Just like you, your dog may not be getting all the necessary nutrition he needs from eating his regular diet. While standard dog food can certainly come packed with plenty of essential nutrients, you can supplement your dog’s dietary regimen with certain healthy oils—jam packed with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids—to promote optimum heath.
In this simple guide, we’ll show you how to pick these natural oils for dogs, and offer best practices and feeding tips.
What are the healthiest oils for dogs?
Fish oil contains EPA and DHA, omega-3 fatty acids that help arthritis, and also have some anti-cancer effects, says Nancy Scanlan, DVM, CVA, MSFP, and executive director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation. Fish oil can also improve your dog’s memory.
“The primary reason I recommend fish-oil based omega-3 fatty aids is to yield a natural anti-inflammatory effect that can help reduce overall inflammation in the body and potentially decrease my patients’ reliance on medications aimed at reducing inflammation and pain,” says Dr. Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVA, CVJ, and a certified veterinary acupuncturist with California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness (CPAW).
While fish oil usually comes from fish higher on the food chain, like salmon, krill oil hails from tiny shrimp-like organisms that rank a little lower, Dr. Scanlan says. This makes krill oil less likely to be contaminated with mercury, she says. It also contains EPA and DHA, and will help give your pet healthier joints and skin, in addition to other benefits.
“All dogs are omnivores that lean towards the carnivorous side, so they best absorb non-vegetarian-based oils like fish and krill,” explains Dr. Mahaney.
Coconut oil: Extra-virgin coconut oil has become a popular choice for humans because it’s a healthier alternative to more processed saturated and trans fats, and the same applies to dogs. Coconut oil has also been shown to help dogs lose weight, give them more energy, and offer relief to dry skin. Bonus: It will help improve your dog’s bad breath!
This oil is high in alpha linolenic omega-3s, which puts it in the same ballpark as wild fish when it comes to boosting heart health. Like many of the other healthy oils, flaxseed oil also helps with mobility for arthritic dogs, and can aid in blood pressure and kidney function.
How can I serve my dogs healthy oils?
Most oils come in either capsule form or free oil. “But a jar of oil, once opened and exposed to the air, can become rancid—so capsules are usually a better way to go,” says Dr. Scanlan.
However, it could depend on your dog’s taste preferences. “Hearty-eating dogs may readily consume a capsule or allotted portion of liquid out of their food,” says Dr. Mahaney. Most liquid oils mix best with moist food, but you can still pour them over dry food like kibble, he adds.
Capsules also tend to best be consumed out of moist food. “Pets that are unwilling to consume the capsule may take it in liquid form if the capsule is pierced, squeezed, and mixed into the moist food or a soft treat,” Dr. Mahaney says.
Do these oils have any negative effects for dogs?
Too much of any oil can cause weight gain, says Dr. Scanlan. “A large dose of oil all at once can cause pancreatis in a susceptible individual—especially if they are fat,” she adds. Too much oil can also lead to a vitamin E deficiency if you don’t properly supplement with some additional vitamin E. Fish oil can prolong the time it takes blood to clot, so if your pet is going to have surgery, it’s best to stop the oil for at least five days before and five days after the operation, Dr. Scanlan says.
What’s the best way to tell quality when looking for these oils?
Companies that have the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal are required to show that their products have been tested in labs to have the right kind and amount of oil in each capsule, says Dr. Scanlan. Look for this seal.
How do I know if oils are right for my dog?
If your dog is consuming a commercially available pet food and is suffering from skin conditions (like skin flaking or a dull coat), inflammation diseases (such as arthritis and cancer), or organ system damage, then talk to your vet about potentially adding oils rich in omega-3 and omega-6 nutrients to your dog’s diet, says Dr. Mahaney.