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Hemp as a Nutraceutical for Animals

by Kelly Smith

 

   

Hemp is one of our oldest and most versatile plants and has been documented as far back as the 28th century BC. Cannabis sativa, which is the Latin term for “useful Hemp” has made a comeback in the food, construction and textile industries and Canada is leading the way. The oil pressed from the Hemp seeds contains the highest concentration of essential fatty acids (Omega 6, Omega 3 and GLA) of any all natural plant source. In addition, the Hemp seed is also very high in digestible protein. There is increasing scientific evidence that Omega 3 and Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids may play important roles in animals with conditions such as pruritic skin disease, atopic dermatitis, allergies, degenerative joint disease, neoplasia, thromboembolic disease and eosinophilic granuloma complex. Hemp seed oil, as a supplement or ingredient in dog and cat food is showing great promise. Furthermore, the nutritional composition found in Hempseed meal is showing great promise as an addition to both small and large animal feed.

The good fats in Hemp seed oil is truly unique. Approximately 80% is polyunsaturated fat - the highest of any vegetable oil. Specifically, it contains the Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) Linoleic Acid (Omega 6) and Alpha Linolenic Acid (Omega 3) in an ideal ratio for absorption by the body. These EFAs, considered good fats, cannot be produced by the body and therefore must be obtained from our diets. Hemp seed oil also contains Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), from which Omega 6 is naturally converted. Diets and sluggish enzyme activity often impair this conversion and cause GLA deficiency. Hemp seed oil solves this problem. No other single source oil has this ideal combination of EFAs.

Omega 6 (Linoleic Acid) and Omega 3 (Alpha Linolenic Acid) work together within the body. They are converted via enzymes through a chain of events to produce prostaglandins.

Potential Animal Applications

There is increasing scientific evidence that Omega 3 and Omega 6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids also play important roles in animals with conditions such as pruritic skin disease, atopic dermatitis, allergies, degenerative joint disease, neoplasia, thromboembolic disease and eosinophilic granuloma complex.

Studies to date have been done using flax, evening primrose oil and fish oil with mixed results. Study design has also been a problem with many lacking placebo control groups. In general, studies using a combination of evening primrose and fish oil (GLA and Omega 3) showed the most promising results. As we know, Omega 3 and 6 work in combination with in the body and an excess of one can lead to a depletion of the other. This can occur with using fish or flax oil exclusively. Long term supplementation with omega-3 may lead to a deficiency of omega-6 and reduce the anti-inflammatory potential of Linoleic Acid and its metabolites. Further, high doses of Omega 3 may also alter platelet function to the extent that hemostasis is impaired with significant increases in bleeding times. Likewise, excessive doses of omega-6 can lead to a depletion of omega-3 and its beneficial effects.

This area deserves a great deal of further research. Questions to be answered include: what is the normal ratio of essential fatty acids stored within the body of the animal and what is the ideal ratio of a supplement? What we do know is that Omega 6 and Omega 3 are required by every cell for proper functioning. We also know that Hemp contains a well-balanced ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 and it also contains GLA.

The introduction of polyunsaturated fats into pet food has developed considerable interest in the last few years. The problem being that these fats are inherently unstable and the food becomes rancid quite quickly. This is especially true of flax. Some foods have used marine or fish products and here the problem lies in potential heavy metal toxicity. Hemp would be an excellent addition to pet food based on its high levels of antioxidants thereby providing a natural preservative and a balanced omega-6 : omega-3 ratio. Another area of interest is the protein in Hemp and this area deserves more research. As noted previously the protein in Hemp is easily digested and could possibly be an alternate or supplemental source of protein in the food.

Hemp seed cake can also be used as feed for farm animals. “Omega 3” eggs have become immensely popular in the supermarkets as individuals are striving for healthier diet and Hemp is a viable alternative to flax in this area.

A further application lies in blending the seed cake into the concentrate portion of large animal feed. Hemptons' Hemp seed cake was analyzed by an independent lab in New York with the following results:

  •   32.2 % crude protein

  •   32.3 % adjusted crude protein

  •   24 % soluble protein

  •   31.8 % acid fiber

These results are very amenable to blending into a concentrate. A further benefit is that Hemp is grown without pesticides or herbicides and is not genetically modified (in comparison to canola). Anecdotally, we know that the animals love the Hemp. Pig, chicken and goat farmers in our area all report back that the animals go “crazy” for the Hemp meal.

A final note is that Hemp is now being used as hypoallergenic bedding in farms. This has great potential in terms of double cropping.

Hemp Seed Oil and Hemp Seed Cake (meal) has great potential in the animal industry. Immediate applications include the addition of Hemp meal and its protein into animal food/concentrates and the oil as a supplement. Future areas of research and application need to involve clinical trials and specific essential fatty acid research in the animal model.

References :

Bauer, J.E., ” The Potential for dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements in domestic animals,” Aust. Vet. J.1994 71,342-345.

Bond, R., et al, ” A double-blind comparison of olive oil and a combination of evening primrose oil and fish oil in the management of canine atopy,” Vet Rec 1992 Dec 12;131(24):558-60.

Bright et al, “The effects of n-3 fatty acid supplementation on bleeding time, plasma fatty acid composition, and in vitro platelet aggregation in cats,” J. Vet. Internal Med 1994 8,247-252.

Campbell, K., et al, “Clinical use of fatty acid supplements in dogs,” Veterinary Dermatology 1993 4,167-173.
Harvey, R.G. “Effect of varying proportions of evening primrose oil and fish oil on cats with crusting dermatosis (military dermatitis),” Vet Rec 1993 Aug 28;133(9):208-11.

Harvey, R.G. “A blinded, placebo-controlled study of the efficacy of borage seed oil and fish oil in the management of canine atopy,” Vet Rec 1999 Apr 10;144(15):405-7.

Olivry, T., et al, “The ACVD task force on canine atopic dermatitis (XXIII): are essential fatty acids effective?” Vet Immunol Immunopathol 2001 Sept 20;81(3-4):347-62.

Rees, C.A., et al, “Effects of dietary flax seed and sunflower seed supplementation on normal canine serum polyunsaturated fatty acids and skin and hair coat condition scores”, Vet Dermatol. 2001 Apr 12(2):111-7.

Ziboh, V.A., Lipid metabolism, inflammatory mediator pathways, dietary intervention with Omega 6 fatty acids, Proceedings of the 13th Veterinary Medical Forum, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, pp 456-460.

 

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This Page was last updated on : 2009-03-27

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