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Fish oil is one of the best supplements to add to your dog’s diet. Fish oil supports your canine companion’s heart health, promotes a silky coat, reduces itchy and flaky skin, and can help relieve allergies and joint pain. It can even help strengthen their immune system and could help them fight canine cancer.
That’s because fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, an essential “good” type of fat that helps your dog’s body and brain. Like humans, dogs can’t produce omega-3 fatty acids on their own and must get them from their diet. If you’re considering including fish oil as a part of your dog’s nutritional routine, here’s what you need to know.
What Are Fatty Acids Found in Fish Oil?
There are four types of dietary fats: trans fats, saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Omega fatty acids, found in polyunsaturated fats, create important hormones that regulate blood flow and inflammation. However, they aren’t found naturally in the body. Omega-3 is found primarily in cold-water fish, shellfish, plant and nut oils, and flaxseed. But, your dog needs omega-3 in their diet for several reasons.
Omega-3 also helps balance out omega-6 fatty acids, commonly found in processed foods and most grains. Since many dog food manufacturers use meat from corn-fed animals or refined oil (which are high in omega-6), dogs often have an overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids in their diet. Your dog ends up with too much omega-6 and not nearly enough omega-3 fatty acids. And although we need omega-6 fatty acids, our modern diet often has too many. The body needs both in balance, and the same is true for dogs.
Why Should I Give My Dog Fish Oil?
Fish oil is a good way to give your four-legged companion the omega-3 fatty acids they need. Depending on their general health and diet, fish oil supplements may become part of a long-term plan. Or, they may just provide a temporary nutritional boost to your dog’s diet.
Another benefit of fish oil is that it helps dogs across the span of their lifetimes. DHA, a component in omega-3 fatty acid, aids in the proper brain and eye development of puppies. DHA may also improve cognitive function in older dogs dealing with canine cognitive dysfunction. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help to treat canine arthritis and chronic kidney disease.
As with anything affecting your dog’s health, talk to your veterinarian about supplementing your dog’s diet with fish oils before proceeding.
How Do I Choose a Good Fish Oil for My Dog?
There are three types of fish oil on the market:
- Natural triglyceride oil, which is the most natural and easiest to absorb. However, because it isn’t purified, it may contain contaminants
- Ethyl ester oil is concentrated and distilled, removing impurities. Think of it as semi-natural with high levels of important components of omega-3: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Synthetic triglyceride oil, which as the name says, is synthetic and absorbs the least easily of the three
Before choosing which type of fish oil to feed your dog, consider their breed, size, weight, and overall health. Speak with your veterinarian first as well. Over the long term, using fish oil as a supplement to a grain-based diet may deplete vitamin E, so some dogs may also ultimately require that supplement too.
The all-natural TerraMax fish oil liquid is appropriate for dogs and doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients. It’s guaranteed to contain at least 800 mg EPA and 525 mg DHA per serving (which support skin, fur, joints, and overall health), without the strong scent of fish. Most reviews are positive, reporting that the oil is worth the cost and works well for pets dealing with joint pain and itchy skin. Price: $20
Made in the USA, this Nordic Naturals supplement is a solid source of EPA and DHA and perfect for small breed dogs. Most reviews are positive and users report that the oil leaves their pet’s coats silky smooth. Price: $13
If you’d rather give your pup a capsule than mix liquid into their food, this is the solution for you. This supplement is made with ingredients caught from the cleanest waters. Nordic Naturals are produced in true triglyceride form to ensure optimal absorption and results. The gels are recommended by veterinarians for dogs of all sizes and breeds. Reviewers also indicate that the gels are effective and less messy. Price: $34
Care and Storage of Fish Oil
Protecting fish oil from heat, light, and air is important. Buy your fish oil in dark bottles and store it in the refrigerator. It can become rancid since they are susceptible to oxidation, so make sure to throw it away if it has an “off” odor.
Rather than following dosage guidelines on the package, ask your vet how much fish oil is appropriate for your dog. Make sure the amount of fish oil you give them is appropriate for their size, weight, and age.
It’s difficult to feed your dog a completely natural diet. With so many processed ingredients in some of today’s dog food, fish oil may be just the supplement to their diet needs. Lastly, be sure to ask your vet for advice before starting your dog on supplements, and purchase only quality products if that’s the route you choose.