While people have been using flaxseed for thousands of years due to the high number of health benefits it can provide, it has recently been recognized for its use as a beneficial ingredient in pet food- or, more specifically, dog food.
But what exactly is Flaxseed and what unique health benefits can it provide to a dog?
What is Flaxseed?
Flaxseeds are the seeds of the flax plant. They are very small in size and have a distinct nut-like flavor. It would come as a surprise to many that they have been farmed for human consumption since as early as 3000BC in Babylon.
Their popularity continued through the centuries when at one point they were mandated to be consumed by the subjects of King Charlemagne.
They come in two distinct verities: brown and golden or yellow. Although a popular additive on yogurt and in smoothies, flaxseeds are most often consumed in the form of oil that is sometimes known as linseed oil.
Flaxseed oil is derived from the crushing and pressing of seeds of the flax plant followed by the extraction of oil using a non-toxic solvent.
What are the Health Benefits of Flaxseed?
The most commonly known benefit of flaxseed is the high amount of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids that it contains. Omega fatty acids are known as the “good” fats and have been proven to have various cardiovascular benefits.
Flaxseed can also help reduce high cholesterol and reduce the chances of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Also, providing your dog with an increased level of the omega 3 fatty acids is one of the most effective ways of improving their skin and coat. Many dog owners can notice a significant difference in a matter of weeks.
Another noteworthy benefit of the Omega Fatty Acids is the effect they can have on joints. The fatty acids can have an anti-inflammatory effect which can help reduce the impact of joint conditions like arthritis. This can be especially important for senior dogs who are more likely to suffer from joint issues.
In addition to being high in the omega fatty acids, flaxseeds also contain a relatively high proportion of protein and fiber.
While plant-based protein from ingredients like Flaxseed isn’t the ideal source, protein is the core of a dogs’ diet, and flaxseed can top up already high protein levels.
The fiber in flaxseed is also beneficial and is a necessity for healthy and regular digestion. It is known as a somewhat effective treatment for dogs suffering from IBS.
The quantity of flaxseed needed to help with IBS and other digestion related issues depends on the dog, but the small amount found in most dog food recipes is likely to have some benefit.
What are Lignans?
One of the lesser known healing properties of flaxseeds are the lignans they contain. Lignans are considered to be a super food because of how many positive benefits they are thought to have on the body.
Some of the health benefits include lower cholesterol, reduced inflammation and the prevention of certain types of cancer such as breast cancer.
It’s thought that breast cancer is one of the types of cancer that is prevented by the ingestion of lignans, as flax lignans have an estrogen-like effect on the human body.
In dogs, however, flax lignans work to protect against common cancers like lymphoma. Unfortunately, flaxseed health benefits are not considered conclusive or definitive.
Where Can I Find Flaxseed?
Flaxseed is surprisingly easy to obtain. Most major grocery stores and health food stores sell whole flaxseeds or its oil at an affordable price.
To give your canine friend a boost of the benefits we just discussed, you can add it to the dog’s usual diet or give it as a treat if your dog is willing.
Alternatively, many dog foods include it as an ingredient. While it’s likely not worth purchasing a dog food just because it contains flaxseed, dog foods that do contain it are seen as more nutritious and healthy.
Unsurprisingly many of the premium and high-quality dog food brands include flaxseed for the benefits it provides and to differentiate themselves from their competition.
What Dog Food’s Contain Flaxseed?
Flaxseed is a favorite ingredient in many of the premium and luxury brands of dog food. By including Flaxseed, they recognize its potential benefits and want it to be present in their recipes.
Examples of brands that currently make extensive use of Flaxseed in their recipes include American Journey, Canidae, Earthborn Holistic, Health Extension, Merrick, Nature’s Variety, Victor, and Zignature.
Flaxseed – The Verdict
Flaxseed is a relatively inexpensive addition to a dog’s diet and is a common ingredient in high-quality dog food and premium dog food.
While some of its health benefits might not be conclusive, the high level of protein, fiber, and the Omega 3 Fatty Acids it provides should make it a beneficial addition to every dog’s meal plan, especially those with skin or coat issues.
However, it is not a replacement for high-quality meat and fish ingredients which should provide the majority of a dogs protein and Omega Fatty Acid intake.