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Can I Give My Dog Flaxseed?

Flaxseed is an ingredient that can be found in just about every bag of dog food on supermarket shelves. It’s marketed as healthy and even essential for your dog when, in reality, this ingredient is detrimental to your canine’s well-being. The sad truth is that most dog food companies aren’t concerned about whether their product is actually good for your pets or not; for big businesses, it’s about making their food sound healthy and enticing pet owners to purchase it. 

But what is it that makes flaxseed-containing foods so harmful? It’s those plant-based compounds in flaxseed called phytoestrogens that disrupt normal endocrine function and essentially all bodily functions. 

The Use of Flaxseed in Dog Food

Flaxseed has quickly become a major ingredient in all kinds of dog food. It’s a small, plant-derived, nut-like seed that is typically ground up and pressed for its oil, which contains omega fatty acids, fiber, proteins, and lignans. Pets use these fatty acids for digestion, energy, and immune functions. Omega-3s have even been shown to assist with the symptoms of arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney problems, and more. But is flaxseed always good for dogs? Research suggests that it is not. 

Pet foods containing this ingredient are advertised as a “healthy,” “100% natural,” “grain-free,” “immune-boosting” substance, but many dog owners don’t realize that flaxseed in dog food has been identified as one of the top endocrine disruptors out there. 

Understanding the Dangers of Phytoestrogens

As it turns out, flaxseed isn’t a good source of omega-3s because the phytoestrogens in flaxseed negate any potential omega-3 health benefits. Phytoestrogens occur naturally in plants, and when eaten, they are absorbed into the bloodstream and confuse the body. 

Phytoestrogens have been named among the top of all known endocrine disruptors because they interfere with hormones and disrupt an animal’s natural ability to transport, secrete, eliminate, and synthesize important chemicals. When consumed in high amounts over an extended period of time, phytoestrogens have adverse effects on everything from canine behavior, development, fertility, and cell metabolism to energy, sleep, and immune function. Endocrine blockers have even been linked to canine developmental problems, neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases, and reproductive disorders. 

How Do Phytoestrogens Work?

Phytoestrogens can bind to nearly any hormone receptor, and as they hang on, they block the correct hormones from binding and taking effect. While this phenomenon might seem harmless, it’s actually preventing the critical bodily processes that maintain a dog’s body from taking place. 

A common misconception is that phytoestrogens only impact reproductive hormones. In actuality, they interfere with all the hormones that regulate canine health. For example, the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate weight, mood, body temperature, hair growth, skin health, and physical and emotional stress. Phytoestrogens can bind to the receptors of any of these hormones, and if this happens, your dog’s body can’t regulate these bodily functions. 

If, for example, the growth hormone wasn’t able to take effect, an animal could not grow, mature, build muscle, or heal. In fact, a study was conducted on rats and concluded that the rats consuming food with high phytoestrogen content grew to be 20% smaller than the rats in the control group. 

When hormones can’t take effect, your dog’s entire well-being is impacted. Your four-legged friend might seem healthy from the outside, but these chemical interferences can’t be perceived visually until the long-term adverse effects have already taken place.

Is Flaxseed Good for Dogs and Other Animals?

The simplest answer is no, flaxseed is not good for dogs or other pets. Small amounts of phytoestrogens are safe for occasional consumption; the problem arises when your dog is consuming ingredients, like flaxseed, for every meal of the day and ingesting a high concentration of phytoestrogens. Flaxseed, in particular, has approximately 400,000 micrograms of phytoestrogens — which is higher than the phytoestrogen content of soybeans, tofu, and other similar dog food ingredients. 

The Effects of Flaxseed on Dogs

While there is little research that suggests omegas are necessary, they may help your pet’s health, but further studies are still needed. Many pet owners seek out foods with omega-3 fatty acids for the potential benefits. It is proposed that omega-3s can contribute to healthy skin, kidneys, cognitive function, and fight conditions such as arthritis, lymphoma, heart disease, and more. 

When dogs get this important omega-3 in the form of flaxseed, their body has to work much harder to convert ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) into EPA/DHA fatty acids that the dog’s body can use. Dogs can’t easily turn ALA into EPA or DHA, so it’s clear that flaxseed shouldn’t be the source of omega-3s for your four-legged friend. The good news is that flaxseed isn’t the only source of these key fatty acids.

A Great Alternative to Flaxseed

Fortunately, there are dog food alternatives that offer omega-3 fatty acids without flaxseed. Canines can digest animal proteins much easier than plant-based proteins, so consider supplementing your dog’s diet with foods containing cold-water fish oils, such as salmon oil, or select kinds of algal oil. Fish oil is a healthier and more bioavailable ingredient that gives dogs their EPA and DHA fatty acids naturally and in a more direct manner.

