Fish Oil for Dogs [Spoiler Alert: They’re Not All Created Equal]
Not all fish oil is created equal…
It’s true! For years, we have heard about the health benefits of fish oil. Whether you slurped up a spoonful of cod liver oil or you were lucky enough to just take the capsules, chances are you’ve probably been on the fish oil train at one point or another.
As with all things [gluten-free, organic, etc.], pet owners have recently jumped on board due to it’s widespread popularity. So whether you take it yourself or you give it to your beloved pooch, you might want to sit down for this one: certain fish oils might be doing you and your pets more harm than good. Confused? Let me start from the beginning…
Essential Fatty Acids
The nineties had some regrettable moments: bowl cuts, bucket hats, the Milli Vanilli scandal. However, the most detrimental trend to emerge was the low-fat craze. In reality, fats are a part of a well-balanced diet.
There are two types of fats: facilitative and functional fats. Facilitative fats, also known as saturated fats, serve many purposes. These fats improve the taste of pet food, they convert to energy, assist in digestion and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. They aren’t considered dangerous unless the pet is already overweight or obese.
Functional fats generally refer to essential fatty acids and as the name would suggest, these fats are an essential part of your pet’s health. Unfortunately, your pet cannot produce these fats on their own. That is where you come in!
There are two types of EFA: Omega-6s and Omega-3s, and certain amounts of both are necessary to your pet’s diet.
- Arachidonic acid (AA)
- Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA)
- Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
- Linolenic acid (LA)
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaneoic (EPA)
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Benefits
ALA is a short-chain omega-3 fatty acid that can be found in chia seeds, hemp, flaxseeds, walnuts, and soybeans. However, “ALA is an inefficient source of DHA because its effect depends on its conversion first to EPA and then to DHA.” Unfortunately, dogs can only convert a fraction, about 20%.
EPA and DHA are long-chain omega-3 fatty acids whose richest source are fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies.
While both Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids are vital to your pet’s health, today we’ll be taking a deeper dive into Omega-3s and the benefits that they offer your pet.
Combat Cardiovascular Disorders
Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids can help combat cardiovascular disorders. In 1998, a study was performed in which dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) were given omega-3 supplements and by the end of the study, they had reduced muscle loss and inflammation.
Cognitive Function & Neurological Health
A 2012 study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association showed puppies who were given the most DHA “showed significantly better results in reversal learning tasks, visual contrast discrimination, and early psychomotor performance than puppies eating low to moderate amounts of DHA.” Additionally, these same puppies had way more rabies antibodies 1-2 weeks following their initial vaccinations
Inflammatory Skin Disorders
A 1994 study showed that omega-3 fatty acids that had high levels of EPA resulted in improvement in itchiness and hair loss. The 16 dogs in the study had unexplained itchy skin and inflammation most likely due to allergies.
Studies show that while omega-6 fatty acids adversely affect the kidneys in dogs with Chronic Kidney Disease, omega-3s support kidney function. Additionally, a study of 146 cats with Chronic Kidney Disease showed that “cats receiving the highest amounts of dietary EPA had the longest survival times.”
A 10 week study of 16 arthritic cats showed that those who received EPA and DHA experienced more mobility and less stiffness, could jump higher, and interacted more with their family versus the cats who did not receive the omega-3s.
While omega-6s are essential, too much can cause inflammation in your pet. Luckily, omega-3s are great for relieving inflammation. “Animal experiments and clinical intervention studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and, therefore, might be useful in the management of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.”
Additionally, studies show that omega-3s have the ability to slow the growth of yeast infections, aid in proper development of retina and visual cortex, regulate blood clotting, and slow the development of cancer. Wow!
With all of these benefits, no wonder pet owners are dying to get their hands on some omega-3 goodness. The only issue is, how do we choose the source?
There’s no doubt about it. Omega-3s are essential for your pooch’s health! But how do we go about ensuring our furbabies get these essential nutrients? Well, fish oil for dogs of course! But, that’s not exactly a secret.
Health and wellness companies got on board years ago, offering an array of fish oil supplements. In fact, a quick Google search will yield 18 Million results! Needless to say, fish oil has been a hot topic.
Unfortunately, what you may not know is that some fish oil for dogs might be doing more harm than good. Luckily, there are some precautions you can take when purchasing fish oil for dogs to ensure your pupper gets the best of the best!
Fish Oil Best Practices
There are a number of things you can do to verify that you’re getting the best quality fish oil for dogs you possibly can.
For instance, you should always ask for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) from the manufacturer before you buy any fish oil. The COA is a document issued by Quality Assurance that displays the results of any and all testing performed as part of quality control.
Additionally, the highest quality sources are wild caught and never farm-raised. You should always seek out wild caught fish over farm-raised because research shows that farm-raised fish contained dangerous levels of PCBs, dioxins and the insecticides, dieldrin and toxaphene.
Veterinary grade Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil and other fish that come from the Pacific ocean off the coast of South America are preferable options.
Overall, you will want to avoid fish oil that was processed using ethanol (cheaper and easier method). You can perform a quick and easy test at home to verify the quality of your fish oil. All you have to do is pour some fish oil into a styrofoam cup. If the fish oil eats through the cup in 30 minutes or less, you may have fish oil with ethanol content.
While fish oil is a valid source of EFA, the ever-growing problem that is pollution has made the ocean a risky source for food and supplements. However, if you’re willing to put in a little extra, you can assure that your fish oil for dogs is a clean, nutritious source of Omega-3s!