Fish Oil – The One to Add

With the myriad of supplements out there, its sometimes hard to decide what is good versus what isn’t quite so good.  Many people feed unnecessary supplements, some make the mistake of feeding none at all.  We all must decide what is right for our dogs and as individuals, our dogs often help us to make that decision.  The one supplement, above all others, that, to us, is most beneficial and shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone, is fish oil.

Fish oil.  Humans take it for various reasons, chief among them heart health, but what does it do for our dogs?  Can’t

The Omega 3's that fish oil provides makes for a shiny healthy coat, bright eyes and so many other benefits

they just get it from their food whether its raw, cooked or kibble?

Fish oil contains Omega 3 fatty acids, most notably EPA and DHA.  Foods for our pets tend to contain plenty of Omega 6 fatty acids but a decided dearth of the all important Omega 3’s.  Supplementing with fish oil can give your pet’s food the correct balance of 3’s and 6’s and optimize health benefits.

What benefits?  Plenty.  Omega 3’s have been shown to help with heart, vision, skin and joint health as well as brain function.  It has been shown to advance immune system health as well.  All inflammatory diseases such as kidney disease, heart disease, allergies, arthritis and cancers, are beneficially affected by the addition of Omega 3’s as well.  In essence, Omega 3’s have a hand in keeping all systems functioning well and effectively.  It is a total body supplement that should figure prominently into your pet’s diet no matter what you are feeding.

What is the best way to get Omega 3’s to your dog?  Feeding fish itself would work BUT many of us don’t have access to good fish to feed and more often than not it has been frozen or canned and isn’t fresh caught when we do feed it.  Due to these processes, the Omega 3’s in most fish have been compromised and probably aren’t the most efficient way to get them to your pet.  Fish oil and its fatty acids is a volatile substance.  Not in that its going to suddenly blow up on you, but in the way that it breaks down quite easily and readily as soon as it is exposed to air, heat, cold, processing of any kind.  Yes, it still exists, but it is compromised and not as readily available to your dog as it should be.  If you have a good supply of fresh caught raw fish than by all means, feed away.  If, like many of us, you don’t, your best alternative is to give a pure natural wild salmon oil such as Grizzly Salmon Oil.  If you cannot get actual salmon oil, fish oils from other fish such as anchovies, sardines and mackerel.  You can use human fish oil capsules, such as those found at most drugstores and health food stores, as well.  Look to the ingredients to make sure that there are specific fish species (as listed above) in the capsules rather than a generic “fish oil” or “marine lipids” designation.  Dosages vary, depending on who you talk to.  If you are supplementing a healthy dog, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000mg per 20 pounds of pet should work well.  These dosages can be higher for dogs suffering from an illness and they should be dosed accordingly.   For dogs with kidney problems, for instance, as stated on www.dogaware.com, “Use an amount that provides 300 mg combined EPA and DHA per 10 pounds of body weight daily, preferably split into two doses. Pay attention to the amount that the analysis applies to — some supplements will show a combined 600 mg EPA and DHA for two gelcaps rather than just one, for example.”

There are other “oils” that people give their pets.  One is cod liver oil – often because they mistake it for fish oil.  They are NOT the same thing.  Cod liver oil can have benefits for your dog and is indeed a place where you would find Omega 3’s, but, put simply, it is not the best substance to turn to.  First, it contains very high levels of vitamin A and vitamin D neither of which should be given in excess to your furry friend.  Both A and D are fat soluble vitamins and therefore cannot be shed from the body like a water soluble vitamin can (such as Vitamin C).  The build up of either can cause

Grizzly Salmon Oil is one of the best fish oils you can buy for your pet - made from wild Alaskan salmon, it provides all the Omega 3's your pet needs

problems for your pet.  Secondly, cod liver oil is just that – oil from the liver of the cod fish.  The liver works as a filter for toxins that enter the fish’s body and therefore the oil of the liver can bring those same said toxins that are within the fish, to your pet.  In truth there is no reason to give cod liver oil to your pet when you can easily and safely get all of the same benefits and more from fish body oil.  Its generally easier to just avoid it. (www.fishoildaily.com)

Flaxseed oil is also rich in Omega 3’s – just not for dogs.  While flaxseed oil may contain Omega 3’s , “…the Omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed oil are the inactive form (ALA). In order to convert flaxseed’s ALA into a usable form of Omega-3 for a dog, your dog must produce a specific enzyme in the body. Most dogs, like all carnivores, do not produce the enzyme needed to convert flaxseed oil ALA to EPA and DHA.” (www.bestfishoilfordogs.com).  Therefore it makes little sense to rely on flaxseed oil to provide necessary fatty acids to your pet when the fatty acids in fish oil are immediately usable to your little carnivore.

So do we supplement daily, every other day, every three days – how much?  It depends.  Of all supplements, fish oil is perhaps the one that you should give the most often.  Generally speaking its not optimal to give any supplement daily unless there is a need for it such as an illness or condition that necessitates daily dosing.  With that in mind, skipping a day here and there when giving fish oil is fine and probably beneficial to your dog in the end.  In truth, the benefits of supplementing with fish oil are great – even if you feed kibble, perhaps ESPECIALLY if you feed kibble.  Though we may feed a natural diet we must always keep in mind that as time passes the foods we feed become less and less potent in many of the substances that can provide optimal health – we must remember to make up those differences for our pets as well as ourselves.