The benefits of fish oil for humans have been making nutrition news for the last several years. Over the years, as our diets moved away from natural foods and more toward processed foods, we lost the range of benefits we receive from omega-3 fatty acids. And although we need omega-6 fatty acids, our modern diet often has too many. The body needs both in balance, and the same is true for dogs. This is why including fish oil as a part of your dog's nutritional routine is a great health benefit.
What Are These Omegas Found in Fish Oil?
There are three types of dietary fats: saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). Omega fatty acids are found in PUFA, and they manufacture important hormones that are not naturally found in the body. Your dog needs polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), omega-3 and omega-6, in his diet for a variety of reasons:
- The hormones in omega-6 increase inflammation and the immune response, blood clotting, and cell growth
- Omega-3 balances the properties of omega-6 and acts as an anti-inflammatory in conditions like allergies, arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases
- Omega-3 also improves skin and coat health, joint health, and energy
- Omega-3 aids in cognitive development in puppies and may improve cognitive function in older dogs
Omega-3 is found primarily in cold-water fish, shellfish, plant and nut oils, and flaxseed. Omega-6, however, is common in processed foods and most grains. In many dog foods, the meat products come from corn-fed animals, and a variety of grains are used as fillers. Instead of natural oils from nuts, many dog food manufacturers use refined oils, like soybean oil, which are all high in omega-6. Your dog ends up with too much omega-6 and not nearly enough omega-3 fatty acids.
Why Should I Give My Dog Fish Oil?
If the food you give your dog is high in grains, meat from non-grass-fed animals, and vegetable oils, fish oil is a good way to get him those omega-3 fatty acids his body needs. Depending on his general health and any change in his diet, fish oil supplements may
become part of a long-term plan or may just be a temporary boost to his diet. As with anything affecting your dog’s health, talk to your veterinarian about supplementing your dog’s diet with fish oils.
How Do I Choose a Good Fish Oil for My Dog?
There are three types of fish oil on the market:
- Natural triglyceride oil, which is the most natural and easiest to absorb. However, because it isn’t purified, it may contain contaminants, like PCBs.
- Ethyl ester oil is concentrated and distilled, which removes impurities. Think of it as semi-natural with high levels of the important components of omega-3, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
- Synthetic triglyceride oil, which as the name says, is synthetic and absorbs the least easily of the three.
Over the long term, fish oil as a supplement to a grain-based diet will deplete vitamin E, so you may have to supplement that, as well.
Care and Storage of Fish Oil
Protect fish oil from heat, light, and air. Buy it in dark bottles and store in the refrigerator. Fish oils can become rancid since it's susceptible to oxidation. If it has an "off" odor, throw it away. Rather than following dosage guidelines on the package, ask your vet how much fish oil is appropriate for your dog.
It’s difficult to feed your dog the completely natural diet his ancestors ate, and with so many grains and other processed ingredients in some of today’s dog food, fish oil may be just the supplement his diet needs. Buy only top-quality products and be sure to ask your vet for advice before starting your dog on supplements.