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Most pet owners feed the best dog food to their pet but despite doing so; their pet does not get all the nutrition it needs. The main reason behind this is that commercial dog food simply does not contain all the nutrients needed by canines for overall health and well being. Due to this reason, dogs are ideal candidates for food supplementation and one of the most important supplements every dog needs is fish oil.
The best fish oil for dogs are oils that provide a solid source of Omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) which play an important role in your dog’s overall health and development. In this guide, I will be talking about everything you need to known about omega 3 essential fatty acids and the best fish oil brands for dogs.
What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is a long chain fatty acid comprising of 18 carbon atoms. It is a polyunsaturated fat consisting mainly of EPA and DHA. EPA is short for eicosapentaenoic acid while DHA is short for docosahexaenoic acid.
Both these essential fatty acids are found in cold water fish and both have anti-inflammatory effect which helps protect dogs from cancers and other major health issues. Essential fatty acids protect against heart disease. EPA and DHA both get converted into prostaglandins which are hormone like substances necessary for healthy cell activity and proper cardiovascular functioning.
These fatty acids also improve brain function. It is now proven that polyunsaturated fats found in fish oil for dogs are the best fats to feed them. They are much healthier compared to saturated fats that cause heart disease and clogged arteries.
Why Do Dogs Need Fish Oil?
Humans can manufacture small quantities of EPA and DHA from ALA (alpha linolenic acid) which is another essential fatty acid. ALA is found in small amounts in walnuts, flaxseeds, nuts, green vegetables etc.
Dogs and cats cannot make this conversion at all. Consequently, they need to be given fish oil supplements so as to receive all of the health benefits found in ALA, EPA and DHA.
A Bit about Omega Essential Fatty Acids
Dogs need two types of Omega essential fatty acids- Omega 3 and Omega 6. Most dogs get plenty of omega-6 essential fatty acids through their food but Omega 3 essential fatty acids are rare.
While many dog food manufacturers claim to add Omega 3 in their pet foods, it is not enough. The main reason for this is that exposure to air invariably makes pet food deficit in Omega 3 fatty acids. This makes it even more necessary for pet parents to consider a good Omega 3 supplement for their dogs.
Benefits of Fish Oil Supplementation for Dogs
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Many studies have proven the benefits of Omega 3 essential fatty acids on heart health in humans and canines. When taken regularly, fish oil can reduce triglycerides and high cholesterol.
They also improve the levels of good cholesterol. The blood thinning effect of fish oil helps reduce blood pressure. A study by Laurent G et al proved that fish oil helps prevent atrial fibrillation which is a common cause of heart attack in dogs.
Arthritis and other Inflammatory Diseases
According to a study by Laflamme DP on managing obesity in dogs and cats, fish oil prevented metabolic syndrome and arthritis in felines and canines. The study by Bauer JE on response of dogs to fish oil proved that dogs easily absorb and metabolize fish oil which helps reduce inflammation and modifies immune response resulting in healthier coat, skin and joints.
Likewise, a double blind study by researchers also showed possible benefits of supplementation with fish oil on inflammatory conditions like lupus, IBS or irritable bowel syndrome etc.
Diets high in fish oil have shown to significantly improve quality of life as well as longevity in dogs with lymphoma.
Fish oil can slow down progression of kidney disease especially glomerular disease wherein kidneys lose protein. EPA is particularly beneficial for kidney health in cats and dogs. Study by Plantinga EA et al showed improved survival rate in cats with chronic renal insufficiency.
Fish oil is often recommended for pets with traumatic injuries to the brain and spinal cord and also in senile dogs and cats. Omega 3 essential fatty acids also prevent and treat symptoms of depression according to a number of double blind trials. More animal studies are needed to ascertain this.
Pregnancy and Nursing
DHA and EPA are essential for normal development and functioning of brain and retina in fetus. For this reason, pregnant and nursing bitches and cats can benefit from fish oil supplementation. It is no wonder that DHA is often added to food for young pets.
Inflammation in Pets- An Alarming Cause of Canine and Feline Diseases
Inflammation is like an alarm system; all animals are equipped with it so that their bodies can become alert to danger. An inflammatory response is triggered by the immune system when something is not right. Once inflammation begins, it triggers a whole range of physiological reactions.
