Seaweed has been a popular human food supplement for more than 8,000 years, yet we still know so little about it. People use the word "kelp" (Laminaria) for the stuff that grows in underwater forests as if there was only one kind of seaweed out there when there are 10,000 of them out there under the waves. There are more seaweeds in the ocean than edible herbs on the planet! What's even more exciting is that upon a closer nutritional inspection, seaweed is packed with vitamins and minerals, which is why fresh dog food producers like Volhard choose to include it in their mixes. Beyond simple nutrition, seaweed is also full of all sorts of antioxidants. Seaweed lives in very harsh environments, with daily changes in salinity, temperature, oxygen exposure, and munching sea creatures, not to mention the mechanical battering they take from waves daily. Moreover, many of these antioxidants are unique to these plants.
Can Dogs Have Sea Kelp?
Sea kelp has shared its nutritional benefits with humans for thousands of years, so much so that the Japanese consider it a bedrock of longevity! Seaweed is the next frontier of "functional foods," as study after study shows they pack a real, medicinal punch. Some of the more studied antioxidants can include carotene and lutein, bromophenol, various phenolic groups, and polyphenols, which can be found in land plants and fucoidan fucophlorethols and fucoxanthin, which only seaweeds have. Studies show these antioxidants can be anti-tumor, anti-HIV, anti-viral, antiproliferative, antimutagenic, and effective in treating breast cancer and many other maladies. Not to mention their contribution to reducing dental plaque! If you're looking for an easily digestible, low-fat addition to your dog's food, then kelp is the right way to go!
Ready to introduce your dog to edible sea vegetables? Today's article will teach you how to help your dog reap the benefits of kelp in a healthy manner!
What is Sea Kelp?
Sometimes the terminology can get confusing, but here are the basics: sea kelp is a type of seaweed, and seaweed is a type of sea algae.
Of the 10,000 species of seaweed out there, kelp is one of the more widely available. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, approximately 30 million tons of farmed seaweed were produced globally in 2016, and about 27% of that was kelp.
Kelp prefers to grow in cool, clear, shallow waters near rocky shorelines, making it most common in the Pacific Northwest and New England in the U.S. and other countries worldwide, including Iceland, China, Japan, and Korea.
Like other plants, kelp is low in calories and packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It's especially high in both iodine and calcium.
Holistic veterinarian Ruth Roberts noticed some animal nutritionists beginning to use kelp with dogs as far back as the 1990s, but it was still fairly rare at the time. Dr. Judy Morgan, also a holistic veterinarian, says she first bumped into commercial kelp products at the Global Pet Expo four or five years ago, and since then, kelp has quickly spread throughout the dog world. Wendy Volhard has been using kelp in her diets and as a supplement since 1973! She was always ahead of her time.
Sea kelp plays a vital role from a biodiversity perspective. Since they grow en-masse, kelp forests furnish a variety of wildlife with a home and food. With the fastest-growing rate on the planet — 300 feet per year — kelp's ability to feed and shelter the ocean's wildlife is unrivaled.
Kelp is nicknamed the 'superfood from the sea' because it contains 10 times more calcium than milk and more Vitamin C than orange juice.
Before we discuss the health benefits of kelp for dogs, let's dispel any confusion surrounding terminology. Kelp falls under the broad umbrella of seaweeds and, consequently, of sea algae. Thousands of seaweed species populate our oceans, of which kelp is a more prominent member. Every year, sea agriculture produces millions of tons of kelp, which we deploy in various industries, including food production.
For a clearer reference, kelp is a brown subdivision of seaweed that grows in vast stretches of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (e.g., the New England coast of the US). Once harvested, humans consume it raw, cook it, or turn it into supplements. Kelp is quite similar, although not identical, to Nori, the seaweed that we use in wrapping up sushi rolls (as a side note, feel free to feed Nori to your dog!).
How Do I Feed Kelp to My Dog?
Kelp products for dogs are available as:
- Powder-filled capsules;
- Soft chews;
- Straight powder in a bag.
You'll also see it as an ingredient in the Volhard NDF2 and AM/PM diets.
If using a powder, Volhard recommends mixing it in with your pup's food. The safest amount depends on your dog's size. For larger dogs, Volhard says 1/4 teaspoon is acceptable, but don't overstep that limit. 1/8 teaspoon is recommended for smaller dogs.
