Are Sunflower Seeds Poisonous to Dogs? Cats and Other Pets?

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I’m honored in having pets all through my childhood and adult life, including dogs and cats. And I too, like all pet owners, have had the worry of whether or not one of my furry friends has eaten something dangerous, accidental or otherwise. And sunflower seeds were on that list.

So, are sunflower seeds poisonous to dogs, or cats. No, they are not in most circumstances, according to The ASPCA and The RSPCA. Make sure the sunflower seeds are washed as impurities may be on them. Take the shells off so they eat the kernels (sunflower hearts) only, and if shop bought, make sure they are the unsalted and unflavored variety.

Cats and dogs can enjoy sunflower seeds as a snack, or a treat. They have so much nutritional value. They are full of vitamins A, D, E and B complex along with unsaturated fats, iron, zinc, and are also a good source of fibre and protein.

Sunflower seeds are a fantastic food source for other household pets too. I have been feeding my pets on the delights of my sunflowers for years. I also let the wild life in my garden get their fair share of tasty sunflower treats too. And if this interests you too please read my What Animals and Bugs are attracted to Sunflowers here

Sunflowers are a big part of my life. I grow them for many reasons. The whole plant is a gold mine to the environment and have many uses in my home. I grow them for many reasons and for decades I have taken this for granted.

So I thought I could share and explore what pets can benefit from our, glorious, bountiful blooms too.

‘So let me lead you on to see,
…what the sunflower seeds can also feed’.
Pamela Anne

What Pets Might Eat Sunflower Seeds?

We are not alone in enjoying tasty sunflower kernels. Some of our household pets can enjoy them as a treat too. Pets such as…

Dogs, Cats, Guinea Pigs, Rabbits,
Chinchillas, Gerbils, Rats, Mice,
Hamsters, Parrots, Chickens,
Mini Pigs, Doves, Sugar Gliders.

Some pets are quite happy to eat them with the shells on. If you’ve harvested your own sunflowers and you leave the shells on, just remember to first wash them in clean, running water to rid them of any ‘unpleasantries’. And if you are buying from a shop, make sure they’re an unsalted and the unflavoured variety.

I have grown lots of sunflowers for their seeds for my family and pets to enjoy. I have dogs, cats and many other pets too. Having experienced my own pets around sunflowers I know what I need to look out for. Hopefully I’ll give some guidance to you too. But If you have any doubt as to whether your pet can eat sunflower seeds, or you have concerns for their health, getting your vets guidance is more important. or similar authority website is always a good source too.

When Is It Ok for Pets to Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Sunflowers seeds are packed full of nutrients, whether you have grown your own sunflower seeds for your pets, or shop bought them, the natural unprocessed shelled or unshelled varieties are fine.

The outer shell is basically fibre. Most of our clever, endearing rodent pets are handy at splitting the shells, discarding them and feasting on the inner softer kernel.

Dogs and cats don’t have the ability to take off the shells off sunflower seeds and this may cause problems, please see below. Therefore it is better that you shell the seeds before giving cats, dogs and other pets that are unable to shell sunflower seeds for themselves.

Cats and dogs skin and fur can benefit from the fatty acids that are found in sunflower kernels.

Cats like Sunflower Seeds too

When Is It NOT Ok for Pets to Eat Sunflowers Seeds

Sunflowers with their shells on are not suitable for dogs and cats. The shells are rough and sometimes hard for pets to break down if they don’t chew them properly,  this can cause some pets to have stomach problems. So ideally you should shell the seeds for them.

Shop bought sunflower seeds that are salted and flavoured are not suitable for your pets. These could include, added oils processed salts, herbs and spices that could irritate and harm them.

Sunflower seeds are high in calories, too many on a daily basis could cause weight gain in your pet, so sunflower seeds should be given as a treat and in moderation.

If you’ve fed your dog or cat sunflower seeds with shells on, please keep an eye on them for any problems they might have.

Concerned Your Pet Has Eaten Too Many Sunflower Seeds

I am not a vet and have only my own experiences as a loving pet owner to guide you. So, any concerns you have about your pet’s health, after eating sunflower seeds, get in touch with your vet and seek their advice. I’d recommend contacting them for symptoms such as…

  • Vomiting or a Change in Appetite
  • Change in bowel movement
  • Incontinence or Urinating more frequently
  • Change in behaviour
  • Lethargy
  • Excess drinking
  • Drooling
  • Upset stomach
  • Laboured breathing
  • Difficulty in moving around
  • Dizziness,  Shakiness or Stumbling
  • Signs of blood

What to Do If You’re Concerned

If any of your pets are acting in an unusual way or you have any uncertainties about their condition call your vet straight away. Or at the very least refer to the petMD website to try and find out more information

Protecting Your Sunflowers

If you are growing your sunflowers as a crop for your family and pets here are a few environmentally friendly ways to provide protection for your sunflowers from the wilds of nature.

While We need a way in for the  pollinators to visit our sunflowers, for the production of the seeds, here are a few ways to defend your crop from some of the more agile wild life that might scurrying away with your tasty treats. And by the way, if there are no seeds on your sunflower, then this is why

Protecting my sunflower seeds till harvest time
  • Build a frame work around your plants to support fruit netting, chicken wire or other mesh
  • Once pollination has taken place try covering the flower head with a fine cloth such as cotton or cheese cloth. Tie it loosely at the top of the stem. This will keep birds at bay  from the ripening seeds.
  • As the seeds become close to maturity harvest the sunflower head early. Hang the flower head upside down in a dry  place, indoors and away from wildlife. The seeds are ready when the back of the sunflower head turns brown.
A lovely free lunch !

My Conclusion.

I wrote this with a question I get asked a lot ‘Are Sunflower seeds poisonous to my Dog, or my Cat’ and so felt I needed to expand on it. I wanted to include other pets and the benefits for them too. Plus I wanted to include any doubts you might have too. Hopefully this has been helpful to you. I also get asked what wild animals are eating their carefully grown sunflowers and seeds, you can read about this here.

I hope I have been helpful with this topic

Sunflowers are seasonally glorious. The plant, as well as the seeds are a nutritionally valuable treat to ourselves and our pets. And something my whole household enjoy.

Related Questions

Are Sunflower Seeds Poisonous to My Puppy or Kitten?

No, they are not. However. First take the shells off and give them the soft sunflower heart, or kernel, as a tasty treat or a small part of a healthy diet. The seed shells are quite rough and and can be sharp in their mouths and throats. Also, if the sunflower seeds are shop bought it is recommended that they are the unsalted, unflavored variety. Sunflower hearts contains vitamins A, D, E and B complex along with unsaturated fats, iron, zinc, fibre and proteins.

I am not a vet or an authority in this subject other than my extensive experience. So if you have any doubts about the well-being of your pet please don’t hesitate and get in contact with your pets vet.

Are Sunflowers Poisonous to Horses?

No they are not. Although the shells can be sharp and it is advisable to just feed them the sunflower heart as a treat. The shells are hard to digest and may cause irritations. Make sure shop bought seeds are unsalted and flavour free. If I have the slightest doubts about my pets health I contact my vet without delay.

Are Sunflowers Good for Cats and Dogs

Yes they can be. Given as a small treat, alongside their healthy diet. It is recommended that you take the shells off and do not give them salted and flavoured varieties. Sunflower seeds are full of vitamins, minerals and unsaturated fats. they help  give some pets healthy skin and glossier coats.

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