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Omega-3 for Dogs: What Are the Benefits of Omega-3 for Dogs?

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Omega-3 for dogs - Dr. Axe

You may already be familiar with the incredible omega-3 benefits for humans, but did you know that your four-legged furry friend may also get some major health boosts from these fatty acids? According to the American Kennel Club, benefits of omega-3 for dogs include:

  • Improves the condition of both skin and coat
  • Boosts energy and joint health
  • Balances the properties of omega-6 fatty acids
  • Acts as anti-inflammatory in various inflammation-related problems, including arthritis and allergies
  • Improves cognitive development in puppies and cognitive function in older dogs.

Let’s take a closer look at these impressive omega-3 benefits for dogs and also discuss the best omega-3 supplement options for your beloved pup.


Why Your Dog Needs Omega-3

Your canine gets its energy from three main sources: protein, carbohydrates and fats. Omega-3 fatty acids fall into the fat category, and fats are an essential part of any dog’s diet. Just like in humans, fats, including omega-3s, assist the body’s absorption of essential fat-soluble nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats also form cellular membranes, act as chemical messengers and play a major role in hormonal balance.

So is omega-3 good for dogs? It definitely can be helpful. Many dogs, like their owners, easily get enough omega-6 fatty acids in their diets, but unless an intentional effort is made, it can be more challenging for them to obtain omega-3s. The balance of omega-3 and 6 for dogs is key to optimal health.

Omega-3 fatty acids for dogs can be found in some pet foods but are often in very low amounts, if included at all. That’s why an omega-3 fatty acid supplement for dogs can be such a good idea.


5 Major Benefits of Omega-3 for Dogs

What are the benefits of omega-3 for dogs? Many experts believe the benefits are similar to human benefits and may include:

1. Decreases Inflammation

Inflammation is a major problem for pets just like it is for humans. Omega-3s are often given to dogs for their anti-inflammatory effects. This can benefit a number of conditions included on the list, such as arthritis, many skin-related problems and other inflammatory diseases.

2. Helps Arthritis and Joint Issues

Due to its anti-inflammatory ability, omega-3 for dogs is often a vet’s recommendations when a dog is struggling with inflammatory conditions like arthritis or other joint issues. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition demonstrates how omega-3 fatty acids can help dogs with naturally occurring osteoarthritis. For 13 weeks, the dogs were given a veterinary therapeutic diet high in omega-3 fatty acids from fish origin. Researchers compared these dogs to dogs given a regular diet. What did they find? In lame dogs with osteoarthritis, the diet rich in fish-derived omega-3s showed improvements in their locomotor disability and their performance of common daily activities.

3. Improves Skin and Coat Health

Omega-3s are very commonly given to dogs to improve the health of their skin and coats. Is there any science to that? A study published in 2014 in the Veterinary Journal evaluates the effects of essential fatty acids on 48 privately owned dogs of different breeds, ages and genders diagnosed with canine atopic dermatitis (CAD). The dogs were treated with a spot-on formulation containing essential fatty acids and essential oils or a placebo once weekly for a total of eight weeks.

Overall, the topical preparation containing essential fatty acids and essential oils was “a safe treatment and beneficial in ameliorating the clinical signs of CAD.” In addition, there were no adverse reactions. Generally speaking, many dog owners see less skin dryness and a shinier coat when they include omega-3s in their dogs’ diets.

4. Boosts Cognitive Function and Immune Health

A study of 48 beagle puppies released in 2012 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association suggests that feeding weaned puppies a diet fortified with fish oils rich in DHA may boost several aspects of development, including cognitive learning and memory — as well as retinal and immune system function.

The puppies fed a high-DHA diet had better results for reversal task learning, visual contrast discrimination and early psychomotor performance compared to the moderate-DHA and low-DHA groups. The high-DHA group also had significantly higher anti-rabies antibodies one and two weeks after vaccination than the other groups.