Almost all human and canine cancers are linked to inflammation. In short: inflammation underlies asthma, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, heart disease, blood pressure, high cholesterol and other lifestyle diseases. Today, many vets are of the opinion that inflammation is a factor in almost every disease state.
Food is one of the most common causes of inflammation. Carbohydrate laden food gets converted into simple sugar which feeds inflammation. Likewise, red meat that we usually feed dogs is another cause of inflammation. Another trigger is excess weight. Fat excretes pro-inflammatory chemicals and triggers sustained inflammation. Therefore, getting excess weight off your dog or cat is necessary to reduce inflammation.
Fish oil and its omega 3 essential fatty acids play a vital role in preventing inflammation. Pet foods, as stated above, do not contain Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Therefore, more and more vets are of the opinion that cats and dogs are deficient in this important nutrient.
Feeding your canine a good omega 3 supplement can improve its overall health and well being and prevent inflammation. This in turn can improve longevity by reducing risk of cancer and other canine diseases. One of the major signs of deficiency of Omega 3 essential fatty acid is a dull, dry and flaky coat. With regular use of a supplement of fish oil , you will definitely see improvement in the coat along with more alert and brighter eyes.
Diabetes and Omega 3
Dogs and cats can develop diabetes too. Omega 3s helps alleviate insulin resistance which is a key factor in type 2 diabetes.
Similarly, fish oil supplements improve blood glucose balance and slow down progression of inflammation, oxidative stress and obesity in dogs. They also treat inflammation in insulin producing –an event that leads to type 1 diabetes.
How to Give Fish Oil and Omega 3s to Dogs?
The best sources of Omega 3s are fish oil, flaxseed oil and salmon. If your dog does not get these, look for a good quality supplement. Here is the dosage:
- Small breeds- 1000 mg gel cap per day
- Medium breeds-1500 mg gel cap per ay
- Larger breeds-2000 mg gel capsule per day
Use your judgment to ascertain how much your dog needs. When giving caplets, pierce the soft gel and squeeze the oil on your dog’s kibble and many dogs like to swallow the pill whole. You can also buy cod liver oil, anchovy oil or salmon oil in liquid form. Add a sufficient quantity to the pet’s food.
How to Choose The Best Fish Oils for Dogs?
When deciding on a good fish oil supplement and how much fatty acid to give, you must learn to read labels. This is still an area of confusion for both pet owners and vets. Many make the mistake of reading the total fish oil content of the supplement as a guideline for dosing. This is incorrect.
The proper way to dose a fatty acid is to ignore the total fish oil concentration and look for the additive effect of Omega 3s, namely EPA and DHA. So, if your pet has to get 500 mg of EPA and DHA combined, and each capsule contains 250 mg only, then your pet must, regardless of the total fish oil concentration, get two capsules daily.
Many fish oil brands do not list EPA and DHA concentrations in milligrams; they do so in percentage. This can indeed be very confusing for pet owners.
It is best to avoid buying supplements that list EPA and DHA as percentage. If that is not possible, talk to the manufacturing company. Have them convert the percentages into milligrams. This can help you figure out the dosing.
Contraindications of Fish Oil
A Word of Caution: Not all Canines Need Fish Oil Supplements!
Before feeding any supplement to your pet, it is very important that you talk to your vet about it.
Following are some conditions where fish oil is contraindicated for dogs:
- If your pet has sensitive gastrointestinal system.
- In case your pet has a medical condition that causes heavy bleeding
- If your dog is already eating a diet rich in fresh fish, fish meal or fish oil.
Another concern regarding fish oil supplementation is mercury contamination. As per the Environmental Protection Agency or the EPA, humans and pets should not eat more than 6 oz servings of cod per month due to heavy mercury contamination.
Ocean dwelling fish invariably absorb mercury and other toxins from the sea; so it is very important that you look for the right source of fish oil for your beloved pet.
Possible Side Effects of Fish Oil in Dogs
A good quality supplement rarely causes any side effects but if your pet experiences any, you must discontinue use immediately.
