Go into just about any grocery or health food store and chances are, you’ll see fish oil supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids. And while you might think fish oil is only beneficial to humans, fish oil for dogs has certain health benefits, as well.1
Here’s some information on how fish oil works, and a few of the reasons why you might want to consider giving it to your beloved companion.
Fish Oil for Dogs 101
Fish oils contain two omega-3 fatty acids which are produced when fish feed on algae.2 The first is an essential fatty acid known as eicosapentaenoic acid(EPA) and the second is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Dogs are unable to create their own omega-3 fatty acids so they have to get them either through diet or supplementation.3
An omega-3 essential fatty acid known as alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, is found in many vegetable oils. These include soybean, walnut, canola, and flaxseed oils. However, while humans can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, dogs cannot. That’s why the best way to ensure your dog gets the essential fatty acids they need is to supplement their diet with fish oil.4
Dogs convert EPA and DHA into compounds known as Series 1 and Series 3 prostaglandins, which help to inhibit inflammation. But there are other prostaglandins, (Series 2) that actually promote inflammation. For instance, an omega-6 fatty acid known as arachidonic acid, forms Series 2 prostaglandins. The more omega-3 fatty acids a dog has in its system, the better job they will be able to do of balancing out the series 2 prostaglandins. As a result, there will be less risk of your dog suffering from inflammatory ailments. Inflammation can lead to many types of health problems in your dog. These include joint, kidney, and even heart issues.5
There are several health benefits associated with omega-3 essential acids. Here are just a few of them:
· Joint problems –
Omega-3 fatty acids have properties that can help dogs suffering from joint issues. In one study, 127 dogs with arthritis ate a diet supplemented with fish oil. According to the results, the dogs showed a substantial improvement in their ability to get up from a resting position. They also showed marked improvement in both walking and playing.6
· Skin problems –
Fish oil also shows promise in dogs with skin allergies. In a study involving 16 dogs with itchy skin, one group received fish oil, while the other received a placebo. The study showed the dogs who consumed fish oil had an improved coat and less itching than the placebo group.7
· Cognitive issues –
Many older dogs develop cognitive problems, much like humans. DHA may help support healthy cognitive function in senior dogs.8 One study involved 142 older dogs who had a wide range of behavioral issues. These included having bowel movements in the home, interacting negatively with members of the family, and disorientation. During the two months the study was conducted, the dogs given food supplemented with DHA showed substantial improvement in all of the problem behaviors they exhibited.9
· Weight loss –
Research suggests fish oil may help dogs experiencing weight loss associated with some severe health issues. According to the results of one study, dogs with heart problems receiving fish oil experienced less weight loss than dogs that did not receive any supplementation.10
· Kidney problems –
Some dogs with kidney problems develop a condition known as glomerular disease. This results in excessive loss of protein in the urine which can make chronic kidney disease worse. One study looked at the effect of fish oil on dogs suffering from glomerular disease. According to the results, fish oil helped substantially slow the progress of their kidney problems.11
Is Fish Oil Safe?
Fish oil is safe for your dog, as long as you are careful about how much you give them. Your veterinarian will advise you on the proper dosage for your dog. The only side effect commonly reported is a bit of a fishy smell to a dog’s skin or breath.12
In fact, supplementation of fish oil for dogs is considered so safe and effective, it has become a mainstream approach in veterinary medicine. A great deal of clinical evidence shows fish oil can greatly benefit pets with inflammatory disorders. The more severe the problem, the higher the doses are typically recommended.13
Choosing the Right Kind of Fish Oil for Dogs
You should never grab any sort of supplement off of a grocery store shelf and simply assume it will be high quality. This is not only true for humans, but for pets as well. So, before you buy any fish oil for dogs, check the label or the manufacturer’s website first to ensure proper quality. You’ll need to gather some important information, such as how much DHA and EPA is in the products you’re considering. Also, you can talk to your vet to see what brands they recommend.14
Most fish oil products you see will come in one of three forms:
· They might contain synthetic triglyceride oil. This is the hardest type of fish oil for a dog’s digestive system to absorb.15
· Some fish oil products contain natural triglyceride oil. This is much easier for a dog to absorb. However, they could contain contaminants because they typically aren’t purified.16
· Fish oil with ethyl ester oil has the impurities removed. It also typically contains a good amount of both EPA and DHA.17
Again, if you have questions or concerns about which fish oil products are best for your dog, consult your veterinarian.
Fish oil can provide your dog with many important health benefits. Just remember to speak with your vet before buying anything to make sure it will be safe for your dog to take. As long as you get the OK, fish oil can be used either as a temporary supplement to their diet or as part of a long-term wellness plan. Adding fish oil to your dog’s diet can give them just the boost they need to enjoy a happy, healthy life!