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Is Flaxseed Good for Dogs? Benefits, Risks & Tips

Written by: Lindsey Lawson

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

brown flaxseeds

Is Flaxseed Good for Dogs? Benefits, Risks & Tips

Feeding your dog a well-balanced diet that is suitable for their unique needs is important for their overall health and well-being. So, as dog owners we want to incorporate the healthiest, most nutritious foods in our pet’s diets, so they are getting everything they need to thrive.

Flaxseeds are a very popular superfood in the human diet that has many benefits packed into a very small serving and the good news is, they can also be good for dogs for many reasons. It’s important that any flaxseed offered to your dog is properly processed and is never raw or unprocessed.

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What Is Flaxseed?

Image by: alexdante, Pixabay

Flaxseeds are very tiny seeds that are derived from the flax plant. These seeds offer health benefits for humans and dogs alike.  They are rich in various nutrients, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, fiber, protein, and lignan, which are polyphenolic compounds noted for their antioxidant effects.

Because flaxseed is full of essential vitamins and minerals, it offers support for various bodily functions, making it a great addition to your dog’s diet. A small amount goes a long way too, only a very little amount of flaxseed will provide these benefits.

The benefits of flaxseed are great for dogs of all ages and will help support them from puppyhood all the way into their senior years by aiding in growth and development in the beginning and helping them maintain optimal health as they age.

Vitamins and Minerals Found in Flaxseed:
  • Magnesium – Supports many bodily functions including bone health and cognitive function.
  • Choline – Part of healthy liver and brain function.
  • Manganese – Aids in nutrient absorption and antioxidant processes.
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1) – Supports and helps maintain a normal metabolism and nerve function.
  • Phosphorus – Often present in protein-rich foods and aids in bone and tissue maintenance.
  • Copper – Important for growth, development, and also a variety of bodily functions.

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What Are the Different Types of Flaxseed?

Flaxseed is broken down into brown and golden varieties. They each have very similar nutritional content but there are some slight variances between the two with the most significant being the amount of Omega-3 fatty acid found in the flax oil.

Brown Flaxseed

Brown flaxseed is dark brown and produces a bold, nutty flavor. They are made up of 38% fat, 24.5% protein, and 28% carbohydrates.

Golden Flaxseed

Golden flaxseeds are golden to yellow and feature a lighter, buttery flavor that is a bit sweeter than brown flaxseed. They are made up of 37.5% fat, 23% protein, and 30% carbohydrates. Golden flaxseeds have more alpha-linolenic acid, linoleic acid, and polyunsaturated fatty acids but fewer monounsaturated fatty acids compared to brown flaxseeds.

golden flaxseeds
Image by: Vladislav Noseek, Shutterstock

Whole Flaxseed

Flaxseeds can be purchased as whole seeds, and they are the most shelf-stable. Like with many seeds though, they are more difficult to digest when they are whole because they have an outer layer of cellulose, which is an indigestible fiber. This protective layer often allows the seeds to pass right through the digestive system undigested, meaning your body can absorb all the benefits.

Ground Flaxseed

The best way for your dog to reap all the benefits of flaxseed is by offering them ground flax. This is when the whole seeds are soaked, drained, and then ground into a powder. Ground flaxseed is much more digestible and the best way to get all the nutrients it has to offer. Once ground, it is recommended the seeds be refrigerated to prevent them from going rancid. Always follow the instructions on the specific package.

flaxseed oil and flaxseeds in a bowl
Image Credit: mama_mia, Shutterstock

Flaxseed Oil

You can also offer flaxseed oil1, which is when the oils are extracted from the whole seed. Flax oil offers many of the benefits of ground flaxseed, but not all.  It is very rich in omega fatty acids but during the extraction, it will lose fiber content and certain vitamins and minerals that are not fat soluble.

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How to Feed Your Dog Flaxseed

There are a few ways you can incorporate flaxseed into your dog’s diet and the way you do so is entirely up to you. Here are the most common ways dog owners choose to add this beneficial superfood:

Offer Food That Already Contains Flaxseed

There are plenty of commercial dog foods on the market that already include flaxseed in their formulas. Remember to check the ingredients list and read the entire label thoroughly when deciding on a specific dog food to make sure it meets your standards.

labrador retriever dog eating its food from a bowl
Image by: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

Add Flaxseed to Your Dog’s Food

You can easily mix in flaxseed with your dog’s food if it does not contain any in the formulation. It is recommended that you mix in ground flaxseed to get the entire scope of benefits that flax has to offer. Mixing in flaxseed oil is also an option if you are just looking to add those omega fatty acids. We don’t recommend adding whole flaxseed only because it is more difficult to digest, and your dog may not be able to reap the benefits. 

Bake Flaxseed in Your Dog’s Treats

You can easily use flaxseed as an ingredient in your homemade treats. There are plenty of recipes available online that include some tasty ingredients that your dog will love.

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Advantages of Flaxseed

Supports Healthy Digestion

We humans typically add flaxseed to our diets because of the digestive benefits. Since it is very high in fiber, it helps support healthy digestion. Flaxseed is made up of nearly 30% carbohydrates and 95% of those carbohydrates are fiber. This fiber can be very beneficial to our dog’s digestive systems, too.

