Giving your dog fish oil is a smart move if you take your pet’s health seriously. A wealth of studies show that dogs can benefit from fish oil just like their human owners. Fish oil can help overcome itchy skin, poor quality coat, painful joints, arthritis, kidney and heart problems, diabetes, epilepsy, GI issues, and some types of cancer.
Why Do Dogs Need Fish Oil?
Just like with humans, dogs require a variety of dietary fats for optimal health. Fish oil is made up of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that have protective effects and act as anti-inflammatory agents in cells throughout the body.
How do they do this?
Cells are made up of a membrane that has two layers of lipids or fats. If the cell lipid layers are made up of omega-3 fats, the cell will be more fluid and healthier, allowing for messages to pass more quickly from cell to cell.
Problems arise for many dogs because dog food manufacturers use corn, soy, and refined oils that are high in a competing form of fat called omega-6 fats. This leads to an overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids that are pro-inflammatory. Your dog ends up with too much omega-6 and not nearly enough omega-3 fatty acids. Humans are the same way: We need omega-6 fatty acids but our modern diet often has way too many.
It’s almost impossible to get a dog food that doesn’t contain omega-6s. Even if you go with a high-quality meat-based food over the cheaper corn- and grain-centered kibbles, the meat will be high in omega-6s. Aside from cooking for your dog with free-range meat and seafood, it’s almost impossible to balance their omegas. Supplementing with fish oil is an easy solution!
Benefits of Fish Oil For Pups
Fish oil is a darling of the nutritional world for humans and our pets. Here are several benefits of ensuring your dog is getting fish oil:
#1: Protect the Heart
Fish oil reduces the heart’s vulnerability to developing an irregular heart rhythm, called atrial fibrillation. It also helps treat heart failure: One study found that in dogs with chronic heart failure, supplementation with daily EPA and DHA fish oil reduced markers of cardiovascular inflammation and improved cachexia or muscle wasting that occurs in conjunction with diseases such as heart disease or cancer (1, 2).
2. Produce A Shiny Coat & Overcome Skin Disorders
Fish oil can improve the quality of your dog’s coat, giving it that smooth and silky feel. Fish oil may also reduce shedding and itching by decreasing the body’s release of potent stimulators of inflammation, called cytokines. One study found that a daily dose of fish oil significantly reduced skin disorders and improved coat quality compared to a control group (3).
3. Improve Joint Health
Fish oil decreases the production of prostaglandins that damage joint tissue and increase pain, leading to arthritis. In a study conducted by a group of veterinarians on dogs with osteoarthritis, fish oil supplementation combined with a food that contained glucosamine (another joint supplement) for 6 months resulted in substantial improvements in the ability to rise from a resting position and in play activities (4, 5). Walking ability and weight bearing scores also improved significantly.
4. Improve Brain Development & Function
One of the fatty acids in fish oil, DHA, is a vital brain nutrient that supports brain development in puppies and preserves cognitive function in aging dogs. One study found that giving DHA to puppies increased trainability and their capacity to learn new skills. Other research shows supplementation can reduce aggressive canine behaviors. Fish oil also improved markers of cognitive ability, such as recognizing family members and overcoming excessive licking.
5. Protect Metabolic Health
Fish oil is protective against several metabolic risk factors associated with heart disease and diabetes. Supplementing dogs with fish oil may lower levels of triglycerides, which are harmful fats in the blood stream. Hyperlipidemia, which is what humans often refer to as “high cholesterol,” is generally treated in dogs with a low fat diet. When this doesn't work fish oil can help. Researchers recommend a dose of 1,000 mg for every 10 pounds of bodyweight.
6. Protect The Kidneys
Fish oil reduces the production of pro-inflammatory substances that aggravate the kidneys and can contribute to the progression of kidney disease. Supplementation also improves outcomes from kidney surgery in dogs: One study found that giving fish oil improved creatinine clearance (a marker of kidney function) and increased survival rates compared to a supplement containing safflower oil (6).
7. Slow Tumor Growth & Protect Against Cancer
Research is in the early stages but evidence shows fish oil can inhibit tumor growth by stimulating the cancer cells to differentiate (turn into specific cell types). When cells differentiate, they have a limited ability to divide and ultimately survive. Fish oil may be most protective against mammary gland and prostate cancer tumors in dogs (7).
How To Give Fish Oil
Fish oil comes in liquid form and can be easily mixed with your dog’s food. The recommended dose for general health is based on body weight: Give 25 to 40 mg of both EPA and DHA for every kg of body weight (7).
Always measure liquid forms carefully. There’s no risk of toxicity from high-quality fish oil, however, too much can lead to diarrhea.
There are two formulations of omega-3 fatty acids: triglyceride and ethyl ester. Triglyceride is the natural form and it is easiest for your pet to absorb. The other type is the ethyl ester form that has about 40 percent lower bioavailability. The fatty acids are also less stable, putting the omega-3s at risk of oxidizing or “spoiling,” which is associated with increased health problems.
Avoid feeding your dog fish oil made for humans because this will provide other fatty acids that your dog doesn’t need. Some forms of fish oil, such as cod liver oil, contain vitamin A and D, which can lead to excess consumption of those two nutrients. Flax oil is not recommended because dogs are unable to convert the plant-based omega-3 ALA to DHA and EPA.
Buy from a reputable company that performs extensive testing on their fish oil to ensure you are avoiding a low-quality oil that can go rancid or be contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins.
Try our new Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for Pets that provides the highest quality oil and meets or exceeds the FDA Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). Note that this fish oil is purified, which removes the “fishy” smell common with some fish oils.
As with all of our fish oil products, the Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for Pets goes through molecular distillation to remove any toxins.