Chia seeds are an ancient food native to Mexico and Guatemala, and are still consumed today since they were first cultivated around 5,500 years ago.1 Prehistoric Mesoamericans highly regarded chia seeds because of their vast applications for food, medicine and religious uses.2 Today, chia seeds are renowned as a superfood among humans,3 but can your pet enjoy this food as a healthy treat as well?
Benefits of Chia Seeds for Your Pet
Chia seeds have been praised for their omega-3 fatty acid content. According to a study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, about 65% of the oil found in chia seeds is made of omega-3.4 In fact, one study stated that the seeds are some of the best sources of plant-based omega-3 fats you can find,5 with a total of 5.06 grams per ounce.6
The dietary fiber found in chia seeds is another thing that should grab your attention, as it is an important component to helping maintain your pet's digestive health. Fiber has been shown to help:
- Improve stool frequency — Consuming enough fiber helps increase the frequency of stool excretion, as well as improving the weight of the feces.7
- Maintain weight management — A study found that increasing dietary fiber may decrease food intake in animals, which may help control their weight and help with obesity.8
- Control blood sugar levels — Pets with diabetes may benefit from increasing their fiber intake. A study showed that a high-fiber diet helped improve glycemic control in the diabetic dogs.9
Nutrition Facts About Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are celebrated for their health-promoting benefits.10 An ounce (equivalent to 2 tablespoons) of this healthy food provides the following nutrients:11
- Protein — 4.69 grams
- Fiber — 9.75 grams
- Calcium — 179 milligrams
- Phosphorus — 244 milligrams
- Potassium — 115 milligrams
- Folate — 13.9 micrograms
If your pet is producing narrow, loose stools, they can benefit from the additional fiber from chia seeds. Note, however, that you should not rely on chia seeds as a crutch to boost your pet's fiber intake. Typically, wild cats and dogs only have about 4% fiber in their diet, and that's from whole food sources.
A well-rounded, species-appropriate diet with the right amounts of fiber from low-glycemic vegetables (along with proper supplementation) is typically enough to produce small, firm stools. If your pet's stools do not meet this criteria, the chia seeds may be used to improve quality, but don't go overboard when feeding this food. Chia seeds are best when used as "real food toppers" because of their minute size.
The benefits of healthy fatty acids don't belong just to humans. Studies indicate that alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), which is found in chia seeds,12 may have some positive effect on animals. In one example that used rats as test subjects, ALA hampered "hepatic steatosis and dyslipidemia by inhibiting lipogenesis and increasing insulin sensitivity."13 In another study, ALA helped manage systolic blood pressure elevation, again in rat test subjects.14
Other nutrients such as calcium may help lower the risk of bone loss in animals.15 Phosphorus, on the other hand, is important for the growth of puppies,16 while potassium intake may decrease mortality risk.17
While chia seeds sound incredibly promising as treats for your pet, you should control the servings accordingly. Treats and food toppers like chia seeds should comprise only about 10% of your pet's daily food intake so you don't overfeed them. Compute the amount of nutrients and calories from the chia seeds appropriate for your pet, then make the necessary adjustments to your dog's regular diet.
Tips in Preparing Chia Seeds for Your Pet
Serving chia seeds by themselves isn't recommended because of their very small size, which can be difficult for your pet to consume. A better suggestion is to use them as "real food toppers," meaning they are incorporated with other ingredients to create a nutritionally diverse treat. Try this "Chia Chunks Pet Treats Recipe" that your pet may like.
Chia Chunks Pet Treats Recipe
✓ Chia seeds
✓ Free-range, grass fed meat, such as chicken and bison
- Cut meat into bite-sized pieces.
- Roll the meat in chia seeds.
- Place the food on an ungreased baking sheet.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.
- Let the food cool before serving. They can last a week in the refrigerator or a month when placed in the freezer.
Ideally, purchase chia seeds that are certified organic and not grown using genetically modified techniques. Authentic chia seeds are available in most health stores, so take the time in researching the best one that fits your needs. Most importantly, pick seeds that are speckled black or white, as a uniformly brown color indicates an immature product with a bitter taste.18
Chia Seeds Are Good for Your Pet, but Moderation Is Required
Based on the published research, chia seeds can be a worthy addition to your pet's list of natural food toppers. Just make sure to use organic, high-quality seeds from certified growers to safeguard your pet's health. As with other healthy treats, snacks that make use of chia as toppers should make up only 10% of your pet's daily caloric intake.
Frequently Asked Questions About Chia Seeds for Pets
Q: Are chia seeds good for pets?
A: Studies have indicated that both cats and dogs may benefit from increased intake of alpha linolenic acid,19,20 which is abundant in chia seeds.21
Q: What kind of chia seeds should I buy for my pets?
A: The best chia seeds you can buy should come from certified organic producers. Choose those that are speckled black and white because brown seeds indicate an inferior product.22