The benefits of fish oil for humans have been touted for years, but few people know these supplements can also help our canine companions. Rich in omega fatty acids, fish oil can aid in everything from development in puppies to reducing inflammation in anthric pets, all while giving your dog’s skin and coat a healthy boost.
Omega fatty acids come in two major forms: omega-3 and -6. While omega-3 is found primarily in cold-water fish, shellfish, plant and nut oils and flaxseed, omega-6 is a common ingredient in processed foods and grains. Because many pet food companies use these grains as fillers, your pet may be getting too much omega-6 in his diet, which can turn on his body’s inflammation response. Fortunately, omega-3 can help balance the risks of an omega-6-heavy diet.
Fish oil supplements contain the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Both can be made only in a limited capacity in dogs, but pack some serious health benefits. EPA is anti-inflammatory and can help will help conditions that cause inflammation of the heart, kidneys, skin and joints, such as arthritis. DHA is vital to brain and eye development in puppies and can be especially beneficial when given to pregnant or nursing pets. Omegas also boost your pet’s skin and coat health and can ease inflammation caused by allergies and reduce itchy skin.
With so many benefits, incorporating fish oil into your pet’s diet may seem like a no-brainer. There are, however, some potential drawbacks to consider before adding fish oil to Fido’s food. Supplements can contribute to diarrhea in pets with a history of gastrointestinal problems and can interact negatively with blood-thinning or anti-inflammatory medications. In excessive amounts, fish oil can also interfere with the healthy inflammatory response of your dog’s immune system, which is important in controlling threats from infection, cancer and other abnormalities. Fish oil can also breakdown when exposed to the air, creating free radicals that can damage your pet’s cells. And, while this isn’t a health issue, per say, fish oil can sometimes contribute to bad breath, which is a downside for pet parents.
If you do choose to supplement your dog’s diet with fish oil, be sure to buy a high-quality product in a darkly colored bottle and store it in the refrigerator to reduce breakdown. While the recommended safe dose for dogs is 20 milligram of EPA per pound body weight (you don’t need to calculate DHA), you should talk to your veterinarian about the right dose for your pet. If using fish oil as a long-term supplement, discuss vitamin E supplements with your vet, too, as fish oil can contribute to vitamin E depletion in dogs.