Close-up afbeelding van zeewier

Is seaweed good for dogs?

Did you know your dog can greatly benefit from a bit of seaweed every day? Seaweeds have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, which gives it great potential as a supplement in pet food.

Seaweed is a type of marine plant and is also known as edible algae. It covers many types like kelp, kombu, wakame, dulse, nori and Irish moss. They are rich in minerals, and certain vitamins and they also contain bioactive substances like polysaccharides, proteins, lipids, and polyphenols.

In this article we dive deeper into the benefits of seaweed for your dog and how you can best add it to their diet.

Nutrients in seaweed

Seaweed is a recognised food supplement for humans, but it is also an exceptional dietary supplement for dogs, containing many nutrients with a wide range of health advantages. Depending on the type of seaweed, it may contain

  • Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Iodine

  • Iron

  • Magnesium

  • Calcium

  • Potassium

Common types of seaweed

There are three different forms of seaweed based on their colour, brown algae, red algae, and green algae. Red and brown algae are primarily marine, while green algae also occur in freshwaters (rivers and lakes) and even in terrestrial situations.


The most common types of seaweed you will find in dog food are Royal Kombu, Wakame, Nori, Irish Moss, Dulse and Kelp (referring to more than 120 species of brown algae).

4 health benefits of seaweed for dogs

The nutrients in seaweed contribute to overall health by boosting the immune system. On top of that, the nutrients help maintain skin hydration and coat glossiness.

These nutrients in seaweed can also effectively lower insulin resistance, which helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, and therefore act as a preventive measure against diabetes. Seaweed also aids in detoxification, binding to toxic heavy metals like lead, copper, nickel, and mercury.


Below we’ll look further into some specific health benefits of these nutrients for your dog.

1. Thyroid health

Iodine is essential for the healthy functioning of the thyroid. Iodine, however, is a trace mineral that cannot be made by the body itself, so it needs to be consumed through diet. The iodine content in seaweed is high, which makes it a perfect source of this crucial nutrient.


Iodine is critical for thyroid health in dogs because it is a necessary component for the synthesis of thyroid hormones, specifically thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones, in turn, regulate metabolism and play vital roles in various bodily functions, including growth and development, reproduction, cardiovascular function, and maintaining the integrity of the nervous system.


Without sufficient iodine, the thyroid gland cannot produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormones, leading to thyroid dysfunction and associated health problems in dogs.


2. Gut health and digestion

Seaweed is low in calories since both protein and fat are low. Even though the carbohydrate content is high, most of this is dietary fibre and not taken up by the dog’s body. However, these prebiotic dietary fibres are good for a dog´s health, as they promote an excellent intestinal environment.


Fibres promote regular bowel movements, help prevent constipation and add bulk to the stool. Additionally, fibre acts as a prebiotic, providing food for beneficial gut bacteria, which can contribute to a healthy gut microbiome.


It’s not just the fibres of seaweed that contribute to gut health and digestion:

  • Natural Source of Nutrients: Seaweed contains various vitamins, minerals, and trace elements (vitamins A, C, E and K, calcium, magnesium and potassium) that are beneficial for digestion. These nutrients support various aspects of digestive function, such as enzyme activity and mucosal health.

  • Anti-inflammatory Properties: Inflammation in the digestive tract can lead to digestive issues such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Consuming seaweed, with anti-inflammatory properties, may help alleviate inflammation in the gut, promoting better digestion and overall gut health.

  • Antioxidant benefits: Seaweed contains antioxidants such as flavonoids and polyphenols, which help combat oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress can contribute to digestive disorders and damage to the gastrointestinal tract. By scavenging free radicals and reducing oxidative stress, seaweed can help the integrity of the digestive system.


3. Brain and nerve functions

Iron and magnesium support overall brain health by transporting enough oxygen throughout the body and regulating nerve transmission.


Certain types of seaweed, such as kelp and some varieties of marine algae, are rich sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) contribute to brain health and function.


DHA is a major structural component of brain tissue and plays a crucial role in cognitive development and maintenance throughout life. EPA supports brain health by reducing inflammation and promoting optimal blood flow to the brain. It’s interesting to note that plants grown in soil do not contain this essential fatty acid.


4. Other health benefits

Various species of brown seaweed contain fucoidans. Fucoidans are complex sulphated polysaccharides consisting of repeating units of fucose, a type of sugar, along with other sugar molecules such as galactose, xylose, and glucuronic acid.


Fucoidans have many different bioactive functions in the body:

  • The most investigated and well-known functions are their anticoagulant, antiviral, and anticancer properties.

  • Due to their ability to modify cell surface properties, fucoidans stimulate the immune system in several ways.

  • Their antioxidant activity prevents free-radical-mediated diseases and slows down the ageing process.