5. Allergies

According to many experts, omega-3 for dogs with allergies is a must. Omega-3s top many supplement lists for itchy, allergy-plagued dogs, including one by Boulder Holistic Vet‘s Dr. Angie Krause, DVM. Krause writes:

Every dog should be on an omega 3 fatty acid supplement. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to help decrease inflammation and benefit organ function. For some itchy dogs, this all they need to drastically improve their itch. Giving your dog omega 3 fatty acids can significantly reduce the amount of steroids that it will take to eliminate biting, scratching and chewing.


Best Types of Omega-3 for Dogs

The best omega-3 supplements for dogs come in dark bottles that help discourage spoiling. Fish oil is a top choice as a source of omega-3s for dogs (as well as humans). The most natural and most easily absorbable form of fish oil is a natural triglyceride oil. If it’s not purified, it can contain contaminants so read product information and disclosures carefully. It’s best to avoid synthetic triglyceride oils because these are man-made (so not natural) and their absorption is the least best. The most high-grade fish oil products are wild-caught and often come from fish like anchovies, sardines and salmon.

Some of your omega-3 for dogs options include:

  • Omega-3 chews for dogs: These can be a great option that can be used in a treat fashion.
  • Omega-3 fish oil for dogs: Can be combined with dog food — most dogs enjoy fish oil and have no problem with having it added to their usual food.
  • Vegan omega-3 oil for dogs: This option comes from plant options and doesn’t come with any fishy scent.
  • Omega 3 6 9 for dogs: Includes all three varieties — omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 — of fatty acids in one place. Some vets may prefer this mixture over omega-3 alone, depending on the contents of your dog’s food as well as your dog’s health needs.

When deciding which omega-3 supplement is best for your dog, you may find this information from petMD helpful:

Vegetable oils including flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnut oil, and soybean oil can provide dogs with another omega 3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a precursor to EPA and DHA. However, dogs are not very good at transforming ALA into either EPA or DHA. Therefore, it is much more efficient to provide dogs with EPA and DHA directly. Good sources include cold water fish oils (e.g., salmon oil) and certain types of algal oil.


Omega-3 for Dogs Dosage and How to Get More Into Your Dog’s Diet

How many mg of omega-3 should I give my dog? If you’re wondering how much omega-3 for dogs is ideal, it depends upon several factors, including your dog’s age, weight and health status. Product packaging will likely include a recommended daily omega-3 dosage for dogs, but your best bet is to consult with your veterinarian to determine an ideal amount for your pet.

Many people ask: Can I give my dog omega-3 for humans? It’s often perfectly fine to give your dog an omega-3 supplement intended for humans, but check with your vet first, especially when it comes to a proper dosage of a product marketed and labeled for human use.

You can also add omega-3 foods into your dog’s diet and/or opt for dog food that contains omega 3-rich foods. What foods contain omega-3 for my dog? Top sources that are safe for dogs include fatty cold water fish like salmon, anchovies, sardines and trout.


Precautions

It’s normal for fish oils to smell like fish, but they shouldn’t smell rancid. To avoid rancidity, store all omega-3 supplements for dogs away from heat and light.

It’s important to note that giving dogs too much fish oil can be problematic. An overdose of fish oil can cause unwanted side effects, including diarrhea, blood-clotting abnormalities, delayed wound healing, vitamin E deficiency, weight gain and altered immune system function. Fish oil can also interact with some mediations, especially nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

Always check with your vet on the best type of omega-3 supplement for your dog as well as optimal dosage.


Final Thoughts

  • The best omega-3 for dogs is of the upmost quality. It should be in a dark bottle and have purity standards and full disclosure of the ingredients and sourcing.
  • Omega-3 liquid for dogs can easily be added to food, but chews are another popular option.
  • Similar to humans, omega-3 for dogs can be extremely beneficial. Health benefits of omega-3 for dogs may include:
    • Healthier skin and coat
    • Better energy and joint health
    • Anti-inflammatory effects that can improve problems like arthritis and allergies
    • Enhanced cognitive development in puppies and cognitive function in older dogs
  • An ideal omega-3 for dogs dosage depends upon your dog’s weight and health status. Speak with your vet about on an ideal daily dose for your pet.

Read Next: Collagen for Dogs & Other Pets: Top 5 Benefits + Recipes


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