Dogs are such special and loyal companions. Pet parents love their dogs and consider them part of the family. Because of this, many pet parents are eager to share their meals and snacks with their furry friends.
Some foods can easily and safely be shared with your canine companion, but others cannot. This is because some foods that are safe for humans to eat are actually toxic to dogs.
I am often asked about which foods are safe for dogs to eat and which are not in my veterinary practice. Recently, I have received more and more questions about healthier human snacks like seaweed. Owners are living a healthier lifestyle, and they wonder if it is safe to share their healthy snacks with their pups.
Seaweed is non-toxic and safe for dogs to eat as long as it is an edible type that humans eat. Avoid certain types of seaweeds like Nori seaweeds, which may contain toxic metals. Seaweed is a healthy snack packed with essential nutrients and high in fiber. However, feeding your dog a large amount of seaweed can cause stomach or intestinal problems.
Seaweed should only be fed to dogs as a snack or as a small addition to their regular meals. Though not toxic, seaweed should be offered to dogs only in moderation to avoid other issues.
What Is Edible Seaweed?
“Edible seaweed” simply means that it is a variety of this marine plants that is safe to eat and has been processed for human consumption. Any variety of seaweed that meets these criteria is safe for both you and your dog to eat.
Seaweed varieties that dogs should not eat include wild seaweed in the ocean as well as any seaweed that has washed up on the beach. Some of these varieties are not edible, and they may also contain toxins, pesticides, or other dangerous pollutants.
Health Benefits Of Seaweed For Dogs
When fed in moderation as a snack or small addition to the dog’s main diet, edible seaweed can be a very healthy treat for your dog.
Seaweed is packed full of nutrients and also contains healthy fatty acids. It also contains both iodine and the amino acid tyrosine, which work to support thyroid function.
The most important fatty acid type in seaweed is the Omega-3 fatty acid type. These fatty acids help support brain development, joint repair, and healthy skin in dogs. Wakame seaweed, for example, has the highest levels of omega-3 acids contained in any food in the world.
Edible seaweed also contains high levels of vitamins and minerals. Seaweed is packed with riboflavin, thiamin, iron, manganese, copper, and smaller quantities of vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as folate, zinc, sodium, calcium, and magnesium.
All of this makes seaweed a healthy snack choice for both humans and dogs. However, remember that it is essential only to feed seaweed to your dog in moderation and only if their stomachs tolerate it.
Types of Seaweed That Can Safely Be Fed To Dogs
Wakame is an alga that grows in saltwater environments. It has a very distinct flavor and texture. The flavor is slightly sweet and slightly umami. This edible seaweed is usually purchased dried and then should be rehydrated before eating.
Kelp, which is also an alga, is found in the wild as large, greenish-brown leaf-like clusters. There are over 30 varieties, and kelp is used in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cooking. Kelp is also often used in broths as a flavoring agent and garnish for meals and snacks. Kelp may safely be fed dried, raw, or cooked.
Kombu is possibly the most widely eaten seaweed variety in the world. This seaweed is commonly purchased dried or pickled in vinegar. It is not advisable to offer the pickled variety to dogs, but they may enjoy broth varieties.
Sea grapes are seaweed alga that grows plentifully in the Indo-Pacific region. Most commonly eaten raw, seaweed has a distinctive taste and fleshy texture. This seaweed really does resemble a small bunch of grapes. Caution should be used when feeding sea grapes to small dogs as they could possibly pose a choking risk.
Dangers Of Feeding Seaweed To Dogs
Though seaweed is non-toxic to dogs and also a healthy snack, there are some things to be cautious about.
First and foremost, you must keep in mind that treats, snacks or additions to your dog’s diet must be small. If your dog fills up on these types of foods, they will not be hungry or have room in their stomachs for their regular dog food. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and imbalances.
Dogs are classified as omnivores, but they require a large portion of their daily diet to be derived from meat. They can absorb the nutrients found in seaweed, but every dog needs to be fed a balanced diet.
