10 Benefits of Spirulina for Dogs (Backed by Science)
by Tudor Nikolas on Sep 10, 2023.
When it comes to our furry friends, we always want the best for them. The trend of pet humanisation has meant that superfoods such as Spirulina, Maca, Ashwagandha and others have started making their way into dog food.
These are all popular 'superfoods' for health enthusiasts. But what do we know about Spirulina for dogs?
Does it have the same benefits as in humans? And is it safe?
Let's take a deep dive and explore what to look out for and when to avoid giving Spirulina to dogs.
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina refers to a group of algae comprising of two species:
- Arthrospira platensis and
- Arthrospira maxima.
This is a blue-green algae that grows in both salt and fresh water. The specific colour comes from the presence of photosynthetic pigments in its cells.
This special colour comes from the combination of three pigments: Chlorophyll, Phycocyanin and Carotenoids.
Green pigment, essential for photosynthesis. This process allows the algae to absorv sun energy and convert it into chemical energy that it can use.
This is what makes Spirulina super special. This particular blue pigment is essentially a protein complex that is extremely rare in foods.
It's only found in the light harvest phycobiliprotein family and is a powerful antioxidant. It therefore offers the majority of the health benefits that we associate with Spirulina.
This group of orange and yellow pigments aid photosynthesis and protect the algae from the oxidative effects in the environment.
Nutritional Benefits of Spirulina for Dogs
Spirulina has rightfully earned its name as a superfood because of its nutrient dense characteristics.
It's a powerhouse of essential nutrients that can be beneficial for dogs. Some of the densely packed nutrients include protein (more than 50%), essential fatty acids, vitamins B1, B2, and B3, iron, magnesium, potassium and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Here is a table showing the approximate breakdown of the various nutrients per 100g of Spirulina
|- Omega-6 (GLA)||1-2g|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||2.38mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||3.67mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||12.8mg|
As you can see, Spirulina is almost 60% protein. The majority of fat is unsaturated. The polyunsaturated fat component of this includes the omega-3 and omega-6 values as seen above.
With all this in mind, surely it's only good news for Spirulina, right?
Well, that's partly right.
The only bad is that you have to be quite selective about the Spirulina sources. You see, Spirulina is usually farmed. Naturally, Spirulina is only found in alkaline lakes such as parts of Africa and Central and South America.
For the rest of the world however, it's cultivated in countries such as U.S, China, India, Thailand, Australia and others. The reputation of the farmer and their own farming criteria makes all the difference to how nutritious and safe Spirulina is.
The Origin and Quality Control Matters for Spirulina
Because Spirulina tends to grow in ponds and lakes, they are more prone to contamination than free flowing sources of water.
If the particular pond or lake is exposed to contaminants, this can damage the quality. Heavy metals, harmful bacteria and toxic blue-green algae species are all toxic in high quantities. As a result, ingesting these can lead to health issues both for humans and dogs.
On the other hand, commercial farms that do adhere to strict quality control can produce high quality Spirulina.
This may require various microbiological and chemical testing at regular intervals.
Some farmers may also sell other species of blue-green algae as Spirulina. This can be dangerous as other species can contain a harmful number of bacteria.
To stimulate production and cut costs, some may also be inclined to add large number of growth stimulants, herbicides insecticides and antibiotics to the lakes. Again, these harmful chemicals can build up in the plant and pass into the bloodstream of whoever is ingesting them.
if you found a deal for a Spirulina containing product that seems to good to be true, think again. There are no shortcuts. Quality isn't cheap.
Taking shortcuts when it comes to our dog's health can have a terrible risk reward ratio.
Organic Is The Way
One way to ensure purity of Spirulina is to always choose organic growth from a reputable farmer.
Always look for certifications, lab-tested results, or third-party verifications when purchasing spirulina supplements.
In the UK, all supplements should be tested by a UKAS certified laboratory. UKAS is the certification service that ensures the laboratories meet a certain standard.
it's a bit like the MOT for cars. If it doesn't pass it, it's not safe enough to drive on the road.
