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Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds? What Are the Potential Side Effects of Sunflower Seeds in Dogs?

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Raymond Umpa

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Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds

Whether it’s rainy, sunny, or snowy outside, a pack of sunflower seeds is all you need while chilling with your pooch.  But, can dogs eat sunflower seeds?

Well, these tasty and handy treats are just some of the gifts of nature that make our lives more flavorful. And these seeds aren’t just delicious; they are also loaded with nutrients that are important for human functions.

As dog owners, who are always followed by our pup inside our house, it’s but right to ask and wonder, “Can dogs eat sunflower seeds?”

This is an important question since most of our time at home; we have our dogs by our side. Hence, it’s very likely that they would be tempted to eat whatever it is that we are eating.

Besides, have this question came to your mind because your dog just ate a sunflower seed that fell on the floor? If that’s the case, should you be worried or should you just let it slip away?

In this article, we will answer all of these questions, including what sunflower seeds are, are they toxic to dogs, do they have benefits or side effects to your pooch, and so on.

What Are Sunflower Seeds?

Technically, sunflower seeds are fruits of the sunflower, a tall, herbaceous plant that belongs to the Asteraceae family. The plant is made up of two types of flowers: the perimeter and central flower, which is also referred to as the head.

The perimeter flower contains the highly distinguishable yellow petals and the central flower or the head, is made up of hundreds of tiny fertile brown flowers. The edible seeds of sunflowers are harvested from the head or the central portion.

A sunflower seed is conical in shape and is encased in a black and white exterior shell. Sunflower seeds are known for their nutty flavor and high nutritional value. Humans can enjoy the seeds raw, roasted, or added to other dishes.

Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds? What Are the Potential Side Effects of Sunflower Seeds in Dogs? 1

Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Yes, dogs can eat sunflower seeds, but with just a few considerations. Pet owners should know how to safely feed their dog sunflower seeds.

And that includes peeling them and never adding salt and other seasonings. Just as in humans, high salt intake can lead to some health issues in dogs including high blood pressure.

It’s also important to give your pup sunflower seeds without their black shell. When dogs consume the shells, they may experience severe gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea.

Also, unlike birds and rodents, dogs don’t have a way to remove the shells of the seeds. Hence, they will more likely eat them with the shells intact unless you removed these exterior coverings beforehand.

And since dogs react to the seeds differently, it’s best to give them only small quantities, especially if it’s their first time trying them out.

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Are Sunflower Seeds Toxic for Dogs?

No, sunflower seeds are not poisonous or toxic for dogs. Just like what was mentioned earlier, you can feed your pooch with these seeds as long as they are properly served. And like other human foods, you should only feed your dog sunflower seeds in moderation.

There are studies in humans saying that eating plenty of sunflower seeds can cause problems related to excessive intake of phosphorus, leading to calcification of non-skeletal tissues and kidney problems.

Selenium is another mineral that is found in sunflower seeds, and excessive consumption of this mineral can cause symptoms of selenosis, including skin rashes, brittle hair and nails, fatigue, irritability, and even death.

While these are based on human studies, we could not just disregard the possibility that excessive phosphorus and selenium can also cause problems to dogs. Hence, it’s best to stay safe and just give them small amounts of peeled sunflower seeds if needed.

And once again, if you do give your dogs these seeds even as treats, make sure that you remove the sunflower seed shells first to prevent incidents of choking, as well as gastrointestinal upsets.

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Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds for Dogs

When eaten properly and in small amounts, sunflowers seeds can offer several health benefits to your dog. A ¼ cup of sunflower seeds contains 190 calories, 16 grams of fats, 6 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.

These seeds are powerful antioxidants and are also a nutritious source of vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, B1, B6, B3, phosphorus, selenium, manganese, folate, copper, essential fatty acids, and copper.

Research shows that sunflower seeds can help improve a dog’s skin and hair coat. Also, sunflower seed oil and other components of the seeds such as linoleic acid can have beneficial effects on dogs.

Sunflower seed oil is low in saturated fats and is usually added to commercial dog foods in small quantities to provide omega-6 fatty acids into a dog’s diet.

Let’s take a look at the health benefits of sunflower seeds for dogs below:

Improves Your Dog’s Skin and Coat

Like we’ve mentioned earlier, studies show that there were improvements in the dog’s skin condition and hair after taking sunflower seeds for a while.

This can be attributed to the seed’s abundance of essential fatty acids. Hence, continuous supplementation of sunflower seeds in dogs can help promote healthier skin and coats.

The fats that are contained in sunflower seeds are healthy and free from “bad” fats or saturated fats. So, your dog can benefit from their positive effects without worrying about the problems related to the build-up of unwanted “bad” fats in his system.

Aids in the Production of Good Cholesterol

The healthy fatty acids contained in sunflower seeds also have a plethora of advantages aside from promoting healthy skin and coats in dogs. And among their other important benefits is their role in influencing the cholesterol levels in the body.

In particular, these healthy fatty acids help the body produce more good cholesterol and reduce the production of bad cholesterol. As a result, this reduces a dog’s blood pressure and reduces his chances of getting heart disease. 

Fights the Harmful Effects of Free Radicals

Your dog can already get his daily dose of Vitamin E with just an ounce of sunflower seeds. Vitamin E helps in fighting the harmful effects of free radicals in the body, and it is also essential in managing cholesterol levels.

Aside from that, Vitamin E is also important in fat metabolism, cell respiration, and the production of cell membranes.

Relieve Stress and Depression

Sunflower seeds are packed with vitamins and minerals that play an essential role in managing stress and depression. Based on recent studies, sunflower seeds, just like the chamomile herb, have a calming effect on dogs experiencing anxiety.

