Fatty acids such as Omega-3's are essential for the overall health and wellbeing of dogs. Since they cannot be synthesized, fatty acids must be supplemented to the dog's diet. This page looks at the types of FAs, their functions, signs of fatty acid deficiency, and how dogs can benefit from them.
Fatty acids are specific types of polyunsaturated fats. Two main classes that are of particular importance to our dogs are Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Since these fatty acids cannot be produced by the dog's body, they have to be supplied through the dog's food.
Omega-3 fatty acids include:
Fish oil, such as salmon oil, cod liver oil, and sardine oil, is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA).
Flaxseed oil, hempseed oil, and soybean oil are rich in Omega-3 too, but in the form of ALA. (ALA needs to be converted to EPA and DHA to be of nutritional benefit).
Evening primrose, borage, pumpkin seed, and sunflower oil are rich in Omega-6 fatty acids.
Do fish oil and flaxseed oil provide the same benefits for dogs? Can one substitute the other? There is a lot of contradictory information on the Internet about these two oils. Some sites claim that since flaxseed oil contains more Omega-3 fatty acids and is cheaper than fish oil, it is a good alternative.
But is it really?
Please be sure to see this page to find out!
A lot of processed dog food tend to be high in Omega-6's and low in Omega-3's. If you feed your dog processed food, therefore, there is a high chance that he needs Omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Specifically, if your dog shows the following signs, it is indicative that there is deficiency of fatty acid in his diet:
Fatty acids are beneficial to dogs of all ages and breeds.
Even healthy dogs can benefit from a shinier, healthier coat when they are given fatty acid supplements.
Fatty acids for dogs are particularly effective in helping to improve various health problems.
Here are some canine health problems that can benefit from fatty acids:
Fatty acids, especially EPA, are found to be effective in reducing inflammation associated with arthritis.
Fatty acids for dogs are also effective in alleviating symptoms of other inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
If you think that since you are already feeding your dog a commercial diet that is "complete and balanced", your dog doesn't need Omega-3 FA supplements, then the following study may change your mind.
In a 2004 study1, two groups of pregnant dogs and then their pups were used as their subjects. The study group was put on a "complete and balanced" commercial dog diet plus fish oil. The control group got the same commercial diet without the supplementation.
When the puppies were older, it was found that the training performance index for the study group was more than double that of the control group!
The result should not be surprising because the brain is 60% fat, and up to 5% of that fat is DHA. Earlier research has already shown that increasing dietary DHA increases cognitive ability in lab rats.
So... the question is, are "complete and balanced" commercial diets truly "complete" on their own?1 Iams Partners for Health, Grounding breaking study links diet and learning. Aug. 2004, Vol 2, No. 8 p. 1-3.
Fatty acid supplements are very safe. The most common side effect in dogs is a fish odor to the breath or the skin.
Having said that, dogs with certain health issues should not be given fish oil.
Fish oil has a mild "blood-thinning" effect, so do not feed your dog fish oil if he is on some kind of blood-thinning medications without consultation with a veterinarian. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil may also interact with drugs like blood thinners, and NSAIDs.
Also for dogs with cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy, fish oil supplementation is controversial. A study showed that the fatty acids in fish oil had negative effects on the chemo drugs - the FAs neutralized the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drugs.
Although no tests have been done on dogs, it is better to avoid giving fish oil to dogs undergoing chemo just to be on the safe side.
If you give fish oil to your dog, be sure to also give him vitamin E supplement. Otherwise, he may develop vitamin E deficiency.
How much vitamin E?
This supplement contains salmon oil and is excellent for improving and maintaining health haircoats of our dogs.
This pure salmon oil contains no trans fat, is toxin-free, and is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Dogs usually love the taste of fish oil, and you can just add the oil to your dog's food and your dog can reap all benefits offered by the oil.