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  • Tatiana Victorino, BSc, Food Engineering

What's in a Virchew Bowl? Blog #2: Hemp

The blog is a continuation of our series "What's in a Virchew Bowl?" In this blog, I am going to serve up some valuable information on the benefits of including hemp in your dog's diet, especially with regards to 'healthy fats.'

So, what's up with hemp and dogs?

(Hint: don't worry, it has nothing to do with Snoop Dogg!)

Why should dogs eat hemp seeds?

Before I answer that question, you may be wondering if dogs can eat hemp seeds? Well, the answer is yes! Hemp seeds are not only completely safe for dogs, but these little powerhouses also boast incredible health benefits for your little buddy! A growing number of pet food manufacturers include hemp as a complete, alternative protein. The focus of this blog is to share with you the evidence-based reasons why your dog should consume this super seed!

Hemp seeds, also called hemp hearts, are considered one of the most nutritious superfoods in nature. Both people and pets can benefit from having hemp in their diet. Hemp hearts are considered by many to be the safest, most digestible, balanced, natural and complete source of essential fats, protein, and amino acids found in the world.

Here at Virchew, we are committed to providing high-quality food for dogs. We carefully source the most nutrient-dense ingredients to create our proprietary blend, and hemp is one of them. Because of their high nutritional value and protein content, hemp hearts are essential ingredients in our Love Bowl and Love Cookies. These products are filled with hemp and other plant-powered ingredients to support and promote canine health.

Now, what are Hemp Hearts?

Hulled hemp seeds are also known as shelled hemp, hemp hearts, or hemp nuts. Hemp hearts result from removing the hard outer shell of the hemp seed, and research shows that removing the hull fraction of the hemp seed improves protein digestibility.

Hemp hearts are technically nuts, and they have a mild nutty flavour. These seeds come from the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa L. (scientific name); however, the seeds contain only insignificant amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC which is the psychoactive compound known to cause the drug-like effects of marijuana. The THC level in hemp hearts is well below 0.04% for pet food consumption.

In the last two decades, hemp with a THC content lower than 0.4% has been used as a valuable industrial crop for food in some countries. As a result, whole hemp seeds and derived food products food products have entered the food market for both humans and domesticated animals.

Hemp seeds possess excellent nutritional value and are rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) and omegas-3 and 6. It has significant amounts of protein as other main vegetable sources, like soybeans, and is rich in vitamin E and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulphur, calcium, iron, and zinc.

The table below provides an overview of the nutrient composition per 100 g of hemp hearts:

Find a comprehensive list of nutritional values on the USDA website.

The two primary types of protein in hemp seeds are edestin (65%) and albumin (35%), both have significant amounts of all essential amino acids. Edestin protein is found only in hemp seeds. This protein aids digestion (relatively phosphorus-free) and is considered the backbone of the cell's DNA. Additionally, hemp seeds contain the amino acids arginine and glutamic acid at very high levels and reasonable amounts of the sulphur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine.

Up-and-coming research on edestin protein is very promising, primarily due to its potential for DNA repair. I will dish up more on that in a later blog, which will be specifically on plant-based proteins. Stay tuned!

Hemp is Healthy for Your Pooch

Hemp hearts are incredibly nutritious, full of healthy fats, proteins, and minerals. As we noted, they are an excellent inclusion into your dog's complete and balanced diet. These healthy seeds have over 40% fat and contain the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (necessary to regulate inflammatory responses and reduce the risk of chronic diseases). In addition, dogs can eat hemp seeds for the high sources of omega-6 fatty acid known as gamma-linolenic acid. These have many benefits for dogs, like possible cancer prevention and reduced joint pain. In addition, the anti-inflammatory fat, high-quality plant protein, and broad range of minerals and vitamins found in hemp foods make them excellent nutritious food with extra health benefits.

Moreover, hemp is a complete protein source, which means it has all the amino acids essential to a balanced diet. The hemp protein profile is rare, as plants often lack the amino acid lysine.

Benefits of Hemp Hearts!

  • Healthy skin and shinier coat

The polyunsaturated and essential fatty acids found in hemp hearts can aid itchiness, relieve dry skin, and can reduce the need for skin medication. The optimal ratio of polyunsaturated fatty acids helps to reduce inflammation and skin diseases.

  • Reduction in joint inflammation

The right amount of omega-6 in a dog's diet, specifically gamma-linolenic acid, is associated with reducing inflammation. The perfect balance (seen in hemp) can help joint care, by reducing symptoms caused by arthritis and obesity.

  • Healthy heart

Like humans, dogs are susceptible to developing cardiac problems. For this reason, it's crucial to take proper steps to promote optimal health. Incorporating hemp into your dog's diet could promote heart health due to its essential fatty acids.

Hemp contains arginine, the amino acid responsible for producing nitric oxide in the body, which helps dilate and relax blood vessels. Research shows that increased arginine intake can decrease C-reactive protein levels, an inflammatory marker linked to heart disease. Additionally, a healthy amount of nitric oxide can reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of developing heart disease.

  • Additional health benefits

Furthermore, consuming hemp is shown to strengthen the immune system, support healthy organ function, and positively affect cognitive function and fertility.

Hemp Hearts & Dog Health

I hope this blog has served up some important information about the nutritional benefits of hemp hearts in supporting your dog's health. Virchew bowls and treats are packed with hemp and other whole ingredients making them the ultimate powerhouses for canine plant-based nutrition!

Did you miss my previous blog on Algae for Dogs? Fetch it here.


Tatiana Victorino is Virchew's Lead - Operations & Research. She received her BS in Food Engineering at UNICAMP, an internationally recognized center of academic excellence in Brazil and also holds a BCIT Operations Management certificate. With over 5-years of professional experience working in the food and beverage manufacturing industries, Tatiana has gained dynamic expertise in process design and improvement, lean manufacturing, business operations, quality assurance, and research and development. Tatiana's background is invaluable as she works with Virchew's Veterinary Partnerships, nutrition programs and product R&D. Got a question for Tatiana? She would love to hear from you. Email her at


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