Just as in humans, healthy fats are an important part of your dog’s balanced diet. Healthy fats can provide energy, reduce inflammation, absorb vitamins, process hormones and promote brain and heart health.
Omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids are all considered healthy fats. Certain human foods and dog foods contain some omegas, but perhaps the best way to ensure your dog is getting the omegas he needs is by giving him fish oil supplements.
By understanding the benefits these good fats provide and how you can integrate them into your dog’s diet, you can help your pet receive the proper nutrition his body needs.
What Are Omega Fatty Acids?
French fries and pizza crusts are full of fat, but not the type your pet should eat. Your dog needs healthy, natural sources of fat, like the kind found in salmon, flaxseed or eggs.
“There are many good fats, such as omega-9 fatty acids, that are required in the right balance for both our and our pet’s health,” explains Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, at Sheep Draw Veterinary Hospital in Greeley, Colorado.
The body can produce omega-9 fatty acids on its own. However, omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids, which are vital fats for dogs, can only be derived from their diet, explains Dr. Wooten.
What Are the Benefits of Omega-3 and -6 Essential Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids both provide benefits. When given the proper amount of both, they work together to help strengthen your dog’s immune system, reduce inflammation, protect brain and heart health, and improve your pet’s skin and coat.
However, since omega-6 essential fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, you need to balance them out with omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory, Dr. Wooten says.
Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH of Animal Acupuncture in New York, New York, echoes this statement.
“There’s a big difference between omega-3 and -6. One important function of omega-3s is they work antagonistically with omega-6s,” says Dr. Barrack.
Too many omega-6s without enough omega-3s to balance them out can negate any health benefits.
“The right balance is paramount,” she says.
How to Incorporate Omegas in Your Pet’s Diet
Giving your dog omega-rich foods along with fish oil tablets can help ensure your pet receives the proper amount of essential fatty acids he needs.
Knowing how much fish oil to give your dogs is just as important as knowing what type to give them. Before trying anything new, Dr. Wooten recommends speaking with your veterinarian to make sure you’re giving your dog the proper amount of essential fatty acids and not under- or overdoing it.
Human Food Rich in Omegas
One way to incorporate healthy fats into your pet’s diet is by simply opening your fridge.
Common foods you’d find in the fridge that have omega-3 essential fatty acids are salmon, sardines and eggs, according to Dr. Wooten.
“Omega-3 fatty acids—specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA)—are found in many types of fish, including anchovies, herring, salmon, mackerel, tuna and mussels,” Dr. Wooten says. “There are also vegetarian sources of omega-3 for dogs, called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which are found in eggs, flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts.”
Omega-6 fatty acids come from foods such as eggs and the oils in seeds and nuts, Dr. Wooten adds.
But “human food” should not be your go-to source unless you’ve spoken with a pet nutritionist to formulate a homecooked diet for your pet, Dr. Wooten stresses.
Dog Food and Treats Rich in Omegas
Most dog foods have omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids in them. A few dog foods to consider are:
- Natural Balance L.I.D. duck and potato dry dog food. This is formulated to have the balanced amount of omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids and has all of the essential vitamins and minerals to provide a complete and balanced diet for your dog.
- American Journey salmon and sweet potato dog food. This is formulated with omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids, DHA to help support brain and vision development, antioxidants to help support a healthy immune system and high-quality protein to help maintain lean muscles.
- Wellness CORE grain-free turkey and chicken dog food. The omega-3 essential fatty acids in this formula are derived from flaxseed and salmon oil. It also contains glucosamine and chondroitin to help support hip and joint health.
It can be tricky to know how many omegas are in your dog’s food and if it’s enough to meet his omega needs. Work with your veterinarian to determine the best ways to give your dog enough omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids or if you need to add more omegas in his diet.
Fish Oil Supplements for Dogs
If your veterinarian says your dog needs an extra omega boost, consider fish oil supplements.
“Most dogs can benefit from fish oil,” Dr. Wooten says.
Fish oil supplements tend to contain higher amounts of omegas and pure omegas, meaning pets are more likely to reap the therapeutic benefits, she explains.
Dr. Wooten recommends Nordic Naturals Omega-3 soft gel supplement, which is derived from wild anchovies and sardines. Other options include:
- American Journey wild Alaskan salmon oil dog and cat supplement. Made with wild-caught salmon, which contains omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA to promote skin and coat health.
- Dr. Lyon’s Skin & Coat Support dog supplement. Formulated with salmon oil that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, plus omega-6 and 9 fatty acids to help support skin and coat health.
- VetriScience Omega-3, 6, 9 dog and cat soft gel capsules. Sourced from borage seed, flaxseed and fish, this supplement is ideal for multi-pet households, as it’s formulated for both dogs and cats.
- Zesty Paws Omega Bites omega-3, 6, & 9 for dogs. All-natural chews made with cod liver oil, rice bran, flaxseed meal and fish oil for dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions & Answers About Fish Oils for Dogs
Many questions may arise when you add a supplement to your pet’s diet. Below are common questions about fish oil supplementation for dogs as answered by Dr. Wooten.
“What kind of fish oil is best for my dog?”
It varies. The formulation of liquid or capsule doesn’t really matter as much as the purity and freshness of the 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 product is of high quality and fresh.
“How should I give a fish oil capsule to my dog? Should I put it in his food?”
You can hide a capsule in a soft treat or use a piece of cheese. If your dog eats his food in one sitting, then you can hide the supplement in the food, whether it is capsule or liquid. However, if your dog is a grazer and leaves food in the bowl, you should not add it to the food, because the supplement will oxidize.
“How much fish oil can I give my dog daily?”
The amount varies between dogs. For example, the recommended dosage for omega-3 essential fatty acids is higher for dogs that have skin or joint issues (as much as 4,000 mg combined EPA and DHA per day for a 75-pound dog).
There are rare cases where too much omega-3 fatty acid 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 omega-3 supplement product that you are using.
Lindsay Schencker, Pet Central Associate Editor
The moment Lindsay started her career here at Chewy, she hit the ground running in customer service; she knew that this is the company she wanted to grow with from then on. When Lindsay isn’t spending her time writing for Pet Central, she’s most likely binge-watching a Netflix series and cuddling up with her 80-pound fur baby, Dexter.
Caitlyn Boyle contributed to this report.