The latest article in my series on foods dogs can eat, this one focuses on a variety of edible seeds. Whereas many of my food related articles discuss fruits or vegetables, today I’m asking if dogs can eat sunflower seeds.
As always, I’ll answer upfront and then provide more detailed guidance on / information about sunflower seeds below.
Most dogs can eat sunflower seeds (assuming they have the shells removed and are unflavoured), and indeed certain varieties can be a healthy supplement to a dog’s diet.
However, as with many “human” foods that aren’t perhaps harmful to dogs per se, you should take care if you’re going to let your dog eat them on a regular basis.
Furthermore, some dogs shouldn’t eat sunflower seeds at all… I’ll explain why below.
Table of Contents
- What Are Sunflower Seeds?
- Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds?
- Are Sunflower Seeds Good for Dogs?
- Are Sunflower Seeds Bad for Dogs?
- Related Posts
What Are Sunflower Seeds?
Sunflower seeds are, as you might expect, seeds from the sunflower. We farm sunflowers in order to extract the seeds for human consumption as a nutritious snack, or to use as garnishes in salads and to extract oils from them for a variety of uses.
The seeds may be prepared for human consumption either in their shells or with the shells removed as sunflower seed “kernels”, which may be natural or flavoured with a range of different ingredients to enhance taste.
High in saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, sunflower seeds have a number of nutritional benefits if eaten as a part of a balanced diet.
Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds?
To answer this generally, yes dogs can eat sunflower seeds… but with caveats.
Firstly, and as I mentioned in my introduction, you shouldn’t allow your dog to go hog wild and fill its belly with them whenever the fancy takes it.
As with any canine foods or treats, dogs should never be allowed to gorge on them with abandon.
Secondly, assuming sunflower seeds don’t have added ingredients known to be harmful to dogs (salt, artificial sweeteners, garlic, etc.) The occasional sunflower seed treat is unlikely to cause any harm whatsoever.
Thirdly, although dogs can eat sunflower seeds, it’s best if they only eat the kernels (seeds without the shell). This is because in sufficient quantities the shells may cause digestive problems (see below). That said, the odd one or two probably won’t cause distress.
Finally, it’s worth noting that sunflower seeds are high in fats. Care should be taken not to overfeed them, especially if your dog has a weight problem or requires a low fat diet.
To summarise, natural sunflower seed kernels without additional flavourings can pack a nutritional punch in your dog’s weekly intake.
N.B. Bear in mind that dogs don’t need sunflower seeds in their diet. The nutrition your dog requires to remain healthy should come from a balanced veterinary approved dog food appropriate for its size, breed and health requirements. Sunflower seeds may be an additional nutritional treat but should never form the basis of your dog’s diet or become anything more than an occasional treat.
Are Sunflower Seeds Good for Dogs?
Yes, in small doses and assuming your dog isn’t allergic to them or doesn’t require a low-fat diet, sunflower seeds are potentially good for dogs in small doses.
In any case, even for dogs without health issues, you should limit the amount of seeds you allow your dog to eat due to their fat content. Small dogs shouldn’t eat more than 20 kernels, and larger dogs no more than 40 a couple of times a week.
Sunflower seeds contain a range of minerals and nutrients that may benefit dogs:
- Vitamin A – important for bone growth, reproduction, sight and the immune system
- Vitamin B1 – important for digestion, muscle growth, weight management, brain function and nervous system
- Vitamin B3 – important for healthy skin, blood circulation, and metabolism
- Vitamin B6 – important for brain function, blood, sight and countering inflammation
- Vitamin E – an antioxidant important for cell function, metabolism, sight and reproduction
- Copper – important for red blood cells, fur / skin health and bone formation
- Manganese – helps to increase energy and important for metabolism, bone and cartilage health
- Selenium – important for metabolism, skin health and reproduction
The US Department of Agriculture lists the following as some of the nutrients contained in 100g of dried unseasoned sunflower seed kernels:
|Total lipid (fat)||51.5g|
|Vitamin A (RAE)||3µg|
Are Sunflower Seeds Bad for Dogs?
