Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are not only beneficial to human health, but offer protection against a variety of medical conditions for dogs also. Both of the essential fatty acids must exist in a specific ratio in the body in-order for your dog to stay healthy. One 2008 study a fatty acid ration of 5:1 to have a positive influence on the immune response of young dogs.1 Since dogs are unable to manufacture these vital nutrients in their bodies, they must acquire them from their diet.
Due to the ingredients from which dog food is typically made, dog foods generally have abnormally high ratio of Omega-6 to Omega 3, with some brands going as high 10:1. Fish oil is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which is why vets recommend using fish oil supplements along with standard dog food. It creates a more favourable and healthy ratio of these essential fats.
Excessive hair loss and flaky skin is a common disorder among dogs; the correct balance of Omege 6 to 3 fatty acids in the diet can rectify this. This is because the fatty acids play a vital role in the assembly of the animal’s cells, and are also needed to preserve normal skin structure and function.2 If supplies of these acids are insufficient or out of balance your pet’s skin suffers.
Omega-3 fatty acids help to cut down on muscle loss; they also have antiarrhythmic properties, and lower inflammatory cytokines and eicosanoids. Studies show that dogs given fish oil supplements enjoy longer life spans and better cardiovascular fitness.3
Other benefits of Omega 3 and Omega-6 fatty acids include improvements in neurological development of puppies. It has been found that puppies born to dogs fed on high DHA (one of the two types of Omega-3) diets may benefit from improved learning abilities and memory.4 While another study found that pups fed high DHA diets tended to be more trainable than those on a low DHA diet.5
Dogs too can suffer from arthritis. Stiffness while walking is one sign that your pet might be arthritic. Super active dogs, those with joint issues and breeds more susceptible to joint problems can be treated with Omega-3 supplements. In a clinical trial, dogs given high doses of Omega-3 fatty acids were found to show marked improvement in their abilities to rise and play from a resting position compared to dogs in the control group.6
Before stating your dog on a supplement, it is best to consult your vet. Not only do different ailments require different doses of Omega-3 fatty acids, but different types of Omega-3s work best on different ailments and only your vet can properly guide you on that account. It is best to start with small doses and build-up slowly. Also if your pet is going to react to the supplement, it will do so within the first 72 hours of ingestion, so it is important to monitor them during this time. Once started, supplements take time to show results, typically around six to eight weeks. To ensure that your dog enjoys a long healthy life, it is best to start fish oil supplements early instead of waiting until your pet falls ill.
- Kearns RJ, Hayek MG, et al (1999) Effect of age, breed and dietary omega-6 (n-6): omega-3 (n-3) fatty acid ratio on immune function, eicosanoid production, and lipid peroxidation in young and aged dogs. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 1999 Aug 2;69(2-4):165-83.
- Watson (1998) J. Nutr. December 1, 1998 vol. 128 no. 12 2783S-2789S
- Slupe, J.L., Freeman, L.M. and Rush, J.E. (2008), Association of Body Weight and Body Condition with Survival in Dogs with Heart Failure. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 22: 561¬565. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-1676.2008.0071.x
- Heinemann KM1, Bauer JE. (2006) Docosahexaenoic acid and neurologic development in animals. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2006 Mar 1;228(5):700-5, 655.
- Kelley R., Lepine A., Morgan D. (2004) Improving Puppy Trainability through Nutrition. Proceedings, Preconf Workshop 6th int, Soc Study Fatty Acids Lipids Cong 2004: 51
- Roush J.K, Dodd E.C., et al (2010), Multicenter veterinary practice assessment of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on f youosteoarthritis in dogs JAVMA, Vol 236, No. 1