There is a wonderful modern trend amongst pet owners. They are going the extra mile to ensure that their beloved dogs and cats are getting no less than the best, most nutritious diet possible. Pup parents on the hunt for good nutrition for their dogs always end up asking the same question: If it’s great for me, could it work for my dog? Supplements are all the rage, because as it turns out, there are a lot of them that are as beneficial to our dogs as they are for us. Everyone knows about apple cider vinegar and fish oil, but there is a new pet superfood on the block: spirulina for dogs!
People across the globe have been using spirulina for thousands of years. Today however, it is becoming increasingly popular with dog owners because of its nutritional benefits. If you are considering using spirulina for dogs, this article is for you!
What is Spirulina For Dogs?
Some say it’s blue-green algae while others say it’s bacteria. It is in fact both. Spirulina, also known as Arthrospira Platensis, (formerly Spirulina Platensis or Spirulina Fusiformis) is a single cell alga which belongs to the Cyanobacteria class.
Its name is derived from the blue-green algae’s perfect spiral form. However, the chemical make-up is where the true beauty of this super-food lies. It is incredibly nutrient rich, consisting of around 60% protein. Also, it contains high concentrations of B complex vitamins, vitamin E, and vitamin A (beta carotene). Other parts of its makeup are trace minerals and elements, essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids (particularly gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA).
There is also a list of phytonutrients in Spirulina which are only found in blue-green algae. It also has plant-based nutrients, such as chlorophyll, which your dog won’t be getting from their usual wet food or kibble diets!
There are around 60 documented species of spirulina, not all of which are edible; however, the most common edible types are: Spirulina Pacifica (Hawaiian Spirulina), Spirulina Maxima (found in parts of Africa, Central America and Mexico), and Spirulina Platensis (found in America and certain Asian and African countries).
The Health Benefits of Spirulina For Dogs
The health benefits of spirulina for dogs are plentiful our canine counterparts. By adding spirulina to your dog’s diet, you can help boost their defenses, treat medical conditions, and even help them fight cancer.
Here are some of the known benefits of Spirulina for dogs:
- Anti-inflammatory properties.
- Improves kidney and liver function, and can aid in treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Boosts their immune systems, which can also help reduce allergies.
- Antioxidants help detoxify the body by removing heavy metals (from pollution) and other toxins.
- Can help heal eye infections.
- Stimulates antibody growth, which helps fight infection, and attacks cancer cells and other free radicals.
- Promotes a healthy digestive system and reverses the negative effects of antibiotics by stimulating the growth of probiotics.
- Great source of protein!
- Helps maintain a healthy and balanced skin and a shiny coat.
Possible Spirulina For Dogs Side Effects
Not all dogs are guaranteed to tolerate spirulina equally well. Your dog may potentially suffer some side effects from spirulina, especially when they’re overfed.
Diarrhea and upset stomach are the most common side effects that dogs may experience. This can happen because their body simply can’t tolerate it, or because it’s too nutrient rich in combination with their usual diet.
However, there is another, more serious reason why your dog might be suffering from spirulina side effects. Not all spirulina supplements are manufactured equally. The cheaper kinds often contain toxins which can cause more harm than good.
Tips for Choosing Spirulina For Dogs
Yes, spirulina for dogs is one of the healthiest, most nutritionally beneficial supplements on the market. The downside: not all spirulina is cultivated or manufactured equally. Some end products may contain high levels of heavy metals and other toxins.
Here are some tips on how to avoid those:
Find Out Where It’s From
The perfect breeding grounds for the spirulina bacteria are alkaline, warm water bodies (such as lakes) with a pH of around 10-12.
Spirulina thrives in countries with a warm and humid climate. The problem is, many of these countries have high pollution levels. The pollution in the air and water means that the locally sourced spirulina will most likely contain loads of heavy metals and other toxins. Obviously, this makes the supplement rather counter productive considering its cleansing properties.
Therefore, do some research and find out exactly where the spirulina you want to buy is from and in what conditions it was cultivated.
If the Price is Too Nice, Ditch it
Sadly, in most cases, cheap spirulina is not safe spirulina. In fact, the cheaper the product, the more likely it is that manufacturers took financial shortcuts. Consequently, the quality of the end product is less than stellar.
On the otherhand, pricier spirulina is more likely to be cultivated in much cleaner, pollutant free water, in an area with safe pollution levels.
Look for Seals of Approval
Luckily, there are companies with regulated production and bodies who give them a seal of approval for meeting regulation. Therefore, when choosing spirulina for dogs, look for seals of approval such as these:
- USP – US Pharmacopeial Convention
- NSF – National Spirulina Foundation
Sometimes “Certified Organic” Isn’t The Safest Choice
In many cases, certified organic is best. However, with spirulina, cultivating high-quality spirulina organically is not necessarily safe or efficient.
Spirulina grows in about 4 days and needs loads of nitrogen to accommodate the growth process. Sadly, organic fertilizers don’t contain loads of nitrogen, so organic spirulina for dogs is not always the most nutritious option. On top of that, organic cultivation methods often allow for a higher risk of contaminants and toxins in the end product.
This is where the importance of sourcing all-natural spirulina comes in. Many companies use guano, which is rich in nitrates. However, it isn’t strictly “organic” due to the fact that it’s been “mined”.
When it comes to spirulina for dogs, you can often table “organic” as “all-natural” should be the non-negotiable!
Read the Label!
Make sure the label has a seal of approval and it is all-natural. Also, be sure to examine if there are any other ingredients. There are some spirulina products which have been blended with other ingredients, such as chlorella, which may add nutritional value.
There are also, however, companies that try to pass a different type of blue-algae off as spirulina. We’ve covered that not all spirulina species are edible, but the same goes for blue-algae. There are many types of blue-algae which are very high in all sorts of toxins. Hemotoxins, heavy metals, microcystins, and neurotoxins are not what you want to be feeding your dog to make them healthier!
Above all, if the company isn’t proudly disclosing the product’s origin on its label, chances are they don’t want you to know. This hardly inspires trust. Sound the alarm!
Where to Buy Spirulina For Dogs
Sourcing high quality, safe spirulina products can take a little effort. Luckily, this is a path others have traveled already, and you can use their findings and opinions as a starting point.
Here are a few companies of repute who produce spirulina products which have the right seal of approval:
How to Give Your Pup Spirulina For Dogs
If you have opted for spirulina powder, you can simply add it to their meal. However, be sure to get the dosage right. As mentioned before, spirulina for dogs can easily upset your pup’s tummy if they get too much of it.
The general consensus seems to be that you should start by giving your dog 1/8 tsp per 10 lbs. If your dog tolerates it well, you can increase that dose to ¼ tsp per 10 lbs daily.
The dosage may vary from product to product, so be sure to read the label!
Additionally, always be sure to get your vet’s advice on any supplements you want to add to your dog’s diet. Specifically, you may want to discuss the proper duration for adding spirulina to your dog’s diet. Generally speaking, spirulina is great as a short term supplement so check with your vet first before you give it to them for longer periods.
Our fur children deserve only the best, and spirulina for dogs happens to be one of the best supplements on the planet. So the next time you add a little spirulina to your smoothie, consider sharing with your pup!
Illustrations inspired by our furry friend Canelita