UKAS does the same job for labs. If they perform the testing on any product, this means that it will be done according to pre-set ISO standards. These are set standards that are made to ensure that the results are accurate.
Also, make sure you only buy from legit companies who have a physical address and contact details available.
By buying organic from reputable companies you are reducing the risk of buying contaminated Spirulina. Doing so ensures that your dog is getting the most benefits from this promising superfood.
What should Spirulina look like?
Due to its blue-green pigments, it should have a unique colour, just like what you see below:
This is the exact Organic Spirulina that we use in our dog teeth cleaning powder. Together with Ascophyllum nodosum and Chlorella, it makes the perfect superfood that cleans dogs' teeth and ensures a healthy mouth.
While the majority of other products lack Spirulina, we have created this unique formulation to share the benefits of this superfood with our beloved pets.
10 Benefits of Spirulina for Dogs (Backed by Evidence)
So now we know what Spirulina is, and how to source safe Spirulina that lacks contaminants. But how can it actually benefit our quadruped family members?
Here are 10 notable benefits that you should know about. I have provided a reputable source for each of these benefits. If you click on the source link, this will take you either to research papers or to high authority health websites.
Muscle Growth and Repair
With 60-70% protein by weight, Spirulina is perfect as a natural vegan source of protein. Protein is the main building block of muscle.
Adding Spirulina to a dog's food may help with their muscle growth, recovery and repair. This was proven most recently in a 2022 study on humans who supplemented their diets with Spirulina, compared to a placebo group. (source)
Improves Energy Levels
Spirulina is a natural source of essential vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, iron, and magnesium. These can support overall health and energy levels.
Note that Spirulina is not at all a stimulant. It therefore won't make your dog hyper active or negatively affect its physiological or mental state. It simply works by replenishing vitamins and minerals that are essential to normal health. (source)
Just like in humans, Spirulina can help immunity in dogs. Antioxidants such as phycocyanin, superoxide dismutase, and beta-carotene, help fortify the immune system.
A robust immune system can better fend off infections and illnesses.
This can help anywhere from improving healing after a graze, to a better long term immune system. (source)
Has Anti Inflammatory properties
Phycocyanin, the blue-green pigment in spirulina has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. This can be beneficial for dogs with conditions like arthritis or allergies. By reducing systemic inflammation, it can provide symptomatic relief, thus reducing reduce inflammation and pain. (source)
The Chlorohyll in Spirulina has been suggested to be beneficial in detoxifying the body.
This can be especially important if a dog has ingested toxins or is recovering from illness. (source)
For the same reason as its anti inflammatory properties, Spirulina can be used for symptomatic relief of allergies.
Whether hay fever, pollen or dust allergy, the symptoms can lower a dog's quality of life. Animal studies actually suggest that Spirulina may also direct block histamine release, thus protecting against allergic reactions. (source)
For added benefit, consider using a Spirulina product in combination with a probiotic for dogs product. The two may provide an even strong synergistic effect in improve your dog's gut health.
Skin and Coat Health
Spirulina has essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals that contribute to a shiny coat and healthy skin.
This can also help in reducing skin issues related to inflammation, dermatitis or allergies. (source)
Supports Eye Health
The beta carotene enzyme in Spirulina is one of the building blocks for eye health.
In studies, beta carotene supplementation has been shown to preserve eye health and prevent age related eye disease. (source)
As mentioned before, Spirulina contains a high number of useful anti oxidants. These mostly come from Phycocyanin which is both rare and valuable to find in nature.
The role of antioxidants is to fight free radicals in the body. These free radicals cause cellular damage and accelerate aging. (source)
Spirulina may therefore have a role in improving longevity of your favourite pet!
I hope this introduction to Spirulina for dogs has been useful.
In my opinion Spirulina is one of the best superfoods out there. There are numerous benefits that dogs can gain from it. However, due to its popularity and high demand, you have to be careful where you source it from.
Always source high-quality, pure Spirulina to avoid potential contaminants. Go for organic when possible, as the slightly higher course can often guarantee better quality control.
If you are interested in our Spirulina containing organic Teeth & Gums product, you can read more about it here.