so it’s important to give your dog anti-inflammatory foods, But does chia truly offer all these omega-3 benefits?
Chia is well known as a source of omega-3 fatty acids … and it’s said to have 3 times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids as salmon. Two tablespoons of chia seeds provide a 3 to 1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6. fatty acids.
However, there’s a caution: the type of omega-3 in chia seeds is mostly alpha-linolenic acid … which isn’t an effective way for your dog to get omega-3s.
Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)
ALA is a true essential fatty acid, meaning your dog can’t make it and needs to get it in his food. Chia’s a great source of ALA (as are other seeds, leafy plants and nuts. ALA is also in meat and dairy, if the animals are eating ALA-rich foods.
But here’s the concern. Your dog can convert ALA into the longer chain fatty acids it needs. But it’s not a simple process for the body. First ALA must be converted to SDA (stearidonic acid), which is then converted to ETA (eicosatetraenoic acid) and then to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). As you can see, this is an inefficient process and it means not much ALA gets converted to the fatty acids your dog really needs.
This means that you shouldn’t rely on chia seeds as your dog’s only source of omega-3 fatty acids because he probably won’t get enough. So you’ll need to include sources of EPA and DHA as well. Most people think of fish oil for this, but it’s not ideal because it’s highly processed and can easily become rancid, may be contaminated with toxins like mercury and PCBs, and it’s not sustainable … so check out this post for some better sources of EPA and DHA for dogs …
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Chia seeds are a big source of fiber, with 1 oz of chia containing 10 grams of dietary fiber. Most of the fiber in chia seeds is soluble fiber, a digestible fiber. Soluble fiber absorbs water, making it gel-like. Soluble fiber is fermented in the colon by the good bacteria, forming short chain fatty acids that are important to control pathogenic bacteria.
Soluble fiber from chia seeds expands in your dog’s stomach to help him feel full. So chia can help satisfy your dog’s appetite and may help prevent obesity. It may. also help prevent diabetes as it slows the conversion of carbohydrates into sugars to help stabilize blood sugar levels. So chia supports normal insulin function and sensitivity, blood sugar regulation and glucose tolerance.
Fiber can also regulate the digestive tract to alleviate constipation and may help relieve dog anal gland problems. They may also help stop diarrhea if you feed them dry, because they’ll soak up extra fluid in the digestive tract.
Chia seeds are a good source of antioxidants for dogs. Your dog needs antioxidants to help manage free radicals and prevent oxidative stress.. Free radicals are a product of normal metabolism, but if they grow out of control they can harm your dog’s cells and even DNA. This is called oxidative stress, which contributes to disease and early aging. Antioxidants help slow oxidative stress and keep your dog healthy.
Chia seeds contain the antioxidants quercetin, kaempferol, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, myricetin. These antioxidants help protect the heart and liver and may have anti-cancer properties.
Chia contains more calcium than whole milk, more iron than raw spinach and more magnesium than broccoli. It’s a good source of phosphorus, potassium, copper, iron and zinc.
One Argentinian study found that long term feeding of chia seeds to rats improved bone density as well as liver and gut health.
How To Give Chia Seeds To Your Dog
First, because chia soaks up so much water, always make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water available.
Buy organic, milled chia seeds whenever possible. Chia stores well and doesn’t turn rancid easily. And even picky dogs will eat chia seeds because of their mild taste and smell.
You only need to give a small amount. Give 1/4 teaspoon daily for every 10 pounds of your dog’s body weight. You can sprinkle the seeds on food, or you can soak them in water to make a pudding and give it as a snack or food topping. Look for milled, organic chia seeds whenever possible.
Chia seeds can be a nutritious addition to your dog’s diet for fiber, antioxidants and minerals … but don’t rely on them as a sole source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Knez Hrnčič M, Ivanovski M, Cör D, Knez Ž. Chia Seeds (Salvia hispanica L.): An Overview-Phytochemical Profile, Isolation Methods, and Application. Molecules. 2019;25(1):11. Published 2019 Dec 18.
Ullah R, Nadeem M, Khalique A, et al. Nutritional and therapeutic perspectives of Chia (Salvia hispanica L.): a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2016;53(4):1750-1758.
Montes Chañi EM, Pacheco SOS, Martínez GA, et al. Long-Term Dietary Intake of Chia Seed Is Associated with Increased Bone Mineral Content and Improved Hepatic and Intestinal Morphology in Sprague-Dawley Rats. Nutrients. 2018;10(7):922. Published 2018 Jul 19.