Fish oil for dogs
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Samantha SchwabNutrition / Supplements

Fish Oil for Dogs: What It Is, Benefits and Dosage

Is fish oil good for dogs like it is for humans? Yes, there are many potential benefits of fish oil for dogs, particularly when it is given under the right conditions.

As is ever the case before you start your dog on a new supplement, first check in with your veterinarian. They can explain how to safely and effectively use fish oil supplements for dogs.

What Is Fish Oil for Dogs?

Fish oil is just what it sounds like: oil that comes from fish. Some fish, particularly fish that reside primarily in cold waters, like salmon and cod, contain more oil than others, and therefore most fish oil supplements are derived from these varieties of fish.

Fish oil supplements are used because they contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which are often in short supply in our dog’s diets. Both DHA and EPA are essential omegas for dogs that are found in fish oil.

Is Fish Oil Good for Dogs?

Fish oil can be very good for dogs, especially:

  • Dogs with heart problems
  • Dogs who need a little extra help maintaining healthy skin and coats
  • Puppies who need the extra healthy fat to help their brains develop optimally
  • Dogs with joint or cognitive issues

Your veterinarian can let you know if your dog needs a fish oil supplement based upon their current health and their diet. Some dog foods don’t contain the optimum amount of omega-3s, mostly because they are difficult to incorporate since they go bad when exposed to the air.

Could Fish Oil Be Bad for Dogs?

Fish oil is well tolerated by dogs, even at fairly high dosages. However, you should still speak with your vet, as too much fish oil can have health consequences. Obesity, blood clotting issues and stomach upset are all potential problems that can result from too much fish oil.

How to Add Fish Oil to Your Dog’s Diet

While you could feed your dog actual fish to provide a small amount of fish oil, it’s certainly not the most convenient option, particularly when large doses are needed. There are a few different sources of fish oil for dogs.

Dog Food and Treats With Fish Oil

Some dog foods and treats contain fish oil but not in high enough concentrations to provide a recommended daily dose for the treatment of health problems. However, if you’re simply looking to boost your healthy dog’s nutrition, this can be a good choice.

Most dog foods with fish oil have it because they incorporate an oily fish as the main protein source, like Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Sensitive Skin and Stomach Salmon and Rice Formula.

If you’re looking for another way to add fish oil to your dog’s diet by way of their food, you might consider a food topper. These are often kept fresh in the fridge or are freeze-dried. They are added to food to make it more appetizing or to add healthy ingredients that don’t keep well in processed foods. Stella and Chewy’s Savory Salmon & Cod Meal Mixers Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food Topper is a good example of a fish oil-rich food topper.

Treats like American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Soft and Chewy Training Bits are another option for adding a little fish oil into your dog’s daily routine.

Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil supplements are the best way to provide the relatively high doses of fish oil necessary to treat disease.

There are several forms of fish oil supplements for dogs available, including liquids, capsules and chews. There isn’t really a “right one” to choose; it’s more of a preference. For example, if it's hard to get your dog to take a pill, fish oil pills for dogs probably aren’t the best choice. You can opt for chews or a liquid fish oil for dogs instead.

You’ll want to look for a fish oil supplement produced by a reputable manufacturer that’s clear about how much EPA and DHA their supplements contain, how the oil is processed, the oil’s source and any other ingredients the supplement contains.

It’s also very important that you store fish oil supplements appropriately. Omega-3s are an unstable fat. They’re prone to oxidation, which means they go bad easily. You don’t want to give your dog rancid fish oil, so it’s important that you store the supplement per label directions.

Fish Oil for Dogs Dosage Information

There is no hard-and-fast, simple explanation for finding the right fish oil dosage for dogs. Different dosages are used to support different health problems.

To know the correct fish oil dosage for your dog, you'll need to speak with your veterinarian. They’ll use factors like your dog’s age, weight, health and current diet to determine how much fish oil for dogs you should give.

If you’re giving a fish oil supplement designed for dogs, follow the dosage directions on the packaging unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian.

Best Fish Oil Supplements for Dogs

There are lots of great fish oil supplements for dogs on the market. Here are a few options to consider.

Liquids

Liquids are great for multi-pet households. It’s easy to offer pets different dosages according to their needs, and you can add them to food so they’re easy to give. Zesty Paws Pure Salmon Oil Skin & Coat Support Dog & Cat Supplement comes with a pump, so you can add it directly to your dog’s food. However, if your pet is a grazer, a liquid may not be the best option since the oil tends to go bad quickly when exposed to the air.

Chews

Chews are a great way to provide pets with their daily fish oil, even if they don’t like swallowing pills. Dr. Lyon’s Skin & Coat Support Soft Chews Dog Supplement is a good option if you need to incorporate omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids into your dog’s diet.

Capsules

Capsules are a popular way for people to take fish oil since it keeps that funky taste out of our mouths, but dogs generally enjoy the taste of fish oil. However, capsules do help keep fish oil for dogs fresh. Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet Soft Gels Dog Supplement is a high-quality fish oil capsule made for dogs.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Fish Oil for Dogs

Many questions may arise when you add a fish oil supplement to your pet’s diet.

Q:

What kind of fish oil is best for my dog?

A:It varies. The formulation of chew, liquid or capsule doesn't really matter as much as the purity and freshness of the fish oil. If your dog does liquid better than a capsule, then do liquid and vice versa. The most important thing is just to make sure the fish oil you choose is of high quality and is fresh.

Q:

How should I give a fish oil capsule to my dog? Should I put it in their food?

A:You can hide a capsule in a soft treat like peanut butter, or use a piece of cheese. If your dog eats their food in one sitting, then you can hide the supplement in the food. However, if your dog is a grazer and leaves food in the bowl, this is not the best choice.

Q:

How much fish oil can I give my dog daily?

A:The amount varies between dogs. For example, the recommended dosage for omega-3 essential fatty acids is around 4,300 mg combined EPA and DHA per day for a 75-pound dog, but that would be far too much for a smaller dog that suffers from dry, itchy skin.

There are rare cases where too much fish oil supplementation can interfere with blood clotting, so it is important to ask your veterinarian for a proper dosage for your dog or use the recommendations given on the label of the fish oil for dogs that you are using.

Fish oil supplements can be a great way to make sure your dog is getting optimum levels of omega fatty acids in their diet, especially the omegas that their bodies can’t synthesize. Talk to your veterinarian about whether fish oil supplements are right for your dog and which type they recommend.

By: Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

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