If your dog already takes medication for hypothyroidism, we recommend talking to your veterinarian before offering any kelp. Volhard provides comprehensive third-party testing results, and existing amounts of iodine can be shared with your vet.
Be mindful of the iodine concentration in your dog's diet when you're thinking about giving your dog kelp. According to the Nutritional Research Council, 220 micrograms of iodine for every 1,000 calories a dog eats is the ideal dosage.
Is There Such a Thing As 'Too Much Kelp for Dogs?'
The health benefits of kelp for dogs are unquestionably tantalizing, and pet parents might be tempted to include as much kelp into their dogs' diet to reap as many benefits as possible. But be wary, because kelp is only beneficial in moderation. Too much of this seaweed will put a strain on your dog's digestive system, causing diarrhea. Furthermore, kelp has a high iodine content; too much iodine, and your dog will run the risk of developing hyperthyroidism (i.e., the overproduction of the thyroid hormone) over time.
Kelp and other sea plants can also absorb harmful heavy metals, which can be hazardous to canine health. Examine the label and check out the source of your sea kelp. Is it wild-grown in clear, unpolluted waters? If so, you can feel more confident in your decision.
Speaking with your vet if you're planning to use sea kelp to manage any canine thyroid problems is vital. Because sea kelp is such a potent source of iodine, it's vital to provide the proper amount of iodine for your dog. Too much iodine can lead to further, more severe thyroid problems.
Look Only for Certified Organic Kelp for Dogs
Knowing how to feed the right quantity of kelp for dogs is only half the battle; it's also a matter of quality. Pet parents know that their canine companions need the best of foods for a healthy and happy life. Of course, you can take the easy way out and purchase kelp that's been sourced from waters heavily affected by industrial pollution, such as the Southern Pacific Ocean, riddled with harmful metals and additives. However, that's not what your dog deserves. Instead, look for 100% USDA-certified organic kelp that's been harvested from cleaner waters, such as the coasts of Iceland, the US, Canada, and Norway. The healthier its source, the more beneficial it will be for your dog's overall health.
Having a hard time finding a top-of-the-market kelp supplement? Volhard has got you covered! With its kelp-rich formula, our NDF2 diet will allow your dog to reap all the benefits of kelp without having to search far and wide for a healthy supplement. Plus, your dog's digestive system will welcome a raw dog food diet packed with all the nutrients they need for a healthy life. Ready to switch to NDF2? Check out this resource page for more details on how to proceed with a smooth transition.
How Does Kelp Improve a Dog's Diet?
Providing a comprehensive list of nutrients found in kelp is no easy task, and for a good reason: kelp is a nutrient powerhouse! More than 60 nutrients (i.e., trace elements, minerals, and vitamins) make up the chemical composition of this superfood! Not to mention that it packs a strong protein punch (25%) with a negligible fat content (only 2%!). It's hard to think of healthier food that improves a dog's energy levels while helping them maintain a healthy weight!
When the body gets stressed for any reason (damage, sickness, stress), Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) levels rise sharply in the blood. When you get stressed, they build up and cause all sorts of issues in plants and us. In humans, they play pivotal roles in a whole host of diseases, including:
- Cardiovascular disease;
- Diabetes mellitus;
- Neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, and male-pattern baldness).
In plants, these little oxygen molecules get in the way of the photosynthesis process. Seaweeds have evolved a diverse range of stress-coping and free radical scavenging compounds, collectively called secondary metabolites or simply "antioxidants," which deactivate ROS, preserving the plant's integrity in times of stress. Lohrmann et al. (2004) found that Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) rose sharply in winter, and thus seaweeds contain more antioxidants in winter than in summer. You may be familiar with some of these anti-oxidative compounds, such as carotenoids, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), various enzymes, and unsaturated fatty acids.
While seaweeds contain lots of chlorophyll, not all of them are green, as you'd expect. Many are brown in color. Kelp is the giant frond-like seaweed that grows in forests out at sea up to a depth of 40m in clear water (below this, sunlight won't penetrate). Wracks (such as bladderwrack, with the little buoyancy bubbles you can pop with your fingers) prefer to live around the tidal zone. Brown seaweeds are given their color by a seaweed compound called fucoxanthin. Studies show this little compound to be a potent anti-inflammatory and effective in stunting cancer growth (Cumashi et al. 2007).