Also, seaweed is not a natural part of a dog’s diet, and it is also relatively high in fiber. Some dogs may not tolerate seaweed well, and feeding it to them may result in gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting, stomach pain, gas, or diarrhea.
In addition to being high in fiber and, therefore, difficult for some dogs to digest, seaweed is somewhat chewy when dried into a snack. If a dog eats the seaweed quickly or does not chew it thoroughly, it can be a choking hazard.
If large amounts of seaweed are fed to a dog, and they do not chew it well, it is also possible for a stomach or intestinal obstruction to form. This can be life-threatening and require surgery to repair.
If your dog is prone to eating quickly, not chewing well, or swallowing treats whole, it is advised to only give them small pieces of seaweed or avoid this as a treat altogether.
An additional caution to be aware of when feeding your dog seaweed is that some varieties may contain toxic metals. One such seaweed variety, Nori seaweed, is known to have this issue.
In Nori seaweed, the amount of toxic metals present varies greatly. The location where the seaweed was harvested has a large impact on the metal content. Though small amounts of Nori seaweed are safe, it is inadvisable to feed large quantities to your dog or to feed it on a regular basis. There are other safer varieties.
Because every dog and every situation is different, if you have any questions or concerns, it is recommended that you discuss the addition of seaweed to your dog’s diet with their veterinarian.
What To Do If Your Dog Eats Seaweed
If you are reading this not because you wish to feed seaweed as a snack or treat, but because your dog has eaten seaweed without your consent, there are a few things you should do.
First, identify the type of seaweed that your dog has eaten. If the seaweed was of the Nori variety, or it was wild seaweed on a beach, please call your veterinarian immediately for guidance.
Veterinary advice is suggested because eating beach seaweed may also result in your dog ingesting large quantities of saltwater. If a large enough quantity of saltwater is consumed, sodium toxicity may result and can be life-threatening. With smaller quantities, gastrointestinal upset may occur and may require veterinary treatment.
It is also important to try to determine how much seaweed your dog has eaten. Again, if the amount was significant, it is advisable to contact your veterinarian with your concerns.
How To Safely Feed Seaweed To Your Dog
If you are wanting to offer edible seaweed to your furry friend as a treat or snack, this can be done safely if you bear in mind a few things.
First, choose a seaweed product that is manufactured for human consumption. Make sure it is not Nori seaweed. As previously mentioned, seaweed can be very chewy, and if large pieces are given, it may lead to choking. Start small by offering tiny amounts of seaweed to see if your dog enjoys it.
I recommend that owners also check the ingredient list of the edible seaweed product that they are considering purchasing for their dog. Try to avoid brands that are highly processed or full of salt, sugar, or preservatives.
Final Thoughts on Feeding Seaweed to Your Dog
Human-grade edible seaweed products are safe and non-toxic for dogs. These products are also healthy and may confer several health benefits when eaten.
Some dogs genuinely enjoy the distinctive taste of seaweed, while others may not. If you want to use seaweed as a snack or treat for your dog, introduce it slowly, using small bites. Make sure the dog chews the seaweed thoroughly.
If any gastrointestinal upset is noted, discontinue feeding the seaweed. Also, do not feed so much seaweed as a snack or treat as to make your dog too full to eat an adequate amount of its regular diet.
If you have any questions or concerns about feeding seaweed to your dog, as always, it is best to contact your veterinarian.
Dr. Jamie Whittenburg is a vet with 15 years of clinical experience. She graduated from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. Her area of expertise is small animal general practice, equine practice, surgery, and academia.
Dr. Whittenburg operates her own hospital in Lubbock, TX, named Kingsgate Animal Hospital. Medically, she’s most interested in practicing general surgery and feline medicine. When not at work, Dr. Whittenburg enjoys outdoor activities, reading, and spending time with her family.