The Importance of Omega 3 in Pet’s Diet
Do you really know what you are feeding your pet?
Did you know that fats and oils are a necessary part of a near to complete diet for dogs? A diet that provides about 10-15 percent fat (for normal, healthy adult animals) is best to maintain health. The time when fat in the diet becomes a problem is when animals are allowed to eat too much fat and calories (such as from extra treats and table scraps), without getting enough exercise to balance things out.
Unlike humans, dogs never have to worry about cholesterol levels, as they won’t end up with the same types of health issues humans can from eating a high-fat diet. If fat levels are too low; however, dogs can develop dry, itchy skin and a dull coat. Other problems that can develop include a diminished immune system and other potential health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
What are Fats?
Fats are a concentrated form of energy that give your dog more than twice the amount of energy as carbohydrates and proteins do. Did you know that fats used in dog foods are highly digestible and are the first nutrients to be used by the body as energy, ahead of protein and carbohydrates.
Fats are made up of building blocks called fatty acids. Fatty acids are named according to their chemical structure and how they are bonded together. There are certain fatty acids that dogs require in their diet because the body cannot make them. These are known as essential fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are divided into two groups called the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Fatty acids in both these groups must be provided in a specifically balanced ratio in the daily diet. In this article, we will concentrate on the importance of using Omega-3.
What do Fats do? Isn’t my dog gonna be obese?
Fats have many important functions in the canine body. Not only do they provide energy, but they are also necessary for the normal development and function of body cells, nerves, muscles, and body tissues. They are important components in the body’s production of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins work to reduce inflammation, as well as perform many other important functions in the body.
Fats are part of the reason that dog foods taste good and smell good too (at least to your dog). Fats and oils also give structure to foods. They help the body to absorb certain vitamins called the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Fats and oils in the diet keep your dog’s coat shiny and healthy and are also important in reproduction.
Not every fat or oil is good for our pets, however. The source, quality, and quantity of fat needs to be carefully considered when choosing a quality dog food.
Fatty Acids – Omega 3
Fish oil is probably the most important supplement you can add to your dog’s diet, regardless of what type of diet you feed. EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, provide widespread benefits, but they are fragile and unlikely to survive storage in bags of kibble, or may be rancid even before being added to pet foods. Krill oil and whole fish also provide EPA and DHA that may be better absorbed, providing similar benefits in smaller doses.
Proven benefits from EPA and DHA include:
- Improving the coat and skin.
- Reducing inflammation due to conditions such as arthritis, allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease.
- Regulating the immune system, boosting those that are suppressed and calming overactive immune systems for dogs with allergies or autoimmune diseases.
- Aiding in mental development of fetuses and puppies, and improving cognitive function in older dogs.
- Lowering blood pressure and triglycerides.
- Providing support for dogs with kidney disease, heart disease, and cancer.
- Promoting weight loss in overweight dogs.
Good quality Omega 3 with a high concentration of EPA and DHA is recommended for most of our dogs going through rehabilitation with us.
Fish oil should be protected from light, heat, and air. Store liquid fish oil in dark bottles in the refrigerator. Purchase amounts that can be used within one or two months to avoid rancidity. If you notice an “off” odor, discard the oil.
Independent agencies have tested many human and pet supplements. None have found mercury, but a few products had unsafe levels of PCBs, provided less EPA or DHA than was shown on the label, or were spoiled. For those concerned about contaminants, look for molecularly distilled products (note the term “pharmaceutical grade” has no legal definition). More concentrated forms, with higher amounts of EPA and DHA per gram, result in lower levels of contaminants.
Liquid fish oil products made for humans often contain flavorings that dogs generally do not like.
Use products made for either humans or dogs. The amount of EPA and DHA in various fish oil preparations varies. Look for concentrated forms when giving high doses so you use smaller amounts of oil.
Healthy dogs can be given 100 to 150 mg EPA and DHA per 10 pounds of body weight daily; dogs who have health problems can be given up to 300 mg per 10 pounds of body weight. One ounce of canned fish with bones (sardines, jack mackerel, pink salmon) averages about 300 mg EPA and DHA combined.
The recommended dosage of liquid fish oil products is often too high, adding unnecessary fat and calories to your dog’s diet. High doses of fish oil can interfere with platelets and lead to increased bleeding, and too much can contribute to rather than reduce inflammation.
Cod liver oil is similar to fish oil, but most products also contain high levels of vitamins A and D (molecular distillation removes these vitamins). For those who feed a homemade diet that does not include much fish, give an amount that provides about 100 IUs of vitamin D per 25 pounds of body weight daily. Do not use high doses of cod liver oil. If additional omega-3 fatty acids are desired, add plain fish oil.
Important Note for Pet Owners
Your Veterinarian Might Not Know This
High fat diets can induce a relative deficiency of vitamin E in dogs. Translated into basic language: when your dog ingests more PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3), they are at risk of a vitamin E deficiency. It acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting the body from free radicals from added dietary fat.
A supplement with vitamin E in it can help prevent the oxidative damage in omega-3 oil. Not only that, but it may also benefit your dog’s skin health, immune system, osteoarthritis, and more.