The most valuable nutrients your dog will receive from kelp supplements are:
- Amino acids: These nutrients play a solid part in many of the body's functions, such as hormone regulation, muscle build-up, tissue repair, and the preservation of skin health.
- Iodine: Healthy iodine levels stimulate thyroid activity and ensure its correct functioning.
- Mannitol: A gentle purgative and bile stimulant with proven benefits against glaucoma, swelling, and head trauma.
- Iron: Iron enrichment may help your dog recover from injuries faster and prevent the occurrence of an iron deficiency!
How Does Kelp Benefit a Dog's Overall Health?
#1: Kelp Soothes Skin Conditions and Alleviates Skin Allergies
The first major area to benefit from kelp supplementation is the skin. Kelp acts as a soothing agent for cases of itchiness and skin allergies. Likewise, substantial evidence describes this superfood as an effective way to repel fleas. If your dog is dealing with dry skin or coat issues, kelp supplementation is an avenue worthy of being explored!
#2: Kelp Contributes to a Healthy Metabolism
Akin to humans, dogs get their fair share of daily stress (e.g., caused by separation anxiety), and not without harmful consequences, such as poor body temperature regulation and heat-related illnesses. Kelp supplementation will help curb the adverse effects of stress by acting as a shield for the proteins in charge of balancing the metabolism. The healthier your dog's metabolism, the better the chance they'll live a long, happy life by your side!
#3: Kelp Acts As a Bulwark for Your Dog's Glandular System
As we mentioned earlier, kelp brings a significant contribution to resolving thyroid problems when fed accordingly. But that's only a fraction of the entire contribution brought by this superfood. Kelp helps regulate the entire glandular system, including the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands; it doesn't focus solely on the thyroid function! Do you want to ensure that your dog's glandular system works up to the healthiest parameters? Take a look at their anal glands — any unpleasant odors and backup of the anal glands can be a telltale sign of an imbalance in the glandular system.
#4: Kelp Works Its Magic on the Immune System, Too!
Another exciting way kelp benefits a dog's health has to do with their immune system, specifically their gastrointestinal (GI) tract. More often than not, health issues are clear proof of an imbalance in the gut microbiome — harmful bacteria are gaining momentum against the helpful ones. Through its prebiotic properties, sea kelp stimulates the production of additional beneficial bacteria to supplement the imbalance and restore the bacterial status quo.
#5: Use Kelp to Reduce Dental Plaque and Improve Oral Health!
Just as it brings balance to the gut microbiome, so does kelp benefit a dog's oral health! Multiple studies have shown that Bacillus licheniformis, a bacterium residing on the surface of kelp, releases an enzyme capable of breaking down dental plaque and tartar buildup. Likewise, kelp's iodine content inhibits inflammation and swelling of the gums. You can never be careful enough with your dog's pearly whites, so give kelp a shot!
#6: Use Kelp To Maintain Healthy Pigment!
Juliette de Bairacli Levy's natural rearing methods have been popular since the publication of her Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat in 1955. "I introduced seaweed to the veterinary world when I was a student in the early '30s," she said. "It was scorned then, but now it is very popular worldwide." She credited kelp and other sea vegetables with giving dark pigment to eyes, noses, and nails, stimulating hair growth, and developing strong bones.
It's important not to overuse kelp; it's rich in iodine, and too much iodine can suppress thyroid function.
Use This Superfood To Make Yummy Kelp Dog Treats!
At a loss on new ways to add kelp to your dog's diet? How about some scrumptious treats made out of kelp and bananas, a favorite among our canine companions? There's no baking, just mixing the ingredients and leaving them in the freezer overnight. Easy as cake, right? And just as delicious!
- 2 overly ripe bananas;
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of kelp powder for dogs.
How to prepare:
- Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl.
- Add the kelp powder and mix.
- Pour the mix into baking or pastry molds.
- Allow the mix to freeze overnight.
- Share with your furry friend!
Kelp Supplements Go Hand in Hand With a Healthy Diet!
Kelp has an unquestionably impressive number of health benefits for our canine companions: it regulates glandular activity, assists with tissue development, and is one of the richest natural sources of many valuable nutrients! A stronger immune system, healthier skin, and better overall health are but a few of the ways your dog's health will improve through kelp. All you need to do is feed kelp to your dog responsibly, only from the best of sources, and they will thank you with stronger health and improved energy levels! For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!