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Essential fatty acids for your dog

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
Essential fatty acids for your dog

Omega 3 essential fatty acids from fish oils can help prevent and alleviate allergies, arthritis and other common canine problems.

You’ve heard a lot about the benefits of omega 3s and other essential fatty acids for human health, but did you know they’re also important to canine wellness? As a matter of fact, Omega 3s have become one of the most commonly used dietary supplements for dogs.

What are they?

Don’t be misled by the word “fatty” in “essential fatty acids”. Yes, we’re constantly being told to reduce the fat in our diets EFAs belong in that category. Essential fatty acids
include Omegas 3, 6 and 9 oils.

Omega 3s include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are most often found in cold water fish like salmon, mackerel or tuna. These oils fight inflammation in the body and are helpful for skin problems such as allergies as well as joint problems, including arthritis. They can also enhance the quality of your dog’s coat by reducing dryness and dander. And because Omega 3s suppress inflammation, they may also be good for dogs with IBD or other gastrointestinal issues, autoimmune problems, and may even help prevent cancer and heart disease.

Does my dog need essential fatty acids?

Even if you feed your dog a healthy food, it’s a good idea to supplement his diet with fish oil rich in Omega 3 EFAs, especially if he has skin allergies, arthritis or another type of inflammatory disease. Even if your dog doesn’t have any of these illnesses, a fish oil supplement can help maintain his joint health, improve his skin and coat and prevent dryness and itching. Check out your local pet supply store for fish oil supplements formulated especially for dogs. Just be sure to choose a pure, high quality product made from wild-caught fish. You’ll have to pay more, but it’s worth it.

Because dogs generally love the taste of fish, these supplements are easy to feed. Before starting your dog on any new supplement, though, it’s always a good idea to check with your veterinarian. For example, although fish oil supplementation is safe in the vast majority of cases, it shouldn’t be given to dogs on medications with a blood-thinning effect.

Adding a fish oil supplement to your dog’s diet can give him an extra boost of wellness, help him look and feel better, and may even stave off or alleviate some common health problems.

Tip: It’s not a good idea to feed your dog too much tuna, since it’s one of those fish that’s high in toxic heavy metals. Raw salmon is also not recommended, since it may be infected with Neorickettsia helminthoeca, an organism that can cause serious illness in dogs.


Ann Brightman is Managing Editor of Animal Wellness Magazine and Integrative Veterinary Care Journal. A lifelong animal lover, she has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. Ann is a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada and lives in Cobourg, Ontario.

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