To get more specific, flaxseed contains approximately 20% soluble fiber and 80% insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber aids in the overall process of digestion and provides a feeling of being full. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, adds bulk to the stool and allows for healthier bowel movements.

bowl on wooden table with healthy flaxseed grain cereal
Image by: pinot-noir, Shutterstock

Supports a Healthy Skin and Coat

Flaxseed contains omega fatty acids and is incredibly rich in omega 6 fatty acid, linoleic acid. Linoleic acid helps reduce inflammation, provides moisture and protection to the skin, and aids with healing.  It is great for dogs that have dry, flaky, or itchy skin.  The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed also help enrich the coat by adding a healthy shine.

Aids Immunity

Flaxseed is full of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that provide full body support. The lignans found in these seeds have some incredible benefits by aiding in cell oxidation and helping the body fight off free radicals, which can lead to disease. They allow for healthier cell function, which ultimately aids your dog’s immune system and long-term, full-body health.

crushed flax seed in a wooden spoon on a pile of flaxseed
Image by: Maryna Osadcha, Shutterstock

Hip and Joint Aid

Alpha-Linolenic Acid or ALA is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseed. ALA has many inflammatory properties by itself, but it can also be converted to EPA and DHA, which are two other fatty acids with even better anti-inflammatory properties. EPA and DHA are the sought-after components in fish oil.

Not only can all the beneficial omega fatty acids and nutrients found in flaxseed aid in growth and development, but they can also be very beneficial to dogs that suffer from mobility issues related to age, size, or genetic conditions. Chronic joint pain can be debilitating, and flaxseed helps reduce inflammation, which can relieve pain and help your dog remain active.

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Disadvantages of Flaxseed

If you incorporate flaxseed properly into your dog’s diet with the recommended dosage amounts, it is very safe. However, too much of anything can be problematic. If you give too much flaxseed to your dog, it could potentially cause nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting. Flax poisoning is very rare but can occur. It is most often observed if dogs ingest raw, unprocessed flax or eat the flax plant itself.

Flax Poisoning Risk Factors:
  • Ingestion of raw or unprocessed flax seed.
  • Chewing open and eating a bag of flaxseed, capsules, or a bottle of oil.
  • Ingestion of an improperly processed supplement.
  • Ingestion of flax plants growing outdoors.
  • Feeding your dog excessive amounts of flaxseed.

Signs of Flax Poisoning:
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Paralysis

While flax poisoning is incredibly rare, if your dog has ingested flaxseed and is experiencing any signs that are concerning to you, you should reach out to your veterinarian immediately for further guidance.

veterinarian examining a boxer dog at the clinic
Image by: Robert Kneschke, Shutterstock

Medication Warning

Always talk to your veterinarian before you add any kind of supplementation to your dog’s diet. It is especially important to be wary if your dog takes any anticoagulants, blood pressure medications, or insulin, as flaxseed could have potential interactions with these kinds of medications.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the Difference Between Processed and Unprocessed Flax?

Raw flax plants have cyanogenic glycosides, which may lead to cyanide poisoning if ingested in large quantities. How flaxseed is processed flaxseed (water soaking or wet autoclaving) significantly reduces the number of cyanogenic glucosides. Dogs should never be offered any unprocessed version of flaxseed or given access to the plant itself.

Can Flaxseed Give My Dog Diarrhea?

It is not uncommon for dogs to experience loose stool when flaxseed is incorporated into their diet. Flaxseed is very high in fiber so not only are loose stools something that can happen, but you may notice your dog having more bowel movements throughout the day. Too much ground flaxseed could also cause significant amounts of bulk in the intestines, which could even lead to constipation in some cases.

Labrador retriever dog poops in the green park
Image by: SasaStock, Shutterstock

What’s the Best Way to Store Flaxseed?

It’s best to store flaxseed in an air-tight container. It may sometimes need to be stored in the fridge but that isn’t always the case as it can sometimes be stored in a cool, dark pantry. We recommend reading the storage suggestions on your specific brand for the best storage advice.

Are There Any Risk Factors?

Flaxseed or flaxseed oil should never be offered to pets that are allergic to flax. You should only use reputable brands as your source to ensure the safety and efficacy of the product.  Always use caution if your dog is taking any anticoagulant medications since it can increase the anti-clotting effects.

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Flaxseed Feeding Guide

Never begin supplementing with flaxseed, flaxseed oil, or any other supplement without speaking to your veterinarian. They will help you assess your dog’s specific health needs and get you on the right track to offering them the best dietary regimen for their health.

Remember that flaxseed and flaxseed oil should only be given in small amounts that are appropriate for your dog’s size. See the table below for the recommended dosages.

Dog’s Weight Ground Flaxseed Daily Dose Flaxseed Oil Daily Dose
<20 lbs 1 tsp ½ tsp
21 – 40 lbs 2 tsp 1 tsp
41 – 60 lbs 1 tbsp 2 tsp
61 – 80 lbs 1 ½ tbsp 1 tbsp
81+ lbs 2 tbsp 1 ½ tbsp
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Flaxseed can be a great supplement to add to your dog’s diet because it is rich in essential vitamins, nutrients, fiber, protein, and essential fatty acids. It can help support immunity, aid in digestion, support healthy skin and coat, and even help with joints and mobility. Properly processed ground flaxseed from a reputable source will offer the most health benefits. You can easily mix it into your dog’s food or treats or even purchase a high-quality dog food that includes flaxseed in the list of ingredients.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Voraorn Ratanakorn, Shutterstock

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