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Top Uses and Benefits of Lignans for Dogs

This is a collaborative post

Many dog owners prefer to go the natural way when it comes to their furry friends’ health. Not saying that the classic medical treatments are not needed, especially when there are some serious problems (like cancer or Cushing’s), but some homeopathic remedies can help along the way. Compounds found in plants can be very effective and have proven time and again how beneficial they are. One such effective “natural remedy” are lignans.

Lignans are a type of polyphenols found in plants, especially in seeds, nuts, legumes, whole grains, tree barks, and some vegetables. The richest sources of lignans for dogs are found in flax-seed, especially in the husk – SDG (Secoisolariciresinol diglucoside) lignans, and HMR (7-hydroxymatairesinol) lignans from Norwegian spruce tree bark.

The HMR lignan comes from the knots of the Norway Spruce Pine tree, and compared to the SDG lignan type, there is 20 times the amount of lignan in the husk than in the whole flax-seed. Since flax-seed is a natural supplement it is safe for your dog and has no known side effects. This is especially important when it comes to serious problems such as Cushing’s, where usual therapy is quite aggressive, and the lignan (and melatonin) supplements sound like a better option.

The flex husk lignan contains Secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG) as its active ingredient, and when digested, the gut bacteria breaks it down into two mammalian lignans known as Enterolactone (ENL), which can be found in tissues, and Enterodiol (END). They mimic some of the effects of oestrogen and this is why they are classified as Phytoestrogens. The HMR type of lignan forms only Enterolactone (ENL) in the gut.

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Hormone Balance

A study found that lignans combined with melatonin can help lower the concentration of steroid hormones like cortisol in the system. This has great benefits for dogs who suffer from Cushing’s syndrome.

Cushing’s disease (or Hyperadrenocorticism) is an endocrine disorder, where the hormone cortisol levels are increased because it’s been over-produced by dysfunctional adrenal glands. It usually affects older dogs and it’s not always easy to diagnose since it resembles some other disorders, or it gets attributed to old age.

Your dog can get Cushing’s in 3 ways:

  1. Having a small tumour on the pituitary gland – the most common kind, found in over 80% of dogs and it’s mostly benign;
  2. Having a small tumour on the adrenal gland – found in about 15% of dogs;
  3. Getting it after taking steroids in high doses and/or for longer periods of time, especially steroids given as a treatment for asthma or arthritis (very common among older dogs).

Symptoms include increased need for food, drink, and urination, they become less active or lethargic, have weakened immune system, high blood pressure and an abdominal growth like they have a pot belly, hair and skin deterioration in the form of hair loss, skin thinning and infections, etc., and constant panting.

Gut Health

A healthy gut microbiome helps to keep inflammation under control and fight chronic diseases (eg. Cushing’s). Combining probiotics specially made for dogs with lignans and other supplements can be very beneficial for dogs’ gut health. When probiotics get paired up with lignan (SDG) and melatonin, they help increase their absorption in the body, which in turn helps them to better suppress adrenal cortisol production and restore the balance of corticosteroid imbalances such as in Cushing’s disease.

Having a well-balanced microbiome means more vitality for your dog. And for a dog with Cushing’s the benefits are even greater. With keeping the inflammation down, and being more gentle on the stomach than the chemotherapy medication, this combination of probiotics and supplements (lignan and melatonin), with some dietary adjustments, can perhaps be a better solution for your dog. You can even try it together with chemo or any other treatment, but, of course, that is something you should discuss with your vet first.

puppy looking up


Dogs’ diabetes and Cushing’s disease go hand in hand because cortisol affects blood sugar, so increased cortisol levels also mean increased blood sugar. If Cushing’s goes untreated and becomes chronic, it can lead to permanent diabetes. That’s why lignans with melatonin are recommended by vets to inhibit cortisol overproduction, which in turn helps stabilise the blood sugar levels.

Immune System

Lignans are antioxidants, and combining that with their ability to balance hormones means that they are a great support and boost for the immune system. Adding lignans to your dogs’ diet means that their immune system and overall functioning will surely improve. It can also help your dog move more, have better skin and fur, and reduce inflammation, which can help with arthritis, allergies, infections, and other problems related to it. 

Cardiovascular System

Lignans are phytoestrogens, which means that they are a compound found in plants that have oestrogen traits. Oestrogen is considered to have cardio-protective properties, which means it can reduce blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and lower triglyceride which is good for the cardiovascular system of your dog.

Cancer Reduction

Even though more research is needed for definitive confirmation and more details, it’s clear that lignans’ antioxidative and oestrogen properties can help in the prevention of various cancers, especially mammary gland tumours. That’s mainly attributed to lignans being phytoestrogens.

Flax-seed lignans (SDG) have shown the ability to reduce the number of tumours, their size, and the spreading degree of cancer cells. Also, HMR lignans, when used as a supplement, can contribute to other health benefits with little to no side effects.

dog lying on his back

Canine Alopecia X

Alopecia X is a skin condition where a dog starts losing its hair, the fur stops growing but without inflammation or an itching sensation. It affects both neutered/spayed dogs and those that are not, whether they are male or female. The areas of the skin with no hair get darker (grey/black) in colour. Vets are recommending flex husk (SDG) lignans combined with melatonin for treating dogs’ alopecia X.

Final Thoughts

Lignans are not a part of your dogs’ standard diet if you’re buying processed food from the store, you need to add them in yourself. Lignans have been associated with many positive health effects, whether it’s making your dog’s gut, bones, skin, and hair healthier, or helping with more serious matters like diabetes, cardiovascular and immunity issues, some forms of cancer, and especially Cushing’s disease. 

Even though lignans have no side-effects and can be part of the regular dietary regime for your dog, you should still discuss them first with your vet, and they can help you decide whether you should include lignans, what type would be best for your dogs’ breed, size, and issues, and what dosage is recommended. It’s up to you to keep your furry friend healthy, and lignans can certainly help you with that.

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post

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