There has been a lot of recent information and product promotion of green foods for our pets in the last few years.
Green foods can include sea vegetables and certain grasses. These foods are considered nutrient rich in amino acids, minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients such as lycopenes and carotenes. Most are considered to be “whole foods” in that they are complete foods and can be fed daily.
Seaweeds are considered the best of these green foods, as they do not require cellulose to encircle the cell wall, which is difficult for dogs to digest.
Seaweeds average about 25% protein and 2% fat. They are one of the richest sources of minerals and amino acids found in a plant source. Their dense amounts of nutrients are thought to help produce energy, enhance the immune system, and darken coat color and skin pigment. Seaweeds are also rich in iodine and support the endocrine glands (thyroid function).
Seaweeds provide many health benefits and promote longevity in animals. Some studies have shown that seaweeds may be helpful in reducing cancer and they are thought to contain anti-tumor properties.
It is also believed they may fight heavy metal accumulations in the body by binding to them and may be helpful after cancer treatments. Seaweeds are also high in tryptophan, which is also helpful in fighting cancer.
While seaweeds may taste salty, they are actually low in salt and are often used as a salt substitute for conditions requiring low sodium diets.
There are also new studies showing seaweeds may be helpful for diabetes and heart conditions.
Probably the best features of these foods for dogs is the high mineral content, phytonutrients, colour enhancement for hair coats and pigment, energy builders, immune enhancers, digestibility, thyroid support and potential cancer protection. The most common sea vegetables include:
This is a brown marine plant that is high in minerals and contains vitamins A, B, E, D and K. It also contains sodium alginate (algin), which helps remove heavy metals from the dogs system. Kelp is a good source of iodine that helps promote thyroid function and can benefit animals who suffer from hypothyroidism.
Kelp is ideal for balancing glandular functioning in dogs. Iodine is essential for stimulating the thyroid gland. Kelp can help maintain a shiny and healthy skin and coat in dogs.
Dogs with dry skin, skin allergies and alopecia (hair loss) can benefit from eating kelp. After a diet that includes kelp for at least six months, these animals will often have shiny, thick coats. Their skin problems can improve; dryness and itchiness will also reduce.
The protein content in kelp is effectively used to manage tissue repair in dogs. Three weeks or more of use can also control flea manifestations in dogs.
Another benefit of iodine in kelp is that it helps to better manage dogs’ weight by improving their metabolism.
Experience shows that with improved metabolism due to better glandular functioning, the overall health of dogs on kelp improves, their energey increases and they suffer from few infections. The high fiber content in kelp has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-rheumatic properties that benefit our pets.
This algae is also 60% protein. It is high in GLA (Gamma Linolenic acid), which is an essential fatty acid. GLA is an anti-inflammatory and can inhibit the growth of certain cancers.
Spirulina contains vitamin C, B complex, and E, carotenoids, chlorophyll (which helps purify the blood), and phycocyanin. It is a highly digestible food and nutrient dense.
Spirulina is a powerful antioxidant that supports the immune system. It is especially beneficial for older dogs – it can help slow down aging and prevent cancer.
It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties; therefore, it is good for different kinds of inflammations that frequently occur in dogs, such as skin problems (e.g. atopic dermatitis, eczema, etc.), arthritis, colitis, IBD, etc.
As spirulina is a rich source of essential fatty acids, it promotes healthy skin and coat. Since the protein source from spirulina can be easily and readily absorbed into the blood stream without the body having to work too hard, spirulina is perfect for sick dogs and dogs who are suffering from appetite loss.
Feeding older dogs spirulina can also help support their aging eyes and lower their chances of developing cataracts and glaucoma. Finally, if your dog has the habit of eating grass, spirulina can stop this habit effectively!
(Related: Going Green: Chlorophyll For Dogs)
This is an excellent aid for digestion problems such as gastritis and ulcers. It has also been used for respiritory conditions and other lung problems.
It is high in calcium, magnesium and potassium. It helps to strengthen nails and hair and boost the immune system. Recent research has shown promise for Irish Moss in fighting certain viruses.
This is a sea vegetable which is rich in iron, iodine, potassium and trace minerals and is a very high source of vitamin B12. It is also low in salt, yet has a salty taste.
Some other common sea vegetables that are found in flat sheet forms at health food stores include nori, kombu and wakame.
How to Use
Caution: do make sure if you are feeding sea vegetables to your dogs, that you grind them or pulverize them first, as they can form a gel that can result in a blockage in the intestines of our canine friends if fed whole or in strips.
A daily sprinkling of well ground sea vegetables on your dog’s food is enough to provide the full benefits of these foods.
Note: Phytoplankton is considered the “king of antioxidants”. Find out why you should add phytoplankton to your dog’s diet here.