Your dog's ancestors obtained their vital omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, from their prey, such as rodents, birds, and elk, before they were domesticated. Our dogs, on the other hand, now rely on us for nourishment. Commercial pet food provides pet parents with a simple way to feed their dogs, but some meals may still lack the necessary levels of critical omega-3 fatty acids to ensure optimal well-being.
What are omega-3’s?
Fatty acids are molecules made up of a chain of carbon atoms with an oxygen double bond at one end and a hydroxyl group (an oxygen and hydrogen atom) at the other. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated, which means they have several double bonds along their carbon chain, with the first double bond occurring between carbon atoms three and four when counting from the hydroxyl group to the end of the chain.
We know this is a lot of chemistry, but it’s necessary to outline for several reasons. The first being that the double bonds render omega-3 fatty acids unstable and quick to oxidize (i.e. go bad). Dogs are also unable to produce omega-3 fatty acids on their own making them even more important to gain through their diet. That’s why it’s so important for dogs to have two forms of omega-3 fatty acids; eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
That being said, the most potent, bioavailable and best omega 3 for dogs comes from fish whether you’re providing a supplement or fish as a whole.
Why your dog needs fats
In modern society, the word "fat" has a negative connotation. It's critical to note that this macronutrient is essential for both people and animals' health. Fats are essential for the healthy functioning of cells, bodily tissues, skin, and coat health in dogs. In addition, fats offer the following benefits:
- Fat offers energy and aids in the production of soft skin and coat.
- It is required for the correct absorption of other nutrients.
- The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are transported by fat.
- It aids in the digestion of vitamin D, which is required for the body's calcium utilization.
- It supports a healthy neurological system, brain, liver, blood, skin, and hormone function by keeping cells robust.
- Fats are a concentrated type of energy that provide over two times as much energy to your dog as carbohydrates and proteins.
How much omega 3’s do dogs need
Generally, dogs require about 20-30 mg of EPA and DHA per kilo of body weight each day. But, keep in mind, this is simply a general recommendation.
Finding the proper fish oil dosage for dogs isn't as straightforward as it seems. Different dosages are utilized to help with various health issues.
If you’re choosing fish oil as your supplement of choice, you'll need to see your veterinarian for the proper fish oil dosage for your dog. They'll calculate how much fish oil for dogs you should provide based on your dog's age, weight, health, and current diet. There isn’t only one factor this depends on. As discussed above, there are several factors to be considered when determining the proper fish oil for dogs dosage.
If you're administering a fish oil supplement to your dog, follow the dose instructions on the package unless your veterinarian tells you differently. Each brand is likely to have a different dosage requirement based on bioavailability of the product, your dog’s weight, and any ailment he or she may be facing.
Too many fish oil supplements can interfere with blood clotting in rare circumstances, which is another key reason to consult your veterinarian when implementing a supplement such as this.
Maintaining an ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6
Balance is required in all aspects of life, including the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Too much or too little of either can cause the body to send out the wrong signals, resulting in health problems. A healthy omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be approximately 5:1 and no more than 10:1 (P.S.- Most commercial pet food manufacturers have a 20:1 ratio).
Furthermore, the development process of highly processed dog food removes vital fatty acids due to high heat. To rebalance the food, pet food manufacturers must add synthetic and artificial vitamins and minerals at the end of the process. Plus, the inferior substances in processed foods contribute to outrageous omega-6 levels, which cause the immune system to become unbalanced, resulting in potentially serious health conditions.
Adding omega-3-rich fresh items to your dog's diet on a regular basis, such as sardine, mackerel, anchovy, and wild caught salmon, can help restore much-needed balance. Fish oil supplements for dogs can also restore this balance, but must be carefully examined to ensure they are of high-quality. In most cases, by the time a fish oil supplement hits the shelf, its benefits have already nearly disappeared due to the oxidation process.
Benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for dogs
The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids include (but aren’t limited to) the following:
- Supports brain development in puppies
- Reduces inflammation in dogs with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions
- Aids in the fight against canine cancer
- Improves the immune systems of dogs and puppies
- Boosts heart health
- Improves the health of dogs with kidney disease
- Reduces anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders in dogs and puppies
What are some good sources of omega-3 fatty acids?
The best omega 3 supplement for dogs comes from fresh, whole, oil fishes like sardines. In addition to protein, sardines are a good source of fatty acids. Frozen mussels are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for you. It's crucial to note that if you get some of these seafood varieties from a can, make sure there's no sunflower oil in there, as this will increase the omega-3: omega-6 ratio.
Any benefits that omega-3’s might have provided would be eliminated. Brine is also a strong source of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, with a good ratio. However, if you can get it, phytoplankton is by far the finest source of omega-3 fatty acids.
It’s important to note here, contrary to popular belief, flaxseed is not a good source of Omega 3’s for dogs since the active forms of EPA and DHA are not readily converted by our pups.
The bottom line
Provide your dog with a nutritious diet by paying attention to omega-3 fatty acid levels. The best omega-3 supplement for dogs comes from fresh fish, such as sardines.
Talk to your veterinarian about adding fish oil to your dog’s diet and be mindful of other ways to reduce and prevent inflammation in your dog’s body.