Whenever I think of sunflower seeds, I’m taken back to my favorite fishing trips or to Middle School science class, where we worked in groups solving problems while munching away on salty goodness.
Delightfully crunchy and filled to the brim with vitamins and minerals, sunflower seeds make for a fantastically healthy snack.
And whenever we’re snacking away on sunflower seeds at home, we’re likely not doing it alone.
No, no, there is usually a little fluff nugget, patiently, or not so patiently, waiting in stoic fashion for the taste of that delightful crunchy snack.
This brings us to our topic of the day, can our doggos partake with us when we’re snacking away on sunflower seeds? And we aren’t just covering the seeds, we’re talking about all parts of the sunflower plant from the leaves to the oil that’s rich in omega fatty acids.
We’ve got a lot to cover, so pitter-patter, let’s find out if we can add sunflower seeds to the list of human foods safe for dogs.
What Benefits Do Sunflower Seeds Have?
|Most Abundant Macro / Micro Nutrients:||Amount Per 1 ounce (30 grams / 163 calories)|
|Total Fat:||14 grams|
|Saturated Fat:||1.5 grams|
|Polyunsaturated Fat:||9.2 grams|
|Monounsaturated Fat:||2.7 grams|
|Vitamin E:||37% of the RDI|
|Copper:||26% of the RDI|
|Selenium:||32% of the RDI|
Rich in the good kinds of fat, along with several vitamins and minerals, there is no doubt that sunflower seeds are extremely beneficial for us.
Additionally, they are rich in antioxidants thanks to their high concentration of flavonoids and phenolic acids.
This nutrient profile makes sunflower seeds potentially helpful for reducing inflammation, heart disease, and risk of diabetes. Additionally, they can help boost energy levels.
This is why sunflower seeds have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine for help with digestion, regulation, and other common issues.
Registered Dietitian Maxine Yeung gives us a in-depth breakdown of the many benefits of sunflower seeds:
“The seeds are also loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E (which has strong anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce risk of heart disease), folate (important for DNA synthesis), phosphorus (key for bone health), selenium (an antioxidant that protects against cell damage), manganese (which helps with bone production), copper (which helps with heart health and immune function), B6 (good for cognitive development and function) and zinc (important for metabolism and immune function)“
Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds?
In moderation, sunflower seeds are perfectly safe to give to your dog. Don’t make it too common of an occurrence as they are high in calories due to all the fat content.
While it contains the good kinds of fat, too much of it will lead to fat gain just like bad fats do.
As well, you want to make sure the seeds are shelled (removed) first. Some professionals go further and recommend pulverizing the seeds up first into a powder that you can sprinkle on your dog’s regular food.
If your dog is tiny or one of those that likes swallowing food whole instead of savoring it, then this is probably a good idea to do. We also advise you to stay away from feeding them the salted kind or the ones with fun and interesting flavors.
When you do all this, sunflower seeds are a fairly healthy treat for our dogs.
It’s important to remember that dogs, just like people, some dogs have sensitive stomachs and can have an adverse reaction to foods that are perfectly fine for others to eat. So make sure to monitor your dog closely the first few times you give them sunflower seeds.
As well, keep the portion to a smaller amount than you normally would. It’s always a great idea to be on the safe side whenever you’re letting your pet try a new food.
Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds In The Shell?
Technically, dogs can eat the shells as they are not toxic. However, it’s not the best idea.
They can be a choking hazard for smaller dogs, and even the giant boys and girls can still have issues digesting them with the seeds causing irritation on the way down.
This advice goes for us humans as well. Consuming one or two seeds with the shells still on isn’t likely to cause any issues, especially if they are a larger breed. But freak accidents can always happen.
As such, we don’t recommend ever giving a dog sunflower seeds with the shell still on.
Can Cats Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Sunflower seeds are safe for the entire family, including our lovable felines. The same benefits, warnings, and recommendations are the same for dogs, cats, and us two-leggers. So keep the shells away, eat in moderation, and try to avoid salted/flavored seeds. Some flavored seeds may contain ingredients that are toxic to cats and dogs, so pay double attention to them.
Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seed Butter?
Dogs can eat sunflower seed butter, and it can be a preferable alternative to peanut butter. Calorie for calorie, sunflower seed butter beats out peanut butter in having both a greater range and higher amount of more vitamins and minerals.
Is Sunflower Butter Bad For Dogs?
While sunflower seed butter is the more nutritional treat, it’s still incredibly high in calories and comparable to peanut butter. So you don’t want to give your dog extra just because it’s the healthier choice.
Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Oil?
Just like sunflower seeds and butter, dogs can eat sunflower oil. In fact, sunflower seed oil has been used in holistic treatments for some years now to help promote shinier coats and heal dry skin and cracked paws.
Like the seeds and butter, moderation of sunflower oil is key, but not simply because of the high calories.
Additionally, sunflower oil is rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids provide a wealth of benefits, but this greatly depends on its relationship with omega-3 fatty acids.
Just like for us, it’s overwhelmingly recommended that our pups’ diets feature a higher ratio of omega-3s (found in sea plants and animals) than omega-6s (found in land-bearing plants and animals).
Your dog’s main food should provide the perfect ratio of omega fatty acids, so if you’re treating them to foods that feature high amounts of omega-6s, consider an omega-3 supplement for your pooch.
