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Complete Guide to Fish Oil for Dogs

Are fish oil for dogs really necessary for its health? What are the actual benefits and how do you choose the right product?

Fish oils are high in the omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids are needed for the proper function of nearly every cell in the nervous system, brain, eyes, hormones and organs.  We need to get these healthy fats from our diets because our bodies can’t produce them.

While you may think omega 3 fatty acids are only meant for people, veterinarians will tell you that dogs share this same need for these fatty acids. In fact, research shows that giving fish oil for dogs with inflammatory disease, such as joint pain, will provide relief from many symptoms.

Using fish oil for dogs may also lead to improved heart health and a shinier coat and fur. The anti-inflammatory effects of the omega 3 fatty acids may also reduce itching caused by dermatitis, a common skin condition in dogs.

Essential fatty acids have also been shown to improve mood and studies indicate aggressive dogs may benefit from omega 3 fatty acids.

Are Fats Healthy for your Dog?

From a biologically point-of-view, dogs can tolerate higher amounts of fat in their diet.  They’re born with increased levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL – the healthy cholesterol) and therefore, aren’t prone to heart disease like us humans.

fish oil for dogs

Cleo – my favorite dog

So while we have to watch how much saturated fats we’re eating, ol’ Rover can enjoy a diet higher in fat as long as he doesn’t get overweight.

While saturated fats should be minimized in a dog’s diet, polyunsaturated fats (such as omega 3 and omega 6) provide the essential fats required for optimal health.

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils and omega-3 fatty acids are common in fish oil.

While omega 6 fatty acids are considered a healthy fat, too many in the diet can lead to an increased risk for inflammation. Health conditions such as arthritis and dermatitis can be made worse by eating too many food sources containing omega 6 fatty acids.

Supplementing the diet with extra omega-3 fatty acids can help ‘balance’ the ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 and reduce the risk for inflammation and other health conditions.


5 Reasons Why Fish Oils Benefit your Dog

Research has shown omega 3 fatty acids help control disease processes in both dogs and cats – particularly in disorders related to fat metabolism such as diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and even some thyroid conditions.

1. Skin and Fur Health

– Fish oils can give your dog a nice shiny fur coat. Omega 3 fatty acids are important for healthy skin and can help dry itchy skin and reduce hair loss. Dry skin conditions caused by allergies (atopic dermatitis) and hair loss from poor scalp health may be relieved or cured by increasing the amount of omega 3 fatty acids in the canine diet.

2. Joint Pain and Arthritis

– Studies have proven omega 3 fatty acids are important for fighting inflammation. Fish oils for dogs may provide an anti-inflammatory environment and help fight against chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.

– Further research has shown that omega 3 fatty acids may lower the enzymes that cause cartilage damage and reduce joint pain.

3. Dry Brittle Nails in Dogs

– Some breeds of dogs may be prone to a condition called lupoid onychodystrophy. This disease causes the immune system to become over-active and it attacks the nail bed causing cracked and split nails. Part of the treatment plan includes omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E supplements. 

4. Mental Health

– Animal research indicates EPA and DHA are important for healthy brain development in puppies.

5. Heart Health

– Fish oils may also help improve cardiovascular health in dogs. While dogs are less prone to cardiovascular issues than humans, studies show omega 3 fatty acids help reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels lowering the risk for high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.

– Fish oil may also be used for the treatment and prevention of certain allergies, renal failure, and possibly certain cancers.

– Research has shown some diabetics may have sub-optimal fatty acid metabolism and need omega 3 acid supplementation; this may hold true for cats and dogs with insulin disease.


What’s the Recommended Fish Oil Dosage for Dogs?

There are many dog foods that come fortified with omega 3 fatty acids. The amount of omega 3 fatty acids you actually get will depend on the quality of the dog food.

If you’re using fish oils to treat a particular condition, it’s recommended you consult with your dog’s veterinarian to determine the best course of action.

Dogs that have allergies may require higher fish oil dosages and some veterinarians may suggest other healthy fats, such as gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an omega 6 fatty acid shown to enhance healthy skin cell growth.

fish oil for dogsSome fish oil supplements for dogs may have recommended dosages on the label.

