What is omega-3? What makes it such a popular nutrient? And how can you help your dog get more omega-3 in their diet?
What is omega-3 for dogs?
Omega-3 is a group of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids. If your chemistry is a bit rusty, don’t worry - we’ll break it down for you.
- Fatty acids: these are a building block for good general health. They store energy, help the body absorb certain vitamins and play a huge role in controlling hormones
- Essential: this is a short way of saying that your dog’s body can’t produce the fatty acids on its own. They must be taken from food or supplements
- Polyunsaturated: the polyunsaturated part means that this is a healthy type of fat. You’ve probably heard of good fats and bad fats. This is the good type of fat that you want to make sure your dog doesn’t run low on
How is omega-3 beneficial for puppies?
As puppies start to explore the world around them, they also get to make acquaintance with various germs. This is why it is believed that omega-3 might be especially important for puppies, to help support their underdeveloped immune systems in fighting off illnesses and infections.
Omega-3 might also influence puppies’ mental development. Studies have shown that an omega-3-rich diet in a dog’s infancy can improve cognitive functions, memory and learning ability in growing dogs.
How can omega-3 help adult dogs?
Omega-3 is described as an anti-inflammatory supplement, being advertised as beneficial for dogs’ skin and coat while improving mobility by supporting stiff, aching joints. Research has shown that omega-3 for dogs can control inflammation and help with wound healing, making it important for dogs with injuries.
Is omega-3 suitable for senior dogs?
Omega-3’s ability to fight off inflammation points to another benefit, especially if your dog is not a youngster anymore. Many degenerative diseases that can develop later in your dog’s life are sometimes connected to inflammation. Omega-3 might alleviate some of the symptoms while acting as a natural ally for your dog’s immune system when they need it the most.
What foods provide omega-3 for dogs?
The ideal source of omega-3 for dogs depends on what type of fatty acid your dog needs. The three main types of omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
ALA is the fatty acid that can be found in plant sources, such as nuts and seeds. This type of fat is a somewhat indirect delivery method. Before the body can use it, it has to convert it into the other two main essential fatty acids. This takes longer than normal to happen, so although it’s okay to use it for a puppy, it’s not the best omega-3 source for an older or ill dog.
A faster and more practical way for your dog to get omega-3 fatty acids is through food sources rich in the two other main omega-3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA. These can be found in fatty fish oil (i.e. salmon, sardines, anchovies).
What about the other types of omega?
Omega-3 and omega-6 work best when considering them in proportion to one another. They work in an antagonistic manner. While the omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation, the hormones produced by omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation.
To make sure you keep your dog’s immune system in tip-top condition, it is important to balance the two. Chances are the omega-6 fatty acids are already part of your dog’s diet via seeds, nuts and vegetables. This is why it’s so important to provide a good supply of omega-3 in their diet to balance things out. Always speak to your vet before giving your dog any supplements.
How can I tell if my dog has an omega-3 deficiency?
Although there isn’t a single symptom that points to an omega-3 deficiency in your dog, there are a few signs you should keep an eye out for. These are dull or dry coat, hair loss, obesity, eye problems, poor wound healing or muscle weakness.
Before giving your dog any supplements or drastically changing their diet, we would recommend that you discuss it with your vet first. They will be happy to put your dog’s need of omega-3 in context by customising their diet or their daily intake of supplements.