Have you noticed the rising popularity of hemp-based products in recent years? The vast number of health benefits derived from the hemp plant is becoming increasingly apparent, leading to this growing demand. And those benefits aren't just for humans. Hemp products have made their way into the pet care sector too.
Hemp seed oil is one such product. Like other oils that can be helpful for pets — fish oil, flaxseed oil, and even olive oil — hemp seed oil boasts a range of health benefits for your pet companion.
Some pet owners are turned off by the word "hemp,” mistakenly assuming that it has psychoactive effects and wouldn't be safe for their pets. But this couldn't be further from the truth. Hemp seed oil is perfectly safe and can improve your pet’s health and wellness in many ways.
But what exactly is hemp seed oil, and how is it different from other oils extracted from the hemp plant? Read on to learn more about hemp seed oil and what it can do for your furry friend.
What is hemp seed oil?
Hemp seed oil is obtained by pressing seeds of the hemp plant. When cold-pressed, the hemp seed oil appears greenish in colour with a nutty flavour. Unlike other methods to extract oil, cold-pressed hemp seed oil retains its flavour, aroma, nutritional and therapeutic value.
Hemp seeds are a good source of essential nutrients such as protein, fatty acids, fibre, vitamins and minerals, without excess calories, starches and sugars.
Essential Fatty Acids
Hemp seed oil is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, comprising approximately 35% of the seed. One tablespoon of hemp seed oil contains around 14 grams of fat, of which only 1 gram is saturated. This low saturated fat content is another excellent benefit of using hemp seed oil instead of animal fats.
More specifically, hemp seed oil typically contains:
- High amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, oleic acid, linoleic acid (LA / omega-6), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA / omega-3) and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). The LA: ALA ratio usually exists in hemp seed oil at a 3:1 level. This proportion has been proposed to be ideal for a healthy diet.
- Hemp is currently one of the very few natural food sources of GLA, i.e., not requiring the consumption of the extracted dietary supplement. GLA is an essential anti-inflammatory fat; it also regulates hormones and supports healthy skin and coat. GLA is considered “conditionally essential.” That means pets need to get GLA from their diet. LA converts to GLA, but this conversion needs a specific enzyme (D6D) and five essential nutrients (magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin B3, and vitamin B6), all of which are abundant in hemp seed oil.
The hemp seed oil also contains all of the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) and surprisingly high levels of the amino acid arginine, a metabolic precursor for the production of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule now recognised as a pivotal signalling messenger in the cardiovascular system that participates in the control of haemostasis, fibrinolysis, platelet and leukocyte interactions with the arterial wall, regulation of vascular tone, the proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells, and homeostasis of blood pressure.
Essential Minerals and Vitamins
Hemp seeds are packed with Vitamin E (antioxidant), C and B and all essential minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulphur, calcium, iron, and zinc.
Significant Amount of Soluble and Insoluble Fibre
Hemp seeds typically contain 27% carbohydrates, primarily fibre, and therefore serve as a good source of dietary fibre to help promote healthy digestion.
As such, the hemp seed oil is an excellent dietary supplement to support and bolster your pet’s health in myriad ways.1. Support the Immune System and Regulate Inflammatory Response
Hemp seed oil can act as an effective anti-inflammatory agent because of its balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Inflammation is a natural response by the body, and your pet should have some level of inflammation in response to injuries, infections, allergies, and other ailments, but if inflammation continues for weeks, months or years, becoming chronic, it will cause your pet’s immune function to decline gradually.
The optimal balance of the fatty acids in the hemp seed oil can help regulate the inflammatory response and reduce the excess. Since pets can’t manufacture these fatty acids endogenously, they should receive them through a well-balanced diet. If there is any doubt or you would like extra support for your aging dog or cat or if they suffer from chronic inflammation, consider hemp seed oil as a daily dietary supplement.2. Support Skin and Coat Health
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are also beneficial for your pet’s skin. Hemp seed oil is an increasingly common ingredient in cosmetics and soaps made for humans. Many pet parents turn to shampoo and conditioner products that contain hemp seed oil to improve their fur babies’ coat health. A veterinarian may also recommend hemp seed oil as a dietary supplement to help with inflammatory skin conditions like atopic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and skin allergies.
For a closer look at the causes and symptoms of inflammatory skin conditions, read Sensitive Skin, Allergies or Atopic Dermatitis?
3. Hip and joint support
Hemp seed oil is becoming a very popular supplement for people and pets. The omega-3 and GLA (gamma-linoleic acid) found in hemp seed oil are known for their ability to fight inflammation in conditions such as osteoarthritis.
Arthritis usually sets in when dogs begin to age, but it can affect a dog at any age. Weight can contribute to the early onset of arthritis: excess weight can put significant pressure on a pet’s bones and joints, causing damage. When the joints become damaged, joint cartilage starts to degrade. Then, chronic inflammation sets in, leading to painful swelling and discomfort in the joints.
Hemp seed oil can help manage the symptoms of arthritis through the actions of the fatty acids by reducing inflammation and painful swelling.
In human studies, hemp seed oil has been shown to reduce anxieties and disorders like PTSD through a combination of effects of the anti-inflammatory actions of the fatty acids, the antioxidant actions of Vitamin E and the anti-depressant actions of phytosterols and there’s strong evidence to support similar effects in our pet companions.
5. Gut health
Gut health is as important in our pets as it is in humans. Chronic bowel inflammation due to environmental, dietary and infectious factors can lead to pancreas and liver problems if left untreated. Hemp seed oil may help combat inflammation and ease symptoms of chronic bowel disturbances such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
6. Heart health
The hemp seed oil is cardioprotective. Rich in linoleic acid, hemp seed oil helps reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Lowering LDL levels (bad cholesterol) reduces the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.
7. Brain health
Brains love fatty acids! The more, the better. The essential fatty acids and polyphenols in hemp seed oil can help improve memory and slow down age-related brain function decline.