Human beings have taken omega 3 supplements for decades as a way of promoting good health and longevity. There’s a good chance that you take omega supplements in the form of fish oil, flaxseed oil, or hemp seed oil, but did you know that omega 3 for dogs is just as important? All mammals need omega fatty acids in their diet.
Omega 3 is just the beginning. There’s also omega 6 and omega 9. Those other two don’t receive nearly as much attention as omega 3, but each is important in its own right. Let’s take a deeper dive into the world of omega fatty acids and find out what they can do for your dog.
What Are Omega Fatty Acids for Dogs?
When you hear the word “fat,” what do you think of? Does it conjure up images of a healthy and active dog, or do you picture yourself having to carry your big old jelly-belly pooch to the vet for his diabetes treatment? Most people don’t consider the first scenario, and it’s easy to see why. “Fat” gets a bad name in our culture, but not all fats are bad.
There are two kinds of fats, and they are not created equal:
- Saturated fat: Saturated fat is in red meat and dairy. It tends to be solid at room temperature (think of butter). Saturated fat raises cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease and other health issues.
- Unsaturated fat: Unsaturated fat is in plants and fish. It tends to be liquid at room temperature (think of olive oil). Unsaturated fat lowers cholesterol levels, improving heart health and countering the effects of saturated fat.
Omega fatty acids are examples of unsaturated fats. Like other forms of fat, they provide fuel for the body, but that’s not all. Omega fatty acids are essential building blocks for every cell in the body. There are three main types of omega fatty acids: omega 3, omega 6, and omega 9. Two of these are considered essential fatty acids.
What Are Essential Fatty Acids?
In a perfect world, a dog’s body could produce all of the fatty acids it needs to function. Unfortunately, mammals are incapable of producing omega 3 or omega 6 in their own bodies. This is why dogs, as well as humans, cats, monkeys, whales, and any other mammal you can think of, have to get omega 3 and 6 from the food they eat (or from dietary supplements).
Fats that are necessary but can’t be produced in the body are called essential fatty acids (EFAs). Omega 9 is not considered an essential fatty acid because mammals’ bodies can convert other forms of unsaturated fat into omega 9. Nevertheless, omega 9 has significant health benefits, so it is still an important part of any mammal’s diet.
What Does Omega 3 Do for Dogs?
We’ve already discussed the fact that there are multiple kinds of omega fatty acids, but did you know that each omega has subtypes of its own? There are three major types of omega 3 fatty acids:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
ALA comes from plants, while EPA and DHA are mostly found in aquatic species like fish, krill, and algae. Fish oil is the most abundant source of EPA and DHA, while large quantities of ALA can be found in hemp and flaxseed oil. It’s best to provide your dog (and yourself) with all three types.
Omega 3 has numerous beneficial effects:
- Anti-inflammatory: Omega 3s can help reduce inflammation, offering relief for dogs with persistent aches or joint conditions.
- Heart health: Many people cite cardiovascular health as the reason for taking omega 3 supplements. It offers the same benefits to dogs. Omega 3 has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
- Brain development: A study of Beagle puppies indicated that omega 3 supplements improved cognitive function, including memory, motor skills, and vision.
- Healthy skin and coat: The anti-inflammatory properties of omega 3 fatty acids help to soothe symptoms of allergies, such as dry, itchy skin.
What Does Omega 6 Do for Dogs?
There are four types of omega 6 fatty acids:
- Linoleic acid (LA)
- Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
- Dihomo gamma linolenic acid (DGLA)
- Arachidonic acid (AA)
Omega 6 fatty acids are just as important as omega 3s, although there are some key differences. The benefits of omega 6 include:
- Inflammatory: The biggest difference between omega 3 and 6 is that omega 6 actually promotes inflammation. Inflammation is part of the healing process, essential to maintaining a healthy immune system. However, excessive inflammation can cause problems, which is why your dog’s diet should balance omega 6 with omega 3.
- Reproductive health: Omega 6 fatty acids support healthy reproductive functioning. They promote cell growth in the womb and throughout a dog’s life.
- Healthy skin and coat: One particular omega 6, linoleic acid, is essential for a dog’s skin. It plays a critical role in skin barrier formation. The skin barrier is the outermost layer of the skin, which is exposed to the elements. Brittle fur and flaky skin in dogs can be a sign of linoleic acid deficiency.
What Does Omega 9 Do for Dogs?
As we previously touched on, the bodies of dogs and other mammals can actually make omega 9 out of other unsaturated fats. Therefore, omega 9 is not an essential fatty acid. However, omega 9 is still a worthy addition to your dog’s diet.
Like omega 3, omega 9 has been shown to reduce inflammation. Furthermore, omega 9 helps to regulate blood sugar and prevent insulin resistance.
How Much Omega 3-6-9 for Dogs?
The amount of omegas that your dog needs depends on several factors. You must take each dog’s breed, age, body weight, prior health issues, and other medications into account. The best way to determine how much omega 3, 6, and 9 your dog needs is to ask a veterinarian.
Because omega 3 and omega 6 have opposing qualities (omega 3 reduces inflammation while omega 6 promotes it), you have to find a balance between the two of them. The ideal ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is between 5:1 and 10:1, varying based on the factors listed above.
Most commercial pet food is rich in omega 6 but lacks enough omega 3. The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in commercial pet foods ranges from 20:1 to 50:1. Therefore, dogs have a greater need for omega 3 supplements than omega 6 or 9.
How to Give Omega Fatty Acids for Dogs?
Dog owners have a wealth of options when it comes to providing their pets with omegas. A few specialty pet foods on the market have higher levels of omega 3 for a healthier balance. You can also give your dog omega supplements, like fish oil or hemp seed oil.
Omega 3 Fish Oil for Dogs
Two forms of omega 3 — EPA and DHA — are abundant in cold-water fish and shellfish. The most common fish oils on the market come from salmon, sardines, herring, and cod liver.
Fish oil supplements are available in liquid or capsule form. While fish oil is the best source of EPA and DHA, it does not contain omega 6s or omega 9s.
Hemp Seed Oil for Dogs
Hemp seed oil contains all three types of omegas. It comes from the seeds of the hemp plant, which is a member of the cannabis family. Hemp seeds are widely considered a superfood, rich in omegas, and packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
Omega 3-6-9 Dog Treats
Getting your pet to take a gel capsule can be a chore, but what dog doesn’t love a treat? Omega-enriched dog treats are available at a variety of online and in-store retailers. They’re the perfect way to promote good health and do your dog a favor.
Healthy Petables dog treats contain hemp seed oil, making them a rich source of all three omegas. Our treats also contain CBD oil for additional benefits.
CBD Oil for Dogs
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound in hemp plants. It provides several wellness benefits to pets and people alike. CBD works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). All mammals have an ECS, and it regulates many of the body’s most important functions, including sleep, mood, and digestion.
CBD is well-tolerated by dogs and can offer the following effects:
- Promote better sleep
- Improve appetite and digestion
- Soothe physical discomfort
- Boost mood
- Relax the mind and body
Final Thoughts – Omega 3 For Dogs
Essential fatty acids have earned their name. Omega 3 and omega 6 are necessary for healthy living (so is omega 9, but we’ve already discussed why that one is a little different). Our dogs rely on us to meet their nutritional needs. It’s our responsibility to make sure they get the right balance of omegas. Luckily, it’s easy to do so.
Omega fatty acid supplements come in many forms from many sources. Oils, gel capsules, specialty diets, and tasty treats are readily available from groceries, pharmacies, and online retailers. As far as which supplement is best, the choice is up to you, although your dog is sure to have their own opinion. (Hint hint, they want treats!)