As you know, proper nutrition is absolutely essential for your dog's overall health. Making sure that he or she gets the right nutrients in the right amounts is crucial. And for the most part, that's easy — all you have to do is feed your pet a high-quality dog food that contains all the nutrients they need.
With that being said, there are benefits to supplementing your dog's diet with certain substances. One example is omega-3 fatty acid, which provides many health benefits to your canine companion. And since your dog's body doesn't produce omega-3 on its own, supplementing the diet with it is often a good idea.
Read on to learn more about why omega-3 is so good for your pooch and how to add it to their diet in a safe and effective way.
The Benefits of Fish Oil and Omega-3 for Dogs
Omega-3s are found in abundance in fish oil. Fish oil supplements are common for both humans and dogs. The question is, can you give your dog an omega-3 or fish oil supplement made for humans?
While fish oil and omega-3 are safe and beneficial for dogs, it's best to avoid giving your dog a supplement designed for human consumption. With so many omega-3 fatty acid supplements out there formulated specifically for dogs, there's really no reason to give your pet something that is meant for humans.
Marine animals such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and even sardines and anchovies are some of the best sources of omega-3. The oils from these animals contain three main kinds of essential fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). These fatty acids provide lots of benefits for our four-legged friends.
Health benefits of fish oil and omega-3 for dogs include:
- Better joint health: Omega-3 fatty acids work alongside omega-6 fatty acids (which your dog gets in abundance from their normal dog food) to balance the body’s inflammatory response. That's why these fatty acids are so good for your dog's joint health. Fish oil supplements are often recommended for older dogs with arthritis, too.
- Better heart health: The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 are also good for your dog’s heart. Omega-3 helps to reduce abnormal heart rhythms and reduces the inflammation and muscle loss associated with heart disease and heart failure.
- Better cognitive function: Studies have linked omega-3 fatty acids, and DHA in particular, with better cognitive function in dogs. Omega-3 and fish oil may help dogs with memory and help prevent cognitive decline, especially as they get older.
- Better skin and fur health: Another benefit of omega-3 fatty acids is that they're very good for your dog's skin and fur. Omega-3s help to moisturize the skin naturally, which in turn makes for a smooth, healthy coat of fur. Omega-3 can help your dog shed less and experience less dandruff and itchy skin.
- Healthier body weight: Omega-3 fatty acids seem to have a positive effect on body weight as well, with studies demonstrating that DHA supplementation can reduce fat and cholesterol levels in animals.
- Treatment of kidney disease: There is evidence that omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on the progression of renal failure, also known as kidney disease.
Clearly, omega-3 is great for your dog's health. And since your pet’s body can't create this nutrient, adding omega-3 supplements to their diet is a smart idea. But, giving your dog fish oil products made for humans might not be the best idea, even though the ingredients of those supplements can offer health benefits.
The Risks of Giving Human Omega-3 to Dogs
Are fish oil and omega-3 safe for dogs? Yes, but that doesn't mean that dog owners should give their dogs over-the-counter fish oil or omega-3 products made for humans. Here's why:
It Could Be the Wrong Dosage
Fish oil made for human consumption may contain higher concentrations of EPA and DHA than what your dog should have. And too much fish oil can have adverse side effects. For example, excess amounts of fish oil could:
- Interfere with proper blood clotting
- Cause gastrointestinal upset and even vomiting or diarrhea
- Result in an oily coat
Remember, inflammation around the body is sometimes necessary — when healing wounds or fighting off allergic reactions, for example. Reducing inflammation too much is also a bad thing.
It Might Contain Additives
Fish oil on its own tastes, well, fishy. Many human fish oil supplements have added flavorings to make them more appealing. While it's not exactly likely that additives or flavoring from a fish oil capsule would cause outright harm to your dog, it's not worth the risk. Plus, it's possible a dog (especially a small or tiny breed) could choke on a big capsule that's made for a human.
It Can Go Bad
Did you know that it's possible for fish oil supplements to go bad? Like other organic compounds, fish oil can suffer from oxidation over time, causing it to go rancid. And that's not something you want to be giving to your dog.
Of course, this can happen with supplements made for dogs just as easily as ones made for humans. Always check the expiration date on the packaging of your dog’s supplement, and don’t give your pet anything that’s expired. If the product smells “off” to you, don’t risk it.
Adding Omega-3 to Your Dog's Diet
Fish oil for dogs might take a variety of forms. There are food topper products like Native Pet's Omega Oil (which contains salmon oil and pollock oil), chewable tablets, and even soft gel capsules similar to human fish oil pills. Whatever kind of supplement is best for your dog is up to you and your veterinarian.
When giving fish oil to your dog, the most important thing is the dosage. Consult with your veterinarian about this, because the amount your dog needs varies based on size and weight. Ask about the proper amount of EPA, DHA, ALA, and other fatty acids that your dog should be getting.
You may see dosage recommendations online, such as the "times 20" rule. (Multiply your dog's weight by 20 to get the daily milligrams necessary for your pet.) While these recommendations can give you a general idea of the amount of omega-3 fatty acids your dog might need, it's still best to check with your vet. Proper dosages can vary widely by dog, especially if your pet has an existing health issue such as a blood clotting disorder.
Yes or No: Can I Give My Dog Omega-3 for Humans?
Still asking yourself, "Can I give my dog omega-3 for humans?" Here's the bottom line: While human omega-3 supplements are a good source of essential fatty acids, they're not designed for dogs. They may contain added ingredients that aren't good for your pet, and the dosage might be off. Plus, if they're old, they may have gone bad.
It's safest to give your dog an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (or a fish oil supplement) made specifically for dogs. And check with your veterinarian to nail down the proper dosage. That way, you can rest assured you're doing something good for your dog's health without any risk.
Looking for other ways to benefit your pet's immune system and joint health? Native Pet's Relief Chew can aid in long-term joint health and boost your dog's anti-inflammatory response at the same time. That means less pain and discomfort for your dog and increased mobility as your pet gets older.If you would like to read more articles about your dog's health and wellness needs, visit the Native Pet blog here.