By: Dr. Juli, DVM @itsDrJuli
Browse any health food store or grocery market, and you will find many fish oil supplements to support your wellness goals. Fish oil is one of the most well-studied human supplements. It is frequently taken to improve heart health, help manage blood pressure, and relieve arthritis pain. Pet owners naturally want to ensure their furry family members can enjoy the same benefits of supplementing their diet with this powerhouse oil.
All of the same can be said for supplements for our furry friends. Countless animal supplements claim to cure and support various ailments; however, many have yet to be rigorously studied or researched. The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) is one organization seeking to help parents in this regard, but it can still be a confusing world for dog owners to navigate. Fortunately, this is not the case for fish oil, as it is one of the most well-studied pet supplements.
Types of Fish Oil Supplements for Dogs
Essential fatty acids are fats required for proper overall body function. However, because your pup's body cannot naturally produce them, many pet parents look for omega-3 supplements to provide their dogs with this necessary nutrient. Omega fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, are polyunsaturated fats that help create hormones that aid in blood flow regulation and inflammatory responses. Omega, or fish oils, are popular nutritional supplements that contain these essential fatty acids.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical in cell membrane structure and help provide energy. The primary components of omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is critical for brain development in puppies and can help them learn and remember various skills. Both EPA and DHA also function to send cellular signals to the body to decrease inflammatory responses. Sources of omega-3 include cold-water fish, including salmon, tuna, pollock, and trout, in addition to marine microalgae.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 fatty acids are composed of linoleic acid and arachidonic acid and have both pro and anti-inflammatory properties. Because linoleic acid is a dietary requirement for all dogs, most commercial pet diets contain animal fats high in omega-6 (linoleic) fatty acids. Adding omega-3 fatty acids to your dog's diet helps balance the effects of omega-6. Choosing a complete and balanced AAFCO-approved dog food will ensure your pup has the correct amount and balance of essential fatty acids for proper organ health and development.
Health Benefits of Fish Oil for Dogs
There are numerous science-backed benefits of feeding your pup a high-quality vet-approved fish oil, including:
- Decreased inflammation. EPA and DHA send cellular signals within the body to decrease inflammatory responses. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids can help manage diseases, including kidney disease, irritable bowel disease, and heart disease, including arrhythmias. Omega oils are commonly recommended for aging pets to promote joint health. Pets with dry skin, allergies, or other skin issues can also benefit from these oils, which will help calm their itchy skin.
- Improved brain development and cognitive function. DHA helps puppies improve learning and retention during development. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help older dogs by improving brain health and decreasing the effects of cognitive dysfunction, a disease similar to dementia in people.
- Slowing tumor growth. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent some cancer cells from dividing and continuing to grow. With one in four dogs developing cancer at some point, giving your pup an omega-oil supplement may help decrease the chances of severe metastatic disease.
As with making any changes to your dog's diet, always consult your veterinarian before adding any supplements to their regimen to ensure they will benefit and not harm your pet's health.
Fish Oil Side Effects: What to Watch For
In most cases, giving your healthy dog a high-quality veterinary-approved omega oil supplement has little to no side effects. However, some pet parents have noticed their dog’s skin and breath acquiring a fishy smell. Other side effects may include gastrointestinal discomfort or oily, flaky skin when they ingest too much. If you notice any adverse effects, stop giving your dog omega oil and immediately contact your veterinarian.
Additionally, omega oil may negatively interact with certain medications, so consult with your veterinarian if your pet is taking any of the following:
- Anticoagulant medication
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Cancer medications( e.g., doxorubicin)
- Herbal supplements
- Specialized diet targeting joint pain and skin issues
How Much Fish Oil Does Your Dog Need?
Multiple factors, including your dog's age, breed, weight, diet, and overall health, will determine how much omega oil supplementation your dog should take. Some commercial dog diets include omega oil. Ensure you are not over-dosing your pet by giving them an additional fatty acid supplement.
Regular veterinary examinations and consultations are the most effective and safest way to ensure you properly supplement your pet with omega oil. Because every product is formulated differently, consult your veterinarian to ensure you administer the proper amount based on your dog’s body weight and type. Generally, dogs taking fish oil to combat osteoarthritis pain can receive 75 mg -100 mg/kg of body weight daily. For example, a 50-pound dog may need approximately 2270 mg of omega oil daily.
Liquid fish oil supplements usually come in soft gel form and will include recommended daily dosing on the label. For pets who resist taking a pill, the soft gels can be punctured and poured over their kibble for a tasty treat.
How to Choose the Right Fish Oil Supplement for Your Dog
Choosing the right omega oil supplement for your pet can be challenging because of the numerous options. However, never give your dog a human fish oil supplement, as they may contain ingredients and amounts that are harmful or toxic to your pup. Always check with your veterinarian before giving your dog an omega oil supplement, and choose a supplement that meets the following guidelines:
- Veterinary-formulated and/or veterinary recommended.
- Made in the USA at a Good Manufacturing Practice-certified (GMP-certified) facility.
- Contains clean ingredients.
- Formulate with omega-3 fatty acids that are sustainably sourced, like wild-caught pollock or wild Alaskan salmon oil.
- Contains natural preservatives, like vitamin E.
- Free from fillers or artificial additives.
- Clearly labeled ingredients and amounts.
- Clearly stated expiration date.
- Palatable for your pup.
- Easy administration and clear dosing instructions.
Native Pet's Omega Oil Meets All of the Above Requirements!
If you’re looking to easily add a high-quality fish oil to your dog’s daily meal, top off their food with Native Pet’s tasty and targeted Omega Oil, packed with Omega-3 fatty acids that promote skin health, a healthy coat, and healthy joints.
For more information and tips on your dog's health, check out the Native Pet blog.