Delicious, nutty, crunchy sunflower seeds are a snack synonymous with summertime. Sunflower seeds are much more than just a pastime; these seeds are also a nutritious source of necessary elements to human function, including fatty acids, protein, minerals, and vitamins.
But can dogs eat sunflower seeds just as we can, or are sunflower seeds bad for dogs?
If you've been asking yourself, “can I give my dog sunflower seeds,” the answer is YES – dogs can eat sunflower seeds with a few caveats. You need to pay attention to moderation, size, and that all sunflower seeds are unsalted and peeled.
In this article, we'll look at what sunflower seeds are, what nutrition they can provide, dogs can eat sunflower seeds safely, and the possible side effects.
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What are sunflower seeds?
Sunflower seeds are grown from the sunflower, a tall, herbaceous plant that belongs to the family Asteraceae.
Sunflowers are native to the middle regions of America and became an important crop that has since spread worldwide.
This plant consists of two flowers: a perimeter flower that contains the highly recognizable yellow petals and the central section that is made up of hundreds of tiny fertile flowers.
It is from this part of the sunflower that the edible seeds grow.
The sunflower’s seeds are conical in shape, have a black exterior shell and a single edible kernel inside.
This is what peeled sunflower seeds look like:
Most of us love the taste of sunflower seeds and the products made from this food. But can dogs eat sunflower seeds and reap some of the benefits of this nutritious food?
It turns out that they can, provided you feed them safely.
It's a good source of healthy fats and other minerals and compounds that we'll investigate below.
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Sunflower Seeds for Dogs 101
Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Most importantly, remember that any seeds (not just sunflower seeds) fed to your pup should always be peeled and should not have any added salt as high sodium levels can result in health issues such as high blood pressure.
A dog can eat sunflower seed kernel but should not ingest the actual black shell of the sunflower seed. If your dog eats the shells, severe diarrhea and gastrointestinal distress may occur.
By themselves, sunflower seeds are very nutritious, and it's a powerful antioxidant (PDF). 1/4 cup of peeled sunflower seeds contains 190 calories, 6 grams of protein, 16 grams of fats, and 4 grams of fiber. They're full of vitamins and minerals, too:
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Like most other seeds and nuts, sunflower seeds are considered great for the skin. While there is little research available on the effects of sunflower seeds on a dog's skin and coat, human trials show clear improvements.
Can dogs eat sunflower seeds then and get the same benefits? It turns out that yes – sunflower seeds have been studied in dogs, and they do, in fact, improve a dog's hair coat and skin (Rees et al. 2001).
Here are some more of the research behind sunflower seeds:
- Sunflower seeds improve dog's skin and hair coat (1)
- Magnesium in sunflower seeds may help manage diabetes (2)
- Sunflower seeds may help in stopping tumor growth (3)
- Linoleic acid in sunflower seeds may help an aging skin (4)
- Vitamin E in sunflower seeds helps to manage cholesterol levels (5)
It's important to note that dogs can, in fact, benefit from the components of sunflower seeds, and this has been observed in research, too.
For example, one study showed how linoleic acid from the sunflower seed oil affected Beagle puppies (Campbell et al. 1992).
That should answer the questions can dogs eat sunflower seeds, but let's take a look at some other potential benefits of sunflower seeds for dogs that haven't yet been observed in studies but are mostly based on theory.
5 Benefits of Sunflower Seeds in Dogs
1. Sunflower seeds improve your dog’s coat and skin.
Because they are high in essential fatty acids, continuous supplementation with sunflower seeds can help your dog maintain healthy skin and coat.
The fats in these seeds are natural and healthy, free from saturated or “bad” fats.
These fatty acids will allow your dog to have a full, shiny, healthy coat that is less likely to exhibit roughness or skin ailments like rashes, hot spots, and dry skin.
2. Sunflower seeds support the production of good cholesterol.
The beneficial fatty acids within sunflower seeds also encourage the body to lower the production of bad cholesterol and promote good cholesterol.
What this means for your dog is lower blood pressure and less likelihood of heart disease or stroke. This mostly comes from a high level of Vitamin E in sunflower seeds.
3. Vitamin E in sunflower seeds is an important antioxidant.
Just one ounce of sunflower seeds will give your dog his daily dose of Vitamin E.
Other than managing cholesterol levels, this vitamin is essential for the formation of fat metabolism, the respiration of cells, and the creation of the membranes that surround cells.
