You hear a lot about Omega 3s, Omega 6s, and maybe even Omega 9s. But do you really know anything about them? Working together in the right proportions, they are imperative to your dog’s health. The problem is that they are rarely in the right proportions. A lot of food manufacturers will attempt to resolve this by adding things to the foods, but there is a level of instability with this. Food processing, age of the product, handling during distribution, exposure to elements, etc. all impact the overall usefulness of added omegas.
First, a quick lesson.
EFAs (essential fatty acids) are required by us and our dogs (and cats) to function. Our body can not create these, they must be eaten. EFAs consist of Omega 3s and Omega 6s.
EPA and DHA, along with ALA are the three types of Omega 3s. EPA and DHA are found in fish, algae, krill, etc. ALA is found in plants and nuts (vegetable oils, flaxseed, etc.). It is important to understand the differences in these. Marine source Omega 3s (EPA and DHA) can be absorbed and utilized in the body as they are. ALA can not. It is a shorter chain fatty acid and must first be elongated before it can be processed and utilized. The problem is that dogs and cats can only process a very minimal amount (less than 15%) of ALAs, making them a much less effective way to get Omega 3s. So when a food label is boasting about their added Omega 3s but most of them come from ALA, they really don’t provide the benefits your dog needs. (Oh, and it usually isn’t very clear on the label which form of Omega 3s they are.)
Unlike Omega 3s, you can find Omega 6s in nearly everything you consume. This generally leads to an Omega imbalance…too many 6s, not enough 3s. Ideally, you would want your dog’s diet to be somewhere in the 5:1 range (Omega 6:Omega 3), and not over 10:1.
Benefits of Omega 3 Supplements
The benefits of adding Omega 3 supplements to your pet’s diet are amazing. I would guess that almost every dog or cat could benefit from it. Here are just a few of the benefits:
- Reduced inflammation.
- Better brain function.
- Improved cardiovascular function.
- Boost immunity.
- Improve/maintain healthy skin & coat.
- Increased joint function.
- Reduced cholesterol.
You can find oil supplements in 3 forms: capsules, oil and powder.
- Capsules are convenient, but you have to be careful if your dog is allergic to beef or pork as it is often used to make the capsule that the fish oil is in. Also, if you have a small dog, dosage can be difficult. (Personal experience – we’re not a “pill” family so this didn’t go over so well.)
- Fish oil can be fairly easy to use, or it can be messy…this depends on the type of bottle it’s packaged in. Pour (or pump) the recommended amount for your dog’s size. Fish oil does usually have to be refrigerated after opening. (Personal experience – dogs loved it, but it inevitably would splash and if we didn’t know it to wipe it up, it would stain whatever it landed on.)
- Powder is convenient as it can just be sprinkled over their food. It’s very easy to get the appropriate dose for each dog. Some dogs may not like a powder texture on their food. (Personal experience – my dogs have been known to lick the powder off their food before eating the rest.)
Reading the Labels and Knowing Your Source
It is just as important as it is with food. You have to read and understand the labels. You have to know and trust the source. There is little FDA regulation of nutritional supplements. There is no mandated testing of products to ensure it is what it says it is. Marketing continues to be king – clever wording, fancy packaging and cute pictures can cover up the lack of a quality product. There have been instances where random testing has occurred and found that the product is not what it claims to be. So what can you do? Read the actual label, and educate yourself.
At Fido’s Market, we use the same scrutiny with our supplement offerings as we do our foods. We carry a variety of Omega 3 supplement options from companies we trust.