A Dog Food Without Flaxseed 

Today, flaxseed isn’t your dog’s only option for essential nutrients. Flourish Pets has worked hard to refine its dog food recipe without using flaxseed. Instead, Flourish Pets food utilizes fish oil and fish meal, which are high in omega-3s but without the endocrine-blocking effects. These ingredients are also a healthy protein source that give canines enhanced amino acid diversity. 

Our company’s goal is to help your pup reach its full health potential, which is why our food contains simple, whole, and healthy ingredients that you can feel confident feeding to your dog. 

Talk to Your Vet and Make the Switch

Your pet’s diet is directly connected to his or her well-being, so we advise you to do your part in feeding them something nutritious that keeps them by your side for many years to come. Flourish Pets makes it easy to give your dog the best life possible. 

If you are considering switching your pet’s food, you should always consult with your veterinarian first, as they can help you create a safe diet that’s right for your pet’s allergies, dietary restrictions, and lifestyle. Should you have any further questions about Flourish Pets flaxseed-free dog food, contact us today to speak with a representative.


Adult-only exposure of male rats to a diet of high phytoestrogen content increases apoptosis of meiotic and post-meiotic germ cells

Stephen Assinder, Ryan Davis, Mark Fenwick, Amy Glover

Reproductive consequences of developmental phytoestrogen exposure

Wendy N Jefferson, Heather B Patisaul, Carmen J Williams
Reproduction (Cambridge, England) 143 (3), 247, 2012

Endocrine disruptors and childhood social impairment

Amir Miodovnik, Stephanie M Engel, Chenbo Zhu, Xiaoyun Ye, Latha V Soorya, Manori J Silva, Antonia M Calafat, Mary S Wolff
Neurotoxicology 32 (2), 261-267, 2011

Effects of endocrine disruptors on obesity

Retha R Newbold, Elizabeth Padilla‐Banks, Wendy N Jefferson, Jerrold J Heindel
International journal of andrology 31 (2), 201-208, 2008

Life style-related diseases of the digestive system: endocrine disruptors stimulate lipid accumulation in target cells related to metabolic syndrome

Koichiro Wada, Hirotada Sakamoto, Kenji Nishikawa, Satoru Sakuma, Atsushi Nakajima, Yohko Fujimoto, Yoshinori Kamisaki
Journal of pharmacological sciences 105 (2), 133-137, 2007

The effects of estrogenic and androgenic endocrine disruptors on the immune system of fish: a review

Sylvain Milla, Sophie Depiereux, Patrick Kestemont
Ecotoxicology 20 (2), 305-319, 2011

The immune system of geriatric mice is modulated by estrogenic endocrine disruptors (diethylstilbestrol, α-zearalanol, and genistein): effects on interferon-γ

Jillian Calemine, Julie Zalenka, Ebru Karpuzoglu-Sahin, Daniel L Ward, Andrea Lengi, S Ansar Ahmed
Toxicology 194 (1-2), 115-128, 2003

Reproductive Consequences of Developmental Phytoestrogen Exposure

(1)Soy food and isoflavone intake in relation to semen quality parameters among men from an infertility clinic Jorge E. Chavarro1,2,7, Thomas L. Toth3, Sonita M. Sadio4 and Russ Hauser3,5,6

(2)Potential detrimental effects of a phytoestrogen-rich diet on male fertility in mice Christopher R. Cederrotha, Celine Zimmermanna, Jean-Louis Benyb, Olivier Schaadc, Chantal Combepinea, Patrick Descombesc, Daniel R. Doergee, François P. Pralongd, Jean-Dominique Vassallia, Serge Nefa, ,

(3)Flaxseed and Its Lignan Precursor, Secoisolariciresinol Diglycoside, Affect Pregnancy Outcome and Reproductive Development in Rats1,2,3 Janet C. L. Tou, Jianmin Chen, and Lilian U. Thompson4

(4)Phytochemical mimicry of reproductive hormones and modulation of herbivore fertility by phytoestrogens. C L Hughes, Jr

(5)Soybean phytoestrogen intake and cancer risk Herman, C; Adlercreutz, T; Goldin, Barry R; Gorbach, Sherwood L; et al. The Journal of Nutrition125.3 (Mar 1995): 757S-770S.

Cancer and developmental exposure to endocrine disruptors.

Linda S Birnbaumand
Suzanne E Fenton

Published: by:199


Does Cancer Start in the Womb? Altered Mammary Gland Development and Predisposition to Breast Cancer due to in Utero Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors

Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia volume 18, pages199–208(2013)

Phytoestrogen Influences on the Development of Behavior and Gonadotropin Function

First Published January 1, 1995 Research Article