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These seeds also contain magnesium, which is important in alleviating stress, fatigue, and depression. Moreover, sunflower seeds are also loaded with B vitamins, especially pyridoxine and niacin, which are both helpful in improving brain function, reducing anxiety and neurosis.

Sunflower seeds are also high in tryptophan, an essential amino acid that helps increase the level of serotonin in a dog’s brain.

Serotonin is popularly known as the happy hormone or the hormone that is responsible for stabilizing mood and well-being in humans. In dogs, serotonin helps reduce aggressive behavior and improve his recovery from stress.

Improve Overall Health

With the multitude of vitamins, minerals, and other vital nutrients in sunflower seeds, it’s not surprising to know that they make a perfect addition to your dog’s healthy diet.

With the help of all these nutrients, sunflower seeds can improve your dog’s overall health. And that includes the promotion of bone growth, hemoglobin production, brain function, the production of hormones, and immune system function.

Sunflower seeds can also aid in the function of the reproductive system, the proper use of carbohydrates, proteins, and enzymes, as well as assist in the development of red blood cells, collagen, bones, and connective tissues.

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Potential Side Effects of Sunflower Seeds in Dogs

Sunflower seeds are not all sunshine and butterflies, though; they also bring about some dark sides with them. However, these potential negative side effects can be easily prevented by simply knowing how to serve the seeds to your dog properly.

And like what was mentioned earlier, that includes feeding your dog sunflower seeds in moderation, removing the shells, and not adding salt or any other seasoning.

Below are some of the potential side effects that you should watch out for when feeding sunflower seeds to your dog:

Salted Sunflower Seeds Are Bad for Dogs

The majority of the commercially available sunflower seeds for human consumption are salted. And as we know, salt isn’t good for dogs of all ages. Feeding huge amounts of salted sunflower seeds to your puppy or adult dog can cause serious problems.

One of the health concerns related to high salt intake in dogs is sodium toxicosis or sodium poisoning. Symptoms that you should watch out for include vomiting, diarrhea, extreme thirst, frequent urination, and seizure.

Severe cases of sodium toxicosis can even lead to death.

Sunflower Shells Can Cause Problems

Aside from being salted, most of the sunflower seeds that are sold in the market are also shelled. Although these seeds are packed for human consumption, humans should also deshell the seeds before eating. And this doesn’t pose a problem since people who love to eat these seeds can easily remove the shells.

However, as for dogs, they don’t really know that the shells should not be eaten, and they can’t also remove the shells with their paws. Hence, chances are they would still end up ingesting the entire seed with the shell intact.

Shelled seeds can be a choking hazard to your dog, and they are also harder to digest. When your dog ingests a lot of shelled seeds, he may be at risk for gastrointestinal upsets, and blockage or obstruction, which can be life-threatening.

Excessive Intake of Sunflower Seeds Can Be Harmful

Feeding your dog sunflower seeds frequently and in huge portions can also be harmful to their health. Sunflower seeds are rich in fats.

So, feeding them too much of these seeds can be difficult for their digestive system to break down and can also be harsh on their stomach. Moreover, consuming large amounts of sunflower seeds can inflame the pancreas of a puppy or a small dog. 

Allergy or Hypersensitivity to Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds may cause allergic reactions to dogs, which can result in lethargy and frequent vomiting. If this happens, you should take your pup to your vet immediately.

If it’s your first time feeding your dog with sunflower seed, just give him around 3-5 seeds as a treat or snack. And then, observe him for untoward reactions.

In case your dog exhibits some signs of hypersensitivity or allergy to the seeds, you can opt for other sources of fatty acids such as red meat, coconut oil or flax seeds, eggs, and fish.

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Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seed Butter?

Yes, they can, but just like with other human foods, your dogs should only eat them in moderation. You may offer your canine friend sunflower seed butter only as a treat or snack because of its high caloric and fat content.

Sunflower seed butter is also a great alternative to peanut butter since a lot of commercially available peanut butter contains xylitol. And this substance, which is also found in candies and mints, is toxic for dogs.

The Best Way to Add Sunflower Seeds Into Your Dog’s Meals

If you are planning to add sunflower seeds into your dog’s diet, it’s important to first wash the seeds to remove the impurities that may be covering the seeds.

To prevent choking, and to make it easier for your dog to enjoy the seeds, you can grind them without the shells and sprinkle the ground-up powder to your pup’s favorite dog food or meal.

And once again, you should pay attention to the quantities. One cup (46 grams) of dried sunflower seeds contains 269 calories. It’s recommended to only give 10 to 20 seeds to small dogs in a week, and 20 to 40 seeds to large dogs.

What happens if my dog eats a sunflower seed?

Though your dog would have to eat a large amount of salted sunflower seeds for this to happen, they can experience a condition called sodium toxicosis. This is a life threatening medical emergency, and can lead to serious symptoms such as vomiting, disorientation, and seizures.

How many sunflower seeds can a dog eat?

Each cup (1.62 oz. / 46 grams) of sunflower seeds has 269 calories, so you should pay attention to quantities. As a guideline, you should give no more than 10-20 seeds to a small dog, and 20-40 seeds to a large dog, no more than once a week.

Are sunflowers toxic to dogs?

Sunflowers are not only perfectly safe for humans, but also non-toxic to dogs, cats, and horses2, according to the ASPCA. Therefore, if your pet starts to chomp on your carefully cultivated garden sunflowers—or if it happens to find some growing in the wild—you can rest assured that no harm will befall.

Can dogs have sunflower seeds with Shell?

Seeds eaten in their shells can irritate your dog's gut and cause vomiting and diarrhea. The husk does not digest in their stomach, and they have very sharp edges. They are also a choking hazard, so be sure to remove the husk or shell if you are tempted to feed any to your pup.

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