If your pet is allergic to fish, or has shown hypersensitivity to fish in the past, avoid Omega 3 from fish oil. In rare cases, pets have been reported to have skin allergies, hives, respiratory issues, etc as a side effect of supplementation.
Fish oil can increase the risk of bleeding in doses over 3 grams. Very large doses of 12 grams or more can increase risk of hemorrhage or strokes. Rarely do pets need a dosage of more than 3 grams. Never combine fish oil with drugs like warfarin or coumarin.
Another common side effect in dogs taking fish oil is a fishy odor to the breath and coat. This can be remedied by sprinkling baking soda on the coat or rubbing a bit of coconut oil on dogs’ teeth to freshen up its breath.
5 Best Fish Oil Brands for Dogs
Here are 5 of popular fish oil brands for dogs.
Grizzly salmon oil is made with 100% pure salmon derived from wild Alaskan salmon.
- Supports immunity
- Comes in a convenient pump format for dispensing
- Has more than 4000 5-star ratings on Amazon.com
- More than 1000 pet owners believe that this supplement helped their pets having skin and fur issues. It can help put a stop to incessant scratching.
- 16 ounce bottle easily lasts about a month-based on your dog’s needs of course. That said; this is a fairly inexpensive product compared to many vet prescribed medicines.
- Balances ph and helps improve urinary health, joint issues and even suitable for dogs with diabetes.
- Could make your doggy’s breath and coat smell like fish
- Price of this brand has tripled recently-which is a turn off for many pet owners.
This fish oil is suitable for medium and large breed dogs and contains anchovies and sardine oils. It is beneficial for heart, eye, joint, weight, skin, coat issues and has been third party tested for purity.
- It has a much milder smell compared to many other fish oil brands.
- Works for dogs and cats.
- Particularly suitable for dogs with allergies, chronic kidney disease, joint or arthritis like conditions.
- The bottle pump is messy- the oil invariably runs down the sides, causing wastage and mess.
- Some dogs and cats experienced diarrhea with this brand of fish oil
Available in pill form, this is a popular choice among pet lovers. The soft gels are rich in Omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids.
- Keeps coat soft and healthy
- Helps with weight management
- Prevents itching
- Good taste that most dogs love
PurePaw wild Alaskan fish oil is specifically made for dogs with dry, itchy coat, hot spots and dry, rough fur. It is one of the rare brands of fish oil having antioxidants mixed with it. These keep it purer and increases shelf life.
- Easy to use-convenient pump
- Stops itching
- The fact that it has antioxidant mixed with it makes it last longer and keeps the oil pure.
- The manufacturers changed the pump diameter recently. Many users claim that this causes leaks.
- Few dogs and cats did not like the taste, and some dogs actually had an allergic reaction to it.
Benson’s Best fish oil for small dogs and cats is produced in Iceland and contains pure wild caught anchovy oil.
- Softgel capsules mean no mess, no drips
- Relieves arthritis pain, improves mobility, improves health of coat, boosts immune system, protects the heart, kidneys and brain health
- Lesser dandruff and shedding
- Particularly beneficial for cats and dogs with urine infections and cystitis.
- Improves mobility in limping dogs
- Contains 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA per soft gel
- 180 capsules provide 2 month supply for pets over 50 lbs
- Some dogs had allergic reactions
- Caplets are hard to swallow for some dogs
- Strong smell and taste which few animals hated
Many dogs do not receive all the nutrition they need through their food. This can give rise to inflammation which is the leading cause of many canine diseases.
You can always feed fresh fish to dogs but not all fish is the same. Many varieties contain mercury. Instead it is best to feed it a good fish oil supplement which can provide the pet with all the Omega 3s essential fatty acids it needs to keep diseases at bay.
There are many signs which indicate that your dog is not receiving proper nutrition. These include poor, dull coat, dull eyes, itchy, dry skin, flaking and dandruff, joint issues like limping and so on.
A good supplement of fish oil can prevent these problems and can also protect your pet’s urinary system, heart and brain and aid in weight management.
So wait no more! Buy the best fish oil for dogs and in no time you will see the difference!