Can Dogs Eat Safflower Bird Seed?

The scavenger side of your dog drives her to taste-test the most unlikely things. Since when do dogs eat seeds? But there she is, a bit of tell-tale evidence still clinging to her nose and mouth. She got into your supply of safflower bird seed while you were busy refilling the bird feeder. She's not likely to be harmed by the brief foray, but you'll prevent further access to the seeds. Safflower is a seed-oil crop that's useful in the human diet. It's food. Still, safflower bird seed is not a food for your dog.

Safflower Seed Is for the Birds

Squirrels would deny safflower seed is a food. They dislike its bitter taste. That makes safflower seed a popular alternative to sunflower seed for feeding wild birds. The squirrels and some unwanted bird species tend to leave the feeder's contents to the cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers that bird watchers prefer to see at the feeder. Your dog would vote with the squirrels if she chewed some of the seeds, but of course she gulped them down whole.

Safflower Is Human Food

The flavorless oil extracted from safflower seeds contains high levels of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin E. Safflower oil is used primarily in salad dressings and mayonnaise, as well as in margarine and cooking oil. Some cooks use safflower petals in place of saffron, an unrelated plant, for color and flavor. Safflower oil is a good choice for stir-frying or sauteing, and can be used in baking. The safflower meal that remains after the oil is extracted from the seeds is fed to livestock. Safflower oil also is valuable for some non-food uses, such as in the manufacture of paints.

Safflower Oil Can Benefit Your Dog

Like you, your canine pal must get omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in her diet. Commercial dog foods generally contain these essential nutrients in adequate quantity. If your dog has a dull coat or dry, itchy skin, adding a small amount of safflower oil to her diet may help, but it's important to consult your veterinarian first. He will diagnose the problem properly, and advise how much to use if he agrees safflower oil would be helpful.

Seeds Are Not for Dogs

Your dog will not derive any use from eating safflower bird seed. Most bird seed is sold with the hull on; the hard, white hulls of safflower seeds will pass through your dog unchanged. Still, a dog who decides to gulp down a very large quantity of safflower bird seed could be at risk for a potentially fatal gastrointestinal obstruction. Seeds may swell or become clumped together, unable to pass through the digestive tract. In such a case, your dog will require a quick trip to the vet. Emergency surgery may be necessary to remove the obstruction.

Moldy Bird Seed

Dropped seeds and discarded hulls can pile up under your bird feeder, mixing with sticks, leaves and bird wastes. Your canine pal may consider this interesting mix a wonderful treasure trove, but the fungus growing on rotting seed and other wastes could produce mycotoxins that will poison your dog, according to Leslie Sinn, DVM, a professor in the vet tech program at Northern Virginia Community College in Sterling, Virginia. Salmonella poisoning also is possible if your dog ingests bird droppings along with the old seeds and hulls. Seek immediate veterinary care if your pal becomes ill after scavenging under the feeder. Tell your vet that your dog has ingested old bird seed.

Protect Your Dog

Dogs do tend to be indiscriminate eaters, and their memories are good. If you discover that your dog has developed a fondness for safflower seed or other bird seeds, it's best to hang your bird feeder in a place she can't easily access. Rake the area under the feeder and dispose of the wastes in a compost pile or other secure receptacle. Be sure to store your supply of safflower and other bird seed out of your dog's reach.