Do Your Pets Need An Omega-3 Supplement?
Just like humans, your pet needs a healthy environment with adequate exercise and a nutritious diet. When there is a lack of essential nutrients in a diet, or an accumulation of unnecessary toxins or calories, disease can occur.
There are different types of polyunsaturated fats in nutrition. Two very important ones often considered include omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation while the omega-3 fatty acids are more anti-inflammatory. There needs to be a balance between these two types of fats and in our Western culture, this balance has been thrown off to favour the omega-6 fatty acids.
Let’s use dogs as an example. If we look at the amount of omega-6s and omega-3s in wild animals vs. animals used to make dog food there is a much higher percentage of omega-6s in the farmed animals (chicken and grain fed beef) when compared to wild animals (elk and deer). While elk and deer have a ratio of about 3.5:1 omega-6s to omega-3, chicken has a ratio of 28:1.1
Remembering that omega-6s are pro inflammatory, we can easily see how a typical diet fed to dogs from farmed animals could contribute to increased inflammation in the body. This may result in chronic inflammation which leads to chronic health concerns. Adding in a fish oil supplement, full of omega-3s may help balance out this uneven ratio and make a positive impact on the health of your pet.
On top of being anti-inflammatory, omega-3s have several health benefits. These are well known and studied in humans, and are becoming of interest for animal health.
Just like in humans, dogs’ brains are rich in DHA (a type of omega-3 fatty acid). DHA is needed for proper growth and development. In a study that looked at the impact of DHA on brain development in puppies, researchers found that puppies who were fed diets rich in omega-3s over the first year of life performed better on a variety of cognitive tasks than those who were fed lower amounts. 2
Omega-3s aid in the treatment of heart failure and protection of a healthy heart through several different ways: lowering blood pressure, decreasing inflammation, and improving function of the heart.3 Various breeds, sizes, and ages of dogs can benefit from the addition of omega-3s for their heart health. In a study which looked at the survival of dogs with heart failure, those who were given omega-3s had longer survival times when compared to those who did not receive these fatty acids.3
A common issue with many dogs, especially larger ones, is joint pain. 1 in 5 dogs will experience osteoarthritis in their life and more than 65% of all dogs over the age of 7 years will develop arthritis.4 Due to the role of inflammation in joint pain, the diet of dogs is an area of research for intervention. As discussed previously, dog food is higher in omega-6s than wild food that dogs would have historically eaten. This increase in pro-inflammatory fats increases inflammation which can result in canine arthritis.
The Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association published a study that looked at this connection. In the study, dogs were fed a diet that had an increased amount of omega-3s and a decreased amount of omega-6s.5 After 8, 12, and 24 weeks, the owners of the dogs reported a significant improved ability for dogs to rise from sitting, increased play and increased walking ability when compared to those who were not given this supplemented diet.5
Omega-3s can also help decrease the occurrence and negative effects of chronic kidney disease in dogs. This is most likely due to the anti-inflammatory impact of omega-3s as a diet high in vegetable oils (high amounts of omega-6s) can negatively impact chronic kidney disease.6
Dogs aren’t the only pets that can benefit from omega-3s. In a 2017 study, authors looked at supplementing with omega-3s to measure the impact on kidney health in cats.7 The researchers found that by increasing these poly unsaturated fatty acids, stone formation decreased.7
- US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central.
- Zicker SC, Jewell DE, Yamka RM, Milgram NW. Evaluation of cognitive learning, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions in healthy puppies fed foods fortified with docosahexaenoic acid–rich fish oil from 8 to 52 weeks of age. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2012 Sep 1;241(5):583-94.
- Freeman LM, Rush JE, Kehayias JJ, Ross Jr JN, Meydani SN, Brown DJ, Dolnikowski GG, Marmor BN, White ME, Dinarello CA, Roubenoff R. Nutritional alterations and the effect of fish oil supplementation in dogs with heart failure. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 1998 Nov;12(6):440-8.
- Bland SD. Canine osteoarthritis and treatments: a review. Veterinary Science Development. 2015 Jul 17.
- Roush JK, Dodd CE, Fritsch DA, Allen TA, Jewell DE, Schoenherr WD, Richardson DC, Leventhal PS, Hahn KA. Multicenter veterinary practice assessment of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on osteoarthritis in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2010 Jan 1;236(1):59-66.
- Brown SA, Brown CA, Crowell WA, Barsanti JA, Kang CW, Allen T, Cowell C, Finco DR. Effects of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in early renal insufficiency in dogs. Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine. 2000 Mar 1;135(3):275-86.
- Hall JA, Brockman JA, Davidson SJ, MacLeay JM, Jewell DE. Increased dietary long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids alter serum fatty acid concentrations and lower risk of urine stone formation in cats. Plos one. 2017 Oct 26;12(10):e0187133.
- Lenox CE, Bauer JE. Potential adverse effects of omega‐3 fatty acids in dogs and cats. Journal of veterinary internal medicine. 2013 Mar;27(2):217-26.