Aerial view of harvesting seaweed
Seaweed growing on ropes in the sea
Aerial view on seaweed farm with small Dutch islands on the horizon
Aerial view of Dutch seaweed farm

Fresh vs. dried seaweed

The main differences between fresh and dried seaweed for dogs lie in their moisture content, nutrient concentration, and potential additives.


Moisture Content

  1. Fresh: Naturally, fresh seaweed contains a higher moisture content since it has not undergone any drying processes. This can contribute to a higher water intake for your dog when consuming fresh seaweed.
  2. Dried: Drying seaweed removes much of its moisture, resulting in a more concentrated product. Dried seaweed is typically lightweight and can be more convenient for storage and transportation.


Nutrient Concentration

  1. Fresh: Fresh seaweed retains its natural nutrient content and may offer a more palatable experience for some dogs.
  2. Dried: Dried seaweed seems to provide a more potent source of nutrients per unit weight compared to fresh seaweed. However, that is only caused by extracting moisture. During the drying process of seaweed, some nutrients may be lost

Additives

  1. Fresh: Fresh seaweed is typically consumed in its natural state without any additives. However, you should always ensure that fresh seaweed is sourced from clean waters free of pollutants and toxins.
  2. Dried: Depending on the manufacturer, dried seaweed products may contain additives such as preservatives or flavourings. It's essential to carefully read the ingredient list to ensure that any additives are safe for your dog.

Does seaweed come with any disadvantages for dogs?

When quantities are managed, dogs mainly benefit from seaweed as a dietary supplement. The main disadvantage of seaweed is that you can easily give your dog too much of it.

To give you an example: The mineral content of kelp is approximately 10-100 times greater than in plants grown in soil. The contents in kombu are so high that the addition of only small parts of kombu to dog food may cover the dogs’ daily needs of trace elements.

Excessive consumption of seaweed can lead to an imbalance of nutrients or potential issues with iodine levels, especially if feeding large amounts of iodine-rich varieties like kelp. It may trigger a hyperactive thyroid gland and may cause goitre, like the myxoedema reaction.

Can my dog eat seaweed from the beach?

No, you should avoid your dog eating seaweed from the beach at all times.

Most dogs love to eat whatever they find in nature, and they may come across wild seaweed washed ashore at the beach. Allowing your dog to eat this seaweed may result in two dangerous situations:

  1. Seaweed on the beach is partly dried (in an uncontrolled way). When your dog consumes this seaweed it might expand in the intestines, creating major blockings with possible deadly results.

  1. Wild seaweed also has a high salt content and may lead to acute salt poisoning. Look for symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite.

Dog at a beach with washed-up seaweed

How to safely feed your dog seaweed?

It's important to note that while seaweed offers many health benefits, it should be fed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

If you want to feed seaweed to your dog, always keep the following things in mind:

  1. Feed fresh seaweed: Fresh seaweed is best for your dog because it has a higher moisture content, is unprocessed, is often tastier and has no additions.

  1. Choose quality: Select high-quality seaweed products specifically formulated for dogs, such as seaweed supplements or powdered forms of seaweed that are safe for canine consumption. Ensure that the seaweed is sourced from reputable suppliers and free from contaminants or additives that may be harmful to dogs.

  1. Be mindful of iodine contents: Some types of seaweed, such as kelp, can be high in iodine. Monitor your dog's iodine intake, especially if they are already receiving iodine from other sources such as commercial pet foods. Excessive iodine intake can lead to thyroid problems, so it's important to avoid over-supplementation.

  1. Moderation is key: Seaweed should be fed to dogs in moderation. While seaweed can provide some nutritional benefits, excessive consumption may lead to problems such as iodine toxicity or gastrointestinal upset. Follow the recommended feeding guidelines provided by the manufacturer or your veterinarian.

  1. Introduce gradually: When introducing seaweed into your dog's diet for the first time, do so gradually to allow their digestive system to adjust. Start with small amounts and gradually increase the serving size over several days to minimize the risk of gastrointestinal upset.

  1. Monitor for adverse reactions: Keep an eye on your dog for any signs of adverse reactions after introducing seaweed into their diet. Symptoms to watch for may include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, excessive thirst, or changes in appetite. If you notice any concerning symptoms, feeding seaweed and consult with your veterinarian.

Safely feed your dog seaweed with Wolfork

A great way to safely feed your dog seaweed is by feeding your dog Wolfork. In every Wolfork recipe, we use organic frozen kombu, grown and packed in the Netherlands by the Dutch Seaweed Group. This seaweed is freshly frozen, so not dried or processed in any way.


Frozen kombu will not expand in your dog’s intestines, and the amount used in the recipes is balanced by nutritional scientists to fulfil, but not exceed, levels of trace elements. Therefore, Wolfork dog food is a safe way to feed seaweed to your dog.


Would you like to try out Wolfork for your dog? Fill in our questionnaire for tailor-made nutritional advice. It only takes 2 minutes to find the best recipe for your dog.

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