The first three things most people will think of when they hear the words ‘fish oil’ are brain health, heart health and joint health. But what you might not know is that while fish oil does help deliver all of those things for people, it also does the same thing for dogs.
The reason? It’s because fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, acids that are important for the health of almost every cell in a pet’s body, says Dr Renée O’Duhring from The Natural Vets, a holistic veterinary practice in Queensland. “Omega-3 fatty acids are the ‘good fats’ that help to keep a lid on inflammation,” she says. “So if a dog’s diet is deficient in omega-3s, the brain, heart, eyes, joints, skin and coat can all suffer.”
Food or supplements?
So if omega-3 fatty acids come from fish, can you just stock up on tinned sardines and be done with it? The answer is yes and no.
“It’s always important to make sure a dog’s diet is balanced first and foremost, because without getting the right nutrition into your pet, you can’t provide the building blocks for true health,” says Dr O’Duhring. Just like humans, dogs tend to have differing requirements for omega-3s, depending on whether it’s for health maintenance or for a particular health condition.
When it comes to treating established health problems, it’s difficult to achieve therapeutic levels of fatty acids without using a supplement. “You’d need to feed your pet a huge amount of sardines or salmon to get the same level of omega-3s provided in a fish oil supplement, simply due to the concentration of the product,” she says. “You’d probably end up with an obese pet!”
Seeing the signs
While using a fish oil supplement can help to prevent certain types of disease, Dr O’Duhring says there are some tell-tale signs that your pet might need it for a health issue they’re already dealing with. “Fish oil supplements can be beneficial for pets living with a wide range of conditions, including allergies, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease and cognitive problems. So if your pet has any of those conditions, which may be causing dry flaky skin, stiff joints, recurrent bouts of diarrhoea or moments where they seem disorientated or confused in older age, then an omega-3 fatty acid supplement is a good idea.”
But it’s important to remember to use a fish oil supplement that’s specifically designed for dogs, not humans. “A lot of human fish oil products are flavoured, but pets prefer oil that just tastes like the fish it came from. Dogs also have different requirements for getting the right balance of the two different types of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, called DHA and EPA. So if you use a human supplement, you might not be getting an ideal ratio of the two,” says Dr O’Duhring.
Plus there’s the issue of knowing the right dose to give. “You need higher doses for certain conditions, such as cancer, than you would for something like arthritis, so it’s always a good idea to speak to your vet about which fish oil supplement will suit your dog best,” she adds.
READ MORE: How to manage your pet's arthritis
- PAW Dermega® Omega 3 & 6 Oral Supplement
Containing omega fatty acids, it aids in the treatment of allergic and inflammatory dermatological conditions responsive to polyunsaturated fatty acids in dogs.
PAW Fish Oil 500: Veterinary Strength
A concentrated blend of liquid fish oil with no added artificial colours or flavours. It contains Blackmores fish oil with omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, formulated specifically for pets based on standard ratios recommended by the US National Research Council.
Available for sale in vet clinics only.