Does your dog or cat need additional omega fatty acids in his diet? Not sure what to add? Here are some tips that may help sort it all out.

Fats in general are a part of a healthy diet. Fatty acids, especially omega-3s and omega-6s help keep hormones in balance, maintain normal cellular activity, A fatty acid is essential when the body cannot manufacture it. Because dogs, cats, and humans are different, the fatty acids deemed “essential” for dogs and cats are a bit different for humans. That, combined with the different kinds of omega oils, can be confusing.

 

Here is an overview of omega fatty acids:
Omega-3
  • Is a group of fatty acids that includes ALA (alpha linoleic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
  • Omega-3s are extremely fragile and breakdown easily with exposure to heat, light, and air.
  • Good sources of ALA include grass-fed and free-range animal protein, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed oil, hemp seeds, and pastured chicken eggs
  • Best sources of EPA and DHA are cold water fish like salmon, sardines, smelt, anchovies, etc.
  • Humans cannot manufacture omega-3s, but dogs have enzymes that enable them to make omega-3 fatty acids from omega-6s.
  • Omega-3s are not stored in the body so daily intake is needed.

A lot of people are concerned about radiation and mercury contamination of fish. One way to reduce that impact is to feed a diet that includes free-range animals. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in grass-fed animals is a much healthier 1:5 unlike factory farmed eggs and meat which typically have a 20:1 ration.


Omega-6 
  • Is also known as linoleic acid.
  • Omega-6 is an essential fatty acid for dogs and cats (and humans), and must be a daily part of a balanced diet.
  • The best sources are coconut oil, borage oil, and chia, hemp, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, and olive oils.
  • Healthy dogs and cats can manufacture the omega-3s needed for cell repair, reproduction, and hormone balance from omega-6s.

Note: Corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, and cottonseed oils are also “good” sources of linoleic acid, but are often refined and may be deficient in nutrients and usually genetically modified. Additionally, corn and soy are common allergens for dogs and cats.

An over-abundance of omega-6 in the diet can lead to inflammation, but it’s not the omega-6 specifically that’s the cause, but rather it’s an imbalance of 6s and 3s. You may think your pet’s diet includes plenty of omega 3 from fish oil, but that may not be the case. Omega-3s are easily damaged during food processing. Minimal and careful processing of nut, seed, and fish oil ensures potency of omega-3s. Feeding a raw, species-appropriate diet like Primal, Stella & Chewy’s, Rad Cat, or Northwest Naturals is a great way to balance the omega fatty acids.

If a raw diet doesn’t work for you or your pet, consider supplementing with Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet, Plato Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil, Grizzly Pollock Oil, or including treats like Bahia Blue’s Pure Fish Stix (dried smelt), Vital Essentials Sockeye Salmon (freeze-dried salmon skin), Plato Thinkers, or The Honest Kitchen Beams (dried Icelandic catfish skins).


Omega-7 (palmitoleic acid)
  • Research on the effects of omega-7 is still very new.
  • It may help reduce body weight, cholesterol, and triglycerides, and may also improve digestion.
  • Best source is the sea buckthorn, which also provides a wide variety of B-vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-9 (oleic acid)
  • Supplementation is not needed in a dog or cat’s diet.
  • Although omega-9 fatty acids may help the skin and coat, in the blood it competes with the more important omega-3s and -6s, so keep the omega-9 fats to a minimum.
  • The best sources are olive oil, avocados, and certain nuts.

Coconut Oil
  • Is neither an omega-3 nor an omega-6, but a medium-chain fatty acid, and is not a replacement for any of the omega fatty acids.
  • As an immediate source of fuel and energy, it helps “lazy dogs” feel more energetic
  • Coconut oil may improve the skin and coat, digestion, and metabolic function.
  • Recommended amount is 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of dog or cat body weight, twice a day, but start out slow, working up to the recommended amount over the course a of a couple of weeks.
  • Organic, virgin, unrefined coconut oil such as Dr. Bronner’s Organic Fair Trade Virgin Coconut Oil is best.

General guidelines for omega fatty acid supplements
  • The recommended ratio of omega 6:3 ranges from 2:1 to 10:1.
  • Fish oil: choose a product made from an specific fish such as anchovy oil over generic “fish oil,” which is often sourced from farmed fish.
  • Choose fish oil from wild-caught fish. Farmed fish can be very high in toxins and antibiotics.
  • Select organic cold-pressed flaxseed oil. Ground flax seeds as well as flaxseed oil are very delicate and should be stored in the refrigerator. Ground chia seeds are more stable, but will still benefit from refrigeration.
  • If your pet is allergic to shellfish, avoid krill oil.
  • If your pet is allergic to fish, supplement with flaxseed oil instead of fish oil.
  • Cod liver oil can be very high in vitamin A and relatively low in vitamin D, which can lead to vitamin A toxicity. We suggest that supplementation with cod liver oil be done only under the direction of your vet.

Omega-3 supplementation helps to improve immunity and decrease inflammation thereby improving overall health. There are some medical conditions where supplementation is vital, in which case you should be following your vet’s direction.

If you have not previously added omega fatty acids as a supplement and have decided to start, go slowly. Adding too much and/or too quickly can cause some digestive upset.