It’s pretty easy to upset the balance between omega-3 and -6 due to our overconsumption of land-based plants and animals.
What Happens If A Dog Eats Sunflower Seeds?
If your dog only consumed a few seeds, there is little to worry about. If they ate sunflower seeds with the shell still on them, monitor closely for any signs of discomfort and immediately call your veterinarian if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
Consuming a large number of seeds, whether shelled or not, can cause issues such as diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting.
Like in the above situation, the shells are the biggest concern. They can potentially cause micro-fissions in the digestive tract if cracked before they are swallowed. As well, they can cause a blockage in the digestive tract if the shells are able to stay mostly intact and undigested.
If you’re worried your dog ate a large sum of seeds or is showing concerning signs, please immediately contact your veterinarian or ASPCA Poison Control.
Are Sunflower Seeds Poisonous To Dogs?
Sunflower seeds are not poisonous to dogs. The shells can be a hazard for a number of reasons though — choking, digestive pain, blockage in the GI tract, etc. So make sure the seeds are shelled first before giving.
Are Any Parts of the Sunflower Plant Poisonous?
In nature, bright and vibrant colors can often indicate that something is poisonous if eaten. However, rest assured because there are no parts of the sunflower plant that’s dangerous to eat.
So if you grow sunflowers, and you see either your cat, dog, or even horse eating them, your only concern is whether you’re ready to say goodbye to the sunflower.
Are There Any Benefits Giving a Dog Sunflower Seeds?
Thanks to their rich vitamin and mineral content, which includes vitamin E, sunflower seeds can help improve your pet’s skin and coat. Like in humans, sunflower seeds can help reduce inflammation and associated diseases, support the immune system, lower risk of heart disease, and risk of diabetes.
It’s important to note that studies on sunflower seed’s direct benefits come from studies performed on people. However, they likely translate due to studies on the individual vitamins and minerals they contain in relation to canine health.
In other words, there is a world of studies showing vitamin E, omega fatty acids, and on are all beneficial for our pups’ health.
Super and Not So Super Seeds Your Dog Can Eat
Along with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, quinoa, and amaranth are all fairly nutritional and safe for dogs to eat.
Seeds and pits that you should never give your dog include apple seeds, plum pits, peach pits, and cherry pits due to them containing cyanide. Avocado pits are discouraged as well, as they contain persin, which can cause digestive issues such as diarrhea and vomiting.
How To Give Your Dog Treats Without Causing Weight Gain
There is little doubt about it, our puppers love human foods as treats. But we don’t need to feel bad when indulging our pups with them every once in a while.
Now, it is true that many of us give our pups too many treats, and this has caused a high spike in pet obesity in the last decades. With their high-fat content, sunflower seeds do have a lot of calories.
So how can we give our dogs the treats they love without having to worry they’ll blow up their waistline? Well simple, we find how many calories (energy) our dog is using in a day and feed them less if they need to lose weight, more to gain weight, or the same amount to maintain.
The easy, but less exact way to do this is to follow the instructions on the back of their dog food and feed the amount based on their weight. If you see weight gain, they are consuming too many calories, whether from their base diet or through snacks.
Simply lower one or both until their weight stabilizes. A great rule to follow is the 90/10 rule. This means treats should never make up more than 10% of your pupper’s diet. If neither of those options works, then you’ll want to add exercise, so they burn more calories in a day.
In general, 3,500 calories equals a pound gained or lost. So if you feed your dog 350 calories less than they burn in a day, it will take about 10 days for them to lose a pound.
Now, not all calories are created equal with some, mostly protein, forcing the body to use more energy to metabolize them. But energy in/out is impossible to get away from. Thanks Newton.
On the plus side, when giving your dog the same dog food everyday along with never exceeding the 10% treat rule while keeping their activity level about the same, your dog’s TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) should be about the same every day.
Now, if all those treats are protein based, you may notably raise their TDEE.
Now the above is simple to do but takes trial and error along with time. With some simple calculations, you can get a much better idea of what your dog’s true TDEE is.
Since we are on the subject of diet, make sure your pet is getting enough protein. Here is what’s OSU Veterinary Medical Center recommends: “Although energy requirements vary greatly, protein needs are fairly constant, with adult dogs generally needing at least 1 gram per pound, and adult cats at least 2 grams per pound.
Younger and geriatric pets may need more; young pets for growth, and old pets because they appear to be less able to utilize dietary protein than are younger animals. Within reason, more protein is not generally dangerous, but may be wasteful.”
Delicious, chock-full of benefits, and safe for the whole family, sunflowers, whether it’s the seeds, oil, or even the leaves, all make a safe and nutritious snack for dogs as well as cats.
Remember, to always remove the shell from the seeds first if they already aren’t, avoid the salted/flavored kind, and don’t feed them too many. Like with everything, too much of a good thing can be bad.
And the high-fat content, while the good kinds, can cause weight gain and upset the balance between omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.
The 90/10 rule is always a great suggestion to follow, which means your pup shouldn’t be getting more than 10% of their recommended daily calories from treats. As well, fish oil is a great way to give your pupper more essential omega-3 fatty acids to even out sunflower’s high omega-6 content
For more info on what you can and can’t give your pets to eat, make sure to stay up to date with our Nutrition & Health Care blog sections, as well as are others for help with training, behavior, and more.