While seaweed may not seem an obvious choice for your dog or cat’s diet, it’s actually the ultimate health complement.
Seaweed is one of the most nutrient-dense and environmentally-sustainable crops on the planet. In addition to being one of the richest sources of minerals and protein (amino acids), seaweed also possesses a range of medicinal characteristics, including anticancer and anti-inflammatory activity and can produce thicker, shinier coats, enhanced immunity and energy as well as improved digestion.
Seaweed - especially kelp - has a very long history of being included in animal food. Early animal caretakers observed that feeding their animals seaweed resulted in advantages such as improved coat shine, greater resistance to infection, as well as increased reproduction in farmed animals.
It wasn't until more recently that scientists began to understand why seaweed is so healthy for animals (as well as humans). It turns out that seaweeds are a rich source of chelated minerals -- in fact, seaweed contains 10 to 20 times the concentration of minerals found in land plants, and are in a form that is more easily absorbed.
Where most commercial pet foods contain all the minerals that are essential for pets, they typically exist in an "inorganic" versus "chelated" form, which simply means that the minerals included in most commercial cat food aren't as readily available as are chelated minerals.
Additionally, seaweeds are a source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, including arachidonic acid (an omega 6 fatty acid that is essential for cats) and α-linolenic acid (an omega 3 fatty acid required by dogs).
Most recently, seaweeds have been found to be an excellent source of prebiotics, which have been found to help promote growth of many of the good bacteria while at the same time inhibiting growth of certain pathogenic bacteria. The presence of prebiotics is one of the reasons seaweed is thought to help keep animals healthier and more resistant to infection.
So while cats and dogs didn’t evolve to eat seaweed, many veterinarians and scientists regard seaweed as an extremely healthy addition to our pets' diets.
All species of seaweed have their own unique nutritional advantages so ideally look for seaweed supplements that include a blend of multiple species to maximize the goodness delivered to your pet. The best blends will include dulse, nori, sea lettuce, wakame, kombu, longicruris and knotted wrack. You will also want to ensure that the seaweed is human-grade, sustainably-harvested and sun-dried.