While they aren’t poisonous to dogs, sunflower seeds can be bad for dogs, in several cases.
Some dogs may be sensitive to sunflower seeds and develop allergic symptoms if they eat them. If you believe your dog has eaten sunflower seeds and begins gagging and coughing excessively, starts vomiting or has diarrhoea shortly afterwards you should seek veterinary advice.
Sunflower seeds can be bad for dogs if they’re flavoured for human consumption with ingredients such as salt, garlic, onions or artificial sweeteners such as xylitol. These food ingredients are poisonous to dogs, and can lead to stomach upsets, sodium poisoning and in the case of xylitol can be fatal.
Sunflower seeds are high in fats and calories. Overfeeding your dog sunflower seeds on a regular basis over prolonged periods can contribute to canine obesity and a host of related health issues that shorten life.
Dogs should only eat shelled sunflower seed kernels since the shells themselves may cause serious illness. The shells may cause digestive problems such as severe stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhoea and they can create a gastrointestinal blockage, which can be fatal.
If you suspect your dog has eaten a large amount of unshelled sunflower seeds seek veterinary advice as soon as you can.
Are Sunflower Seeds Poisonous to Dogs? No… natural, unflavoured sunflower seeds that have been de-shelled (the kernels) are not poisonous to dogs. However, they may cause allergic reactions in dogs sensitive to them.
Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seed Shells? No… dogs should never eat sunflower seed shells. The shells may cause digestive upset or obstruct the gut, which can be extremely dangerous.
Can Sunflower Seeds Make Dogs Sick? Possibly if they’re allergic to them, eat too many of them or consume the shells.
Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Butter? Sunflower butter is a paste made from sunflower seeds often used as a substitute for peanut butter. Most dogs can eat sunflower butter safely (it’s not toxic) however they should only ever be given it as a very rare treat and never more than a couple of spoonfuls.
Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Oil? Dogs can eat sunflower oil (it’s not toxic) but they really shouldn’t. Sunflower oil made from pressed sunflower seeds is very high in calories and so should never be knowingly fed to dogs.
Can Dogs Eat Flavoured Sunflower Seeds? Dogs should never eat flavoured sunflower seeds. Some flavourings might result in gastrointestinal upsets or serious medical emergencies.
Can Dogs Eat Roasted Sunflower Seeds? Yes… dogs can eat roasted sunflower seeds as long as they are not flavoured or salted. It goes without saying that sunflower seeds should be cooled before being given to a dog to eat.
Summary – Can Dogs Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Dogs can eat sunflower seeds as long as they are in their natural state, unflavoured and without the shells.
However, just because a dog can eat a certain food usually prepared for human consumption it doesn’t mean they should eat it on a regular basis.
Though sunflower seed kernels do indeed contain many beneficial nutrients, they’re also high in fats. Hence they shouldn’t be given to dogs in large amounts, especially dogs with certain health conditions related to weight.
To reiterate, dogs really only need to be provided with a complete and balanced dog food… and treats of any kind should only ever be given as treats!
Finally, if you’re in any doubt about giving your dog sunflower seeds or any other food, speak to a veterinary professional.
Has your dog eaten sunflower seeds by accident or do you let your dog eat them on a regular basis? Please tell me about your experiences in the comment section at the bottom of this page.
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Tricia Morita says
I had a small dog that would sit with me and eat sunflower seeds. She’d put her nose down onto the rug, crack them, eat the seed, and leave the shells on the rug. My mom would yell at me for leaving shells on the shag rug! I’d blame the dog – oh sure, the dog did it! She believed me once I showed her the dog eating seeds. She laughed and handed me the vacuum!
What a clever girl to be able to do that! Dogs tongues are amazing!