Vitamin E also helps to protect the dog's skin from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
4. Sunflower seeds can relieve stress and depression in dogs.
Recent studies suggest that sunflower seeds, like their relative chamomile herb, can produce a calming effect in dogs who experience anxiety.
The key ingredient is magnesium, a mineral that has been proven to alleviate fatigue and depression (6).
Sunflower seeds are also chock full of B-complex vitamins, specifically niacin and pyridoxine, both of which can be credited with enhancing brain activity and reducing neurosis and anxiety.
Additionally, sunflower seeds are high in tryptophan, an essential amino acid that increases serotonin in the dog's brain.
Serotonin, in turn, improves a dog’s recovery from stress and decreases aggressive behaviors.
5. Trace minerals in sunflower seeds promote overall body health in canines.
Sunflower seeds contain many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other vital nutrients, as noted above.
All of these make sunflower seeds for dogs a great addition to the diet because they may promote healthy bone growth, hemoglobin production, brain function, hormone production, and immune system function, proper protein, enzyme, and carbohydrate use as well as reproduction, strengthen the immune system and help the development of red blood cells, collagen, connective tissue, and bone.
“So, can dogs have sunflower seeds and reap the benefits?”
The answer is undoubted, yes, and there are proven benefits of feeding sunflower seeds to dogs. You only need to make sure you give them in moderation, peel the seeds and pick the ones with no salt on them.
Dogs usually love sunflower seeds to make a good-treat snack for them or be added to their meals.
But are sunflower seeds bad for dogs in some other circumstances? There are a few side effects to watch out for.
3 Potential Side Effects of Sunflower Seeds for Dogs
We've answered the question “can dogs eat sunflower seeds” with a resounding yes, but are sunflower seeds bad for dogs under some specific circumstance, and if so, what do pet owners need to keep in mind?
Here are the things to be aware of in regards to feeding sunflower seeds to your dog:
1. Many commercial sunflower seeds are salted.
Sunflower seeds designed for human consumption are often salted. Feeding salted seeds to your dog can result in serious health complications such as sodium toxicosis, which may range from mild to severe in diagnosis.
Symptoms include imbalance, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and excessive thirst and urination.
2. Shelled sunflower seeds can be dangerous for your dog.
When you purchase sunflower seeds from the store, they tend to be shelled. Feeding shelled seeds to your dog is problematic as the shells are not easily digestible and can pose a choking hazard.
A dog who ingests too many shelled seeds runs the risk of a gastrointestinal blockage or obstruction, which can quickly become a life-threatening situation.
3. you should feed a dog with limited amounts of sunflower seeds.
The amount and frequency that you give your dog sunflower seeds should be severely limited.
These seeds are high in fats which can be harsh on a dog’s stomach and difficult to break down.
Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds?
When sunflower seeds are fed to dogs in an appropriate amount, sunflower seeds can boost your dog’s health because of the multitude of vitamins and minerals that they contain.
Pet owners must ensure they only buy natural sunflower seeds that have no added salt or any other spices and flavors to them.
You must peel all sunflower seeds before you give them to your dog.
If you follow these directions, sunflower seeds can be very healthy and beneficial to your dog and particularly improve his skin and hair coat.
Common Questions about Dogs Eating Sunflower Seeds
Want to learn more before giving your dog a sunflower seed or two? Read on.
What Happens If a Dog Eats Sunflower Seeds?
If your dog only has one sunflower seed, you probably won't notice any difference at all.
However, if you let your dog eat sunflower seeds excessively, you may need to look out for vomiting or diarrhea. Small dogs and puppies may also develop an inflamed pancreas.
The most important thing to remember is that your dog eating sunflower seeds in small quantities is fine. But you should avoid giving him too many.
Are Sunflower Kernels Poisonous to Dogs?
Sunflower kernels aren't poisonous, but you still want to avoid shells with your dog's sunflower seed consumption.
That is because your canine cannot break through the sunflower seed shell as we humans do. This means that your dog is likely to eat the entire thing, shell and all.
That can lead to intestinal blockages, which can be incredibly serious. This is especially problematic for small dogs.
Can Sunflower Seeds Make Dogs Sick?
If you let your dog eat sunflower seed shells, then yes, this can make him sick. He can also get sick if he eats too many of the seeds.
However, it is simple to reduce the risk of your dog getting sick from his seed snack. Just be sure to give him seeds without the shells and never give him too many.
If you notice his digestive system gets upset, consider finding a different healthy snack next time.