Caitlin UltimoNutrition / Supplements

The Benefits of Omega Fatty Acids for Your Dog

As with your own diet, focusing on good fats and avoiding less-than-desirable ones is a smart goal for finding high-quality dog food. The right fats can work in many ways to heal your pup’s vital tissues and cells; they also play a role in fighting illness and disease, as well as safeguarding the body’s systems and enhancing his coat and skin. “The best kinds of fats to look for in pet food, dog treats or supplements are omega fatty acids,” explains Dr. Stephanie Liff, DVM, medical director of Pure Paws Vet Care in New York City.

Learn more about these important nutrients, where to find them and how they can be beneficial to overall pet health:

What are omega fatty acids?

“These polyunsaturated fats aid many biological processes and are known as ‘essential fats’ for the diet because your pet’s body can’t make them on its own,” notes Dr. Liff. “Essential fatty acids are biologically active fats that function as antioxidants, scavenging—and thus eliminating—‘free radicals,’ which are noxious by-products of cellular destruction,” furthers Jeffrey Levy, DVM, a veterinarian in New York City. The two most common fatty acids to consider are omega-3s (or alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6s (also called linoleic acid).

Where do these fatty acids come from?

Look to plants and the sea for these crucial additives. “Omega-3 fatty acids are primarily present in certain species of fish, including salmon, tuna and mackerel,” reports Dr. Liff. Omega-3s can be found in lesser amounts in flaxseed, chia and hemp as well as oils like canola and soybean. Omega-6 fatty acids are mostly found in plant-based fats like grape-seed oil, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and eggs.

What are the benefits of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids?

The science behind these fats is very encouraging, which means improved dog nutrition if he’s eating high-quality dog food rich in these powerful nutrients. “Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids have been shown to help treat protein loss through the kidneys (or nephropathy), inflammatory joint diseases such as arthritis and skin conditions like atopic dermatitis (itchy skin and dandruff),” outlines Dr. Liff.

Fatty acids also help with neural cell synthesis, which means they benefit brain development as well as nerve function and health. And because of their anti-inflammatory components, these fats may be the best course of treatment for heart issues (disease, arrhythmia, high blood pressure and cholesterol concerns) and some forms of cancer.

Omega-3s reduce inflammation all over your dog’s body, which aids your pup’s skin, eyes, bladder, muscles and joints. They have been shown to reduce sensitivity to pollen and mold and ease symptoms of certain autoimmune disorders like inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis, and they can also help your pooch maintain a healthy, shiny coat.

How can you give them to a dog?

Your dog can reap the general benefits of healthy omegas when it is included as a component of his daily bowl of dog food. If you’re looking for an omega-rich dish, consider switching your pet to American Journey dry dog food. You can choose from a variety of proteins, including chicken, lamb, beef and salmon, as well as puppy and large breed formulas.

While dog food with omega fatty acids can benefit your pup, Dr. Liff typically suggests supplements in addition to the food that’s already being fed to better address many of the medical conditions mentioned above. Depending on the product you choose and the size of your pet, the dose may be once or twice a day. The correct proportion of omegas is important, however, and is best found in professionally formulated supplements, says Levy. “Fish and flaxseed oils are high in antioxidants, but pet owners may dose too little or too much,” he notes. These oils also go rancid, and stability of essential fatty acids is key to their effectiveness.

Should some dogs skip these fats?

“In pets who are allergic to fish, fish oils can definitely be problematic,” Dr. Liff points out. And for pets that are on extremely low-fat diets, you may be advised to limit the use of omega fatty acids in their pet food. So, just like with any diet change, you should consult your vet to be sure a new pet food or supplement routine will benefit your pet. A pet nutritionist can also advise you on the types of omegas your pet requires as well as dosage details.

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