Crisp and tasty, fresh from the deep, seaweed has found its way into plenty of our most delicious and nutritious dishes.
Sushi and other dishes from the Far East certainly know how to use seaweed in style, while wholesome soups and other nutritious goodies also include seaweed as a key ingredient, thanks to its superb health benefits. But what about our pets? Can dogs eat seaweed?
Is seaweed good for dogs?
While it’s not advisable whatsoever to let your dog eat seaweed that’s lying around on the beach, properly cleaned, prepared and freshly bought seaweed can do your pet the power of good.
However, you know what they say – all good things in moderation. Seaweed is unlikely to form a regular part of your dog’s day to day meals, but it can supplement them beautifully with some positive health benefits.
The most popular varieties of seaweed for both dogs and human beings are kelp and nori, both of which are safe for dogs to eat.
Again, this is assuming your dog isn’t nibbling it up off the beach though, and likewise try to avoid those shop-bought varieties that have been processed with nasty additives and lots of salt. Dogs do not do well with salt at all.
As well have having a neutral enough flavor that your dog, no matter how fussy, is likely to at least try any ground-up seaweed you off to him or her, there are lots of health benefits to consider too.
For one thing, the omega-3 fatty acids within seaweed are very good for your dog’s overall health and digestive processes. Healthy growth and a sharp mind are promised here.
Seaweed can be good for the bloodstream and overall circulation in dogs too. It’s rich in lots of naturally occurring iron, which strengthens your pet and helps them be their best when it comes to their long term health.
It also fortifies their defenses against becoming ill too, which is always something to consider – especially for older or very sensitive and sickly dogs.
Seaweed also contains plenty of iodine and magnesium, both of which promote good health and energy levels in your dog, and will help them lead a long and happy life.
While seaweed is never going to replace the core components of your dog’s diet, there’s certainly lots to be said for using it as a supplement or enhancer to the existing meal plan.
Dangers of seaweed for dogs
Although there are lots of health benefits for dogs eating seaweed, there are also plenty of risks to consider – some direr and more immediate than others.
One of the more harmless yet uncomfortable dangers of seaweed for dogs, for example, is simply the fact that it’s plant-based material.
Dogs evolved to derive their nutritional needs from their food very differently from human beings, and their journey over the centuries to become man’s best friend has unfortunately not done much to help them enjoy the same kinds of meals as us.
In other words, where a human being can digest plant-based food like vegetables and fruit rather easily, dogs find it a bit more of a struggle.
This is not to say that you ought not to consider seaweed for your dog – it has lots of benefits, as already discussed.
But rather, consider the portion size and the overall makeup of the seaweed you feed your pet.
In other words, full leafy wads of the stuff will be difficult for your dog to chew, to swallow and to digest – even if it looks like he or she is finding it easy, gulping it down happily.
Gulping it down like that only increases the risk of choking or experiencing a blockage within the stomach or intestines.
Plant material is very difficult for dogs to break down during digestion, so it often stays intact within them far longer than one might expect.
This means it can clump together, blocking airways and digestive passageways alike.
Naturally, none of this makes your dog feel altogether great, and you might find he or she coughs the seaweed back up soon after eating it as their body urgently tries to expel it.
This is all the more likely to happen if your dog eats seaweed that he or she has found on the beach.
As well as being drenched in seawater and all the salt that goes with it, there’s a massive risk that seaweed on the beach has picked up lots of nasty pollution on its way to being washed up onshore.
To say that this is hazardous to your dog is an understatement, and if your pet begins chowing down on this unhygienic stuff, seek the assistance of your vet as soon as you possibly can.
Keep in mind also that some store-bought seaweed has gone through a lot of processing before being packaged and sold, and it may well be high in additives and salt that makes it more harmful than healthy to your pet.
Dogs who eat too much salt show signs of excessive thirst, and perhaps a swollen and sore tongue. It can do nasty things to their internal processes, and cause long term harm too – it’s also why salty snacks like pretzels and French fries are so inadvisable for dogs.
How much seaweed can a dog eat daily?
Before considering this question more closely, it’s important to remember that seaweed is best treated as an addition to your dog’s meals – not a core component of it.
In other words, there’s no need to use seaweed as the core of a meal to then add other elements to, as this is not going to do as much good as harm to your pet and their digestive processes.
It’s best to grind up seaweed finely and dust your dog’s dinner with it, as this helps blend it in with existing food while assuring all the nutrition gets into your dog’s body.
Consider no more than a tablespoon of it daily or less – certainly, a teaspoon’s worth for smaller breeds – as your dog doesn’t have the same ability as a human would of successfully gaining nutrients from plant material, however small it is.
What’s more, the sensitivity of a dog’s digestive system is actually played for their benefit in cases like this.
In other words, they can do more with less than a human being could with that same amount of seaweed, and it goes further to let the goodness into them overall.
Five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is a human only recommendation, after all.
What to do if your dog eats seaweed
Dogs are tremendously good at learning about the world largely via smell and taste as their first port of call – something that always creates plenty of worry in their loving human masters.
What’s more, a dog who has recently discovered a new and interesting kind of food is always that extra bit daring in trying to sneak some more of it if the opportunity to do so arises.
So it is even with seaweed, which might not have the flavor of, say, a dropped piece of chicken your dog snaps up – but still could well fall prey to their intrigued muzzles.
If the seaweed is shop bought or otherwise fresh, and your dog has managed to find some by getting into a pantry cupboard, you have little to fear – but should watch for indigestion and choking.
Keep fresh water by for your dog to enjoy in case of this, and if any symptoms of dizziness, internal discomfort or swelling occur, contact your vet.
However, if it’s a one-off, this is more a case of telling your pet not to repeat this behavior, rather than reaching for the vet’s phone line.
If your dog has eaten seaweed on the beach though, the risk of danger is that much higher – no matter how clean the beach you’re visiting happens to be.
If your dog has eaten rather a lot of this seaweed especially, you’re advised to get your pet to a vet so that analysis of any damage done can be made, and remedies can be given.
There could be all kinds of nasty chemicals at play here that really need to be avoided.
Dogs can eat seaweed like kelp and nori, but are best fed it ground up finely, and as fresh as can be.
However, that doesn’t mean so fresh that you and your dog find it on the beach, as such seaweed is actually often home to hazardous material for your beloved pooch’s digestive system.
Keep it fresh, plain and used as a supplement to your dog’s dinner, and you can’t go wrong – enriching your pup with iron and omega-3 as you go.
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.