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Omega-3s are a group of fatty acids that all dogs need to maintain optimal health. They’re “essential” fatty acids, meaning a dog’s body can’t make them. They need to get these fatty acids from the foods they eat.
Omega-3s play many essential roles in a dog’s overall health and wellness:
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids:
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
ALA comes from plant sources, such as nuts, seeds, and vegetables. It’s also the precursor to EPA and DHA. However, a dog’s body isn’t able to convert ALA efficiently. Instead, pet parents should look for foods (or supplements) that contain more bioavailable EPA and DHA. Fish (fish oil) is one of the most common sources of these omega-3 fatty acids for dogs, and seaweed, algae, and green lipped mussel also have them.
Omega-3s play a vital role in maintaining a dog’s immune health. These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, meaning they help to reduce inflammation. While necessary for all canines, they can be especially beneficial for dogs with inflammatory issues, such as allergies, skin disorders, and kidney disease.
Even if a dog doesn’t have allergies or other skin conditions, they can still develop dry, flaky skin. Unhealthy skin increases the dog’s risk of irritation, itchiness, and bacterial infections. By providing sufficient omega-3s, pet parents can reduce the risk of these issues, improving both the health and appearance of their dog’s skin and coat.
Many dogs develop joint issues, especially as they get older. Osteoarthritis, which develops as the cartilage in the joints wears away, is one of the most common conditions they face. As it progresses, it can lead to joint pain and stiffness. Dogs have a harder time getting up and walking around.
The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 help reduce arthritis-related inflammation, improving a dog’s mobility and reducing pain. They may also act as a preventative, helping dogs who haven’t developed arthritis avoid more severe joint issues.
Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce a dog’s risk of developing atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm) and other heart-related problems. They can also reduce the risk of stroke and help a dog maintain healthy blood pressure.
Omega-3s are critical for dogs of all ages. Pregnant dogs need sufficient omega-3s in their diet to ensure the proper brain development of their unborn puppies. Even after birth, puppies need these fatty acids to ensure their brains, central nervous systems, and vision continue developing correctly.
For senior dogs, omega-3s can be beneficial for supporting cognitive function. They may also reduce excessive licking, pacing, and other issues associated with cognitive dysfunction.
Studies show that omega-3s may inhibit the development and metastasis of certain types of cancer in dogs.
Pet parents have a few options for incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into their dog’s diet:
High-quality dog food enriched with omega-3s
Specially-formulated dog treats
Omega-3 supplements like Nordic Naturals and other joint supplements for dogs
Before changing a dog’s diet or adding a supplement, pet parents should consult with a vet for advice.
Omega-3s aren’t the only essential fatty acids dogs need. They also need omega-6s, which play a vital role in immune function and skin health. More importantly, they need a proper balance of omega-3s to omega-6s, as an imbalance can increase the risk of health issues.
Some supplements, like VetClassics salmon oil soft chews, contain a balanced ratio of the two essential fatty acids to help promote the health of a dog’s skin and coat. If a dog gets too much omega-6 already, omega-3-only supplements can help restore the necessary balance.
At appropriate doses, omega-3s are generally safe for dogs. However, if a dog consumes too much, they may experience vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, oily skin, or delayed wound healing. Dogs with fish allergies may also have an allergic reaction to fish-derived sources. If a pet parent has any concerns, they should stop using the supplement and contact their vet right away.
Since dogs can’t make their own omega-3 fatty acids, pet parents need to provide the nutrients for them. Whether in food or supplement form, pet parents also need to ensure their dogs are getting the right amount and ensuring a proper balance with omega-6 fatty acids. If they have any questions or concerns, they can always consult with their primary vet or speak with one of Fuzzy’s vets for further advice.