Jump to section
Flax, also known as common flax or linseed, is grown for a variety of purposes. Fibers from the stem have traditionally been used to make linen; the seeds are processed to make flax meal and oil which is used as a health supplement as well as for some commercial purposes; flax can also be grown as a garden flower. Cultivated flax, Linum usitatissimum is a member of the Linaceae family. It grows about 4 feet (1.2 meters) high with sky blue flowers and a dry round fruit that contains the well-known flax seeds.
Health supplement made from flax are high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. They are believed to reduce the risk of cancer, help heal inflammation, and improve digestive health. Some veterinarians recommend flax supplements for dogs, however there are several things dog owners should consider. Flax seed oil contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil, but it is in a form that is less accessible to dogs. ALA (alphalinolenic acid) in flaxseed oil must be converted to active Omega-3’s (EPA and DHA) to have an anti-inflammatory effect. There is currently no reliable proof that dogs can metabolize ALA, so fish oil (which already has available Omega-3’s) is still considered more effective than flax for treating dogs with chronic inflammation from arthritis or allergies. The other component in flax oil, Omega-6 fatty acids, can improve the health of your pet’s coat, however most pet foods do already contain some Omega-6 supplements.
Additionally, the raw flax plant contains cyanogenic glycosides, so large amounts could result in cyanide poisoning. Processing removes the toxic component, so this is typically only a problem when raw flax meal is used to feed livestock. The FDA and Mayo-Clinic support the safety of flax supplements for humans, within the recommended dosage; however the FDA does not regulate health supplements, so care should be taken to read packaging and research specific products. Recommended doses of flaxseed oil for dogs range from about 1 teaspoon per day for a small dog to 1 tablespoon for a large dog, but you should discuss the best product and dose range for your dog with a veterinarian before beginning treatment.
If your dog overdoses on flaxseed supplement, the adverse effects will typically be limited to vomiting and diarrhea, mainly due to the body’s inability to metabolize that much oil. However, very large amounts could result in poisoning from trace elements of cyanide that were not removed with processing. This is especially true if your dog is very small or has another medical condition that makes it harder for the body to eliminate toxins. Consumption of the raw plant from a garden could also have negative effects, although it would take a large amount to produce significant toxicity. Dermatitis and skin irritation may be associated with topical contact.
The flax plant contains low levels of cyanide producing compounds that make it toxic in large doses. Toxin levels can vary based on variety, season and climate. Cyanogenic glycosides are destroyed with processing, so flax oil and other supplements are safe for dogs, however overdose will still have negative symptoms.
These are some of the symptoms you may see if your dog overdoses on flax. (Extreme symptoms have been produced during research studies).
There are a number of different flax products.
These factors increase the risk of flax poisoning.
Flax poisoning will be diagnosed based on a history of ingestion and symptoms of toxicity. Some side effects like loose stools may be normal if you start your dog on a veterinarian recommended flax supplement. However if there are extreme side effects, or if your dog accidentally overdoses, you should call your veterinarian or a poison helpline for advice. The veterinarian will want to know the size and weight of your dog, any prior medical conditions or current medications, and your best estimate as to how much was ingested. If a very large amount was consumed or you have a very small dog, the veterinarian may ask to see your dog in person. The veterinarian will also be more concerned if your dog is already in poor health. If there are extreme symptoms, like muscle weakness or paralysis, get emergency veterinary treatment as soon as possible.
If you dog ingested a large amount of flaxseed oil, give him some dry dog food help to reduce the oil concentration in the stomach. Vomiting may be induced to limit absorption, but only upon the recommendation of a professional. Mild overdoses won’t require further treatment.
A veterinarian will be able to induce vomiting more safely and effectively than you can at home. If cyanide poisoning is present, immediate treatment will be necessary. Sodium nitrate and sodium thiosulfate will be given as an antidote as well as additional oxygen to supplement breathing.
If your dog has dermatitis from contact with the raw plant, gently wash the affected area. Topical ointments could be necessary for extreme symptoms. Call a veterinarian if the plant is ingested. Most cases won’t require treatment unless there are severe symptoms.
Most dogs will recover from flax poisoning. The risk of cyanide toxicity is more likely if raw flax products are consumed, but it remains extremely rare. Many common foods like almonds, cassava, and soy products contain low levels of cyanide producing compounds, but they can still be consumed safely since it would take such a large amount to have any significant toxic effect.
Flax supplements are typically safe for dogs, although there is still some debate about their effectiveness. It’s not advisable to use these products without the recommendation of a veterinarian. In order to avoid accidental overdose, store all supplements and medications on a high shelf or in a closed cupboard your dog cannot access.
*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.
Flax Poisoning Average Cost
From 447 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000
Protect yourself and your pet. Compare top pet insurance plans.
4 found helpful
Dog ate some type muffin had flaxseed in it..had runs for 1 day and now seems just leaky I can see seed in poop gave her small amount boiled chicken...what else can do? Will she be ok? How long think stay in system?
July 8, 2018
Dr. Michele K. DVM
Feeding D boiled chicken and rice for 2-3 days should help the diarrhea if it is just a stomach upset from the muffin. If she is vomiting, or has a loss of appetite, or the diarrhea isn't getting better over 24 hours, then she should see a veterinarian for treatment.
July 8, 2018
Was this experience helpful?
© 2021 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.
Download the Wag! app
Download the Wag! app