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so it may benefit if you use a formula of a certain number of milligrams of fish oils per kilogram of body weight. I recommend consulting with your veterinarian for the best dosage of fish oil for dogs.

Fish oil supplements are considered safe for dogs and cats. The most common side effects from fish oil are gastrointestinal in nature, including fish burps and fish breath. These effects can be reduced by mixing the oil with your dog’s food to increase absorption.

Human studies show omega 3 fatty acids can reduce the risk for blood clots and may make the blood thinner. Reducing the dosage is the most effective method for minimizing side effects.


How to Feed Your Dog Omega 3 Fatty Acids

fish oil for dogsOne of the easiest ways to give your dog omega 3 fatty acids is by using a fortified dog food or omega 3 fish oil supplements.

Look at the ingredient labels on pet food to determine if it provides additional amounts of EPA and DHA.

The most common sources of omega 3 fatty acids are from plant or fish. Flaxseed is commonly used and contains one of the highest plant sources of the omega 3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA).

Human studies have shown a poor conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA and animals don’t fare any better. If possible, you should try to use only fish-based sources of omega 3 fatty acids.

Common marine sources include fish meal, salmon, trout and fish oils (all are high in EPA and DHA). You can also give cod liver oil for dogs.

The omega-3 concentration in most dog foods can range from 0 up to 1% per serving. While this is a fairly low amount your veterinarian or pet food store may care specialized dog foods that provide higher concentrations of omega 3 fatty acids.

Using fish oil supplements for dogs can provide therapeutic levels of essential fats and help in the treatment and prevention of many health conditions.


Examples of Fish Oil Supplements for Dogs

Kronch Salmon Oil Dog Supplement provides pure, natural omega 3’s from wild, non-farmed salmon.

fish oil for dogsThe best fish oil for dogs should be purified and low in contaminants. Kronch Wild Salmon Oil is produced by Henne Pet Foods, a Danish pet food manufacturer that specializes in natural whole foods for dogs and cats.

This particular fish oil supplement is cold-pressed, meaning it’s very concentrated and economical for daily use.

The manufacturer claims it doesn’t any preservatives, BHT, BHA, Ethoxyquin or artificial coloring or flavoring. They also claim to use only natural antioxidants such as alpha-tocopherol, ascorbyl palmitate, and propylgallate are added.

Each bottle comes with a dosage pump, which reduces air mixing with the fish oils and also keeps everything clean and hygiene.


Grizzly Salmon Oil All-Natural Dog Food Supplement will provide your favorite companion with 100% pure salmon oil from wild Alaskan Salmon.

fish oil for dogsThis dog supplement provides over 15 different omega 3, omega 6 and arachidonic acids; everything you need to help support a healthy fur coat, strong immune system and a healthy heart.

This product comes in a 32 ounce bottle with a handy dispenser pump and customer reviews at look positive with over 240 reviews.

Suggested Retail Price is $39.99; but has it on sale for under $22 a pop.

Simply squirt a couple of shots of fish oil into Fido’s dog food and you’re good to go.


Alaskan Bear Treats All Natural Wild-Alaskan Salmon Oil for Dogsis another product that provides 100% pure wild Alaskan Salmon fish oil.

fish oil for dogsThis particular supplement comes mixed with rosemary extract and they claim to not use any preservatives, fillers or artificial colorings.

This product may help your dog if it suffers from allergies. Customer reviews at show this product may help reduce dog allergies, as well as joint pain and inflammation.

We all want to provide our pets with a nutritious diet that will keep them healthy. Giving fish oil to your dog may help reduce the incidence of certain diseases and keep your four-legged friend happy and healthy. Remember to consult your veterinarian with any issues regarding your pet’s diet or health.

Research References

Responses of dogs to dietary omega-3 fatty acids. Bauer JE. 2007. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 231:1657-1661.

Facilitative and functional fats in diets of cats and dogs. Bauer JE. 2006. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 229:680-684.

Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on canine atopic dermatitis. Mueller RS, Fieseler KV, Fettman MJ, Zabel S, Rosychuk RA, Ogilvie GK, Greenwalt TL. 2004. Journal of Small Animal Practice 45:293-297.

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