Omega 3 is a fatty acid that is naturally found in fish. It is also found in certain plant oils, such as flaxseed oil, walnuts, and soybeans. They’re known as essential fatty acids because they cannot be produced by your dog’s body and must be obtained through their diet.
Why are omega-3 fatty acids important for dogs? Omega-3s play a role in many aspects of your dog’s health and have multiple health benefits. They are beneficial for your dog’s skin and coat, support normal bodily functions, and help maintain the general health of all ages and breeds.
They may also help maintain a normal inflammatory response. The benefits don’t end there. Let’s take a moment to learn about what omega 3 fatty acids are, how they help, and what you can do to incorporate them into your dog’s daily life.
Two Types of Fatty Acids
Before we dive into the health benefits, it’s important to understand there are multiple types of omega fatty acids. And not all are good. Omega 3s are known as the good essential fatty acids, while omega 6s are known as the bad omega fatty acids. However, both omega fatty acids are critical for your dog’s overall well-being.
There are two types of fatty acids; omega-3 and omega-6. Omega 3 fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-6 fatty acids include linoleic acid (LA), gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), and arachidonic acid (AA).
Why are Omega-3 Fatty Acids Important for Dogs? What Do They Do for Them?
Omega 3 fatty acids include ALA, known as alpha-linoleic acid, and EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid. Omega 3 fatty acids can be beneficial to your dog due to the following:
- Helps support cognitive function
- Promotes brain development
- Supports cellular health
- Essential fatty acids promote a healthy coat
- Promotes normal healthy brain activity
Omega-3s may help discomfort associated with normal daily exercise and activity. Fatty acids are also vital to everyday health and the heart and cardiovascular systems.
We’ll break down some of the benefits below to help you learn more about how essential fatty acids can promote your dog’s overall well-being.
Skin and Coat Health in Dogs
Omega 3 fatty acids supply nutrients for coat health. This is particularly important if your dog experiences skin irritation, resulting in the dog’s coat appearing dull and patchy. Additional skin and coat benefits include:
- Helps animals achieve a soft, silky, shiny and healthy coat
- Help decrease normal inflammatory pathways
- May help with occasional or seasonal allergies
- Helps maintain a normal inflammatory response which may benefit dogs with itchy, dry skin
- Promoting the absorption of essential nutrients
Omega 3 for Heart Health in Dogs
When you think of heart health, you don’t necessarily think fats could be beneficial. But, there are healthy fats that are beneficial to your dog. Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that promotes the health of your dog’s heart and circulatory system.
The benefits of this essential fatty acid with regard to heart health include:
- Helps promote normal circulation of blood through the body
- Helps support normal cardiovascular function
- Supports normal blood pressure
- Supports vascular health
Omega-3 for Immune Health in Dogs
The immune system is a complex network of organs, cells, and chemicals that work together to protect the body from infection by viruses, bacteria, and parasites. When working properly, the immune system destroys any cells that are infected with a virus or bacteria, or any foreign substance such as pollen that enters the body.
Omega 3 may aid the immune system by:
- Supporting the immune system
- Enhancing the immune response
- Acting as immune enhancers
- Promoting homeostasis
- Supporting normal detoxification processes
Omega 3 Fatty Acids in Hemp Extract
Hemp extract contains two types of omega 3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and stearidonic acid (SDA). ALA is considered plant based since it can be made by plants through photosynthesis. SDA is found mostly in seafood but also occurs in plants such as kiwi fruit and hemp seeds.
ALA and SDA can be converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are the types of omega-3s found in fish oil. Since EPA and DHA can both be produced using full hemp extract, this could be a helpful addition to your dog’s daily regimen.
The dosage varies depending on how your individual dog reacts. The general guideline is to start low and go slow. This means you begin at the lowest effective dose. If the low dose isn’t effective, increase the dosage gradually. You can also purchase a higher strength supplement. Earth Buddy offers three strengths of hemp extract; 250mg, 500mg, and 1000mg.
Feeding Dogs Kibble for Omega-3s
Your dog’s regular diet may not be as healthy as it’s advertised to be. If your dog’s diet consists primarily of pet foods you buy at the store, it may be time to consider a new option. Or, improve your dog’s pet food-based diet through supplementation.
There’s a common myth that commercial dog foods are completely balanced in every aspect, including their balance of omega-3 and omega-6. Unfortunately, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is not appropriate in commercial pet foods. In fact, commercial dog foods have been found to be high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3s.
Commercial dog food also go through a process called extrusion, in which, the contents of the kibble are blended together and cooked at extremely high temperatures. Many holistic veterinarians and raw feeding pet parents believe this destroys important micronutrients. There are also risks of carcinogenic implications due to the high temperatures kibbles are cooked at.
This is where feeding a raw diet could be helpful. Dogs that are fed a raw diet are more likely to have the proper balance of omega-3: omega-6. In addition to providing a raw diet that includes small, oily fish, you can provide full-spectrum CBD oil for added nutritional benefit.
What are Good Sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids for Dogs? Fresh Fish as a Source of Omega-3
Contrary to popular belief, fish oil, like salmon oil, isn’t the best option for omega 3s. Fish oils can quickly become rancid due to oxidation. This could occur even before the product hits the shelf. If you do choose fish oil over other options, it’s important to search for a reputable company that uses dark colored bottles to preserve as many compounds as possible.
Even if the fish oil supplement for pets is in a dark colored bottle, the shelf stability on a lot of these products is questionable. With any animal fat, there should be an emphasis to buy fresh or raw sources because of the rancidity and questionable processing of shelf stable fish oil supplements for pets. Many shelf stable fish oil supplements for dogs and cats are sourced outside of the USA and often travel great distances. This poses many quality risks with temperature and many have questioned what these products are processed with to make them sit on shelves for month, if not years?
The best option is whole, fatty fish that are small in size. Large fish tend to accumulate significant amounts of mercury in their bodies, whereas smaller fish with shorter lifespans don’t have time to accumulate this heavy metal.
Farmed fish are also wise to steer clear of when possible. Farmed fish are given a lot of hormones and antibiotics. Since there are so many fish in one area, disease runs rampant, necessitating the overuse of antibiotics.
Wild fish are the best way to go. However, you should freeze them for at least one week prior to feeding them to your dog. This will kill any parasites or bacteria present in the fish. You should also concentrate on feeding the flesh rather than the organs.
If your dog doesn’t like the flesh of fish in the form as dog treats or in your pet’s diet, dog owners can incorporate it into dog food by cutting it into small pieces and blending it in.
One last simple option gaining popularity among pet owners that feed raw diets is fermented fish stock or fish gelatin for pets. Packed with natural sources of protein, collagen, elastin, lysine, and other vital amino acids for pets, fish gelatin or fermented fish stock are typically found in the freezer section of your local pet store. Fermented Fish stock or broth acts as a great pet food topper for pickier species like cats or older dogs. It is also great for overweight or sensitive stomach pets. Make sure that the company you select for fermented fish stock is only using wild caught fish that are sustainably sourced.
These natural sources omega 3’s from animal and plant sources, but preferably, in quality fish oil can support joint health and overall health in older dogs especially.
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