Sunflower oil seems harmless enough: It’s compressed from sunflower seeds, which come from sunflowers, and it’s high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are lauded for making your pup’s fur soft and shiny. Must be a slam dunk, right? Not so fast, says Dr. Babette Gladstein, a veterinarian based in New York. Sometimes oils—even ones that are plant-based—can be deceiving. Here, Glastein weighs the pros and cons of sunflower oil and whether or not you should be giving it to your pup.
Sunflower oil is rich in omega-6, an essential fatty acid that must be gotten through food (your dog’s body cannot make it). Omega-6’s help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain the reproductive system, and promote a healthy immune system. When used topically, sunflower oil can be good for your dog’s paws, especially when they’re dry in the winter (use about one teaspoon daily for medium dogs). Sunflower oil is also hydrating for your pup’s fur, making it smoother and shinier, and will soften his skin, Gladstein says. Bonus: it’s relatively inexpensive, and it’s low in saturated fat.
According to Gladstein, there are many, and she believes the concerns outweigh the benefits, especially if you’re thinking of giving your dog sunflower oil on a long-term basis. The big problem is that sunflower oil is incredibly high in omega-6—and while omega-6 is good, it needs to be in proper proportion to omega-3, Gladstein says. “If your dog isn’t getting the right ratio, it’ll cause a cell response that could negatively impact the immune system,” she says. The lower the ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s, the better, with a 5-to-1 ratio being ideal. Any higher could cause inflammation and other immune issues, which could suppress cells that fight cancer.
The Bottom Line
“There’s a lot of hype about supplements without understanding the underlying science of it,” Gladstein says. Rather than deciding to give your dog various oils because they’re good for different parts of their body (for example, sunflower oil can help with their fur and skin), Gladstein suggests sticking to a single oil supplement that’s already been formulated with the proper amounts of omega-3s and omega-6s. That way, your dog will be soft, shiny—and healthy.
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