Omega 3 for dogs - Uses, Benefits and How to Get It

Omega 3 for dogs
Learn about dogs

You might have heard a little bit about the abundance of health benefits that omega-3 fatty acids bring for both humans and hounds, but is your dog getting enough of this super nutrient in their day-to-day diet?

Omega-3 is considered to help with nearly every aspect of your dog’s body, inside and out, so it’s important to check out your dog’s dinners to make sure they’re getting the nutrients they need. So, what is omega-3, why is it so beneficial, and how do you get more omega-3 into your dog’s dinners?

We’re here to answer all those questions and more, so let’s get straight on into it and learn all there is to know about omega-3.

What are omega-3 fatty acids for dogs?

Fat is an essential component to every diet, whether that be for a person or a pooch. However, fats can either be classed as good or bad, and of course, you and your dog want to be consuming more of the good type.

Omega-3 is classed as a good fat, (a really, really good fat for that matter), and they’re part of a group called polyunsaturated essential fatty acids. Don’t worry, we’ll give you a brief run through of what this all means, it isn’t as scientific and complex as it may sound. Here’s a breakdown of what the term means:

  • Polyunsaturated describes a group of healthy fats, which are necessary in keeping your dog happy and healthy.
  • The term essential basically refers to the fact that your dog’s body can’t produce these fatty acids on its own, so it’s essential that they consume them through their food or additional supplements.
  • And finally, fatty acids are an integral component for good overall health. They work to store energy, help the body absorb vitamins and help to manage hormones. Despite being called ‘fatty’, they won’t be causing your pooch to pile on the pounds.

Whatever food your dog is tucking into, you need to make sure it’s got a high-quality source of omega-3 packed into it. Alongside this, your dog’s dinners need to also include a balanced amount of omega-6 too, as omega-3 and omega-6 work simultaneously alongside one another, balancing each other out.

What are the types of omega-3 fatty acids for dogs?

So, the main types of omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. We know, that was a mouthful. Luckily, most people shorten their names down to ALA, EPA and DHA so that you don’t need to remember those fancy, complex names.

DHA and EPA are the easiest and probably the most practical types of omega-3 to get into your dog’s system through their food, as your dog can metabolise and gain the benefits from them both pretty quickly. ALA on the other hand is a bit awkward.

Before your dog’s body can utilise ALA, the body needs to convert the acid into one of the other two fatty acids (EPA or DHA), which obviously takes a bit more time and isn’t as efficient as just using DHA or EPA straight up.

So, although ALA is still a great form of omega-3 to get into your pooch’s body, it might need to be combined with one of the other two fatty acids for your dog to feel the full effect. This is even more pertinent for senior dogs who need the nutrient as soon as possible to help with arthritis treatment or puppies who are developing at a rapid rate.

What are the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for dogs?

Omega-3 fatty acids have an abundance of health benefits, so they truly are an integral part of your dog’s daily dinners. These fatty acids feed from the healthy bacteria in your dog’s gut, having tonnes of benefits, including:

  • Reducing inflammation in the joints which helps with conditions like arthritis
  • Supporting the development of the brain and keeping cognitive function healthy
  • Promotes supple skin and glossy coats
  • Helps both kidney and heart health
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Promotes wounds to heal faster
  • Helps manage auto-immune conditions

Dogs of all shapes, sizes, breeds and ages can feel the benefit of omega-3 fatty acids, which is why it’s so essential in every pooch’s meals.  

Why is omega-3 good for puppies?

Everyone loves puppies, they’re cute, tiny and full of fluff, but they sure do get up to some mischief. The entire world is a new, exciting place for a puppy, so as they explore, chew and sniff at everything around them, they might pick up a few grisly germs along the way.

Omega-3 fatty acids for puppies

However, a pup’s immune system isn’t mature enough to fight off all these germs, diseases and infections as efficiently as an adult dog would. So, the addition of omega-3 fatty acids to your puppy’s diet is pretty much essential. The nutrient will boost the immune system’s ability to combat all the nasties that your pup encounters so that they can continue growing up happy and healthy.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also considered to be great for the mind, which is especially important for young pups whose minds are constantly on the go, learning, experiencing and remembering new things 24/7.

Studies have shown that puppies aged 8-52 weeks who had a high amount of omega-3 in their diets (specifically DHA), performed much better in cognitive function tasks, memory games and had better psychomotor skills than the pups who had moderate to low amounts of DHA in their dinners.

Why is omega-3 good for adult dogs?

When your dog is in their adult years, it’s all about keeping them in the best shape possible so that they age gracefully, feel healthy and stay by your side for as long as possible. And a few omega-3 fatty acids in your dog’s dinners can help with various aspects of your pooch’s health and general well-being.

Omega-3s are great for the skin and coat, promoting shiny fur, adding moisture to the skin, keeping dandruff at bay and stopping any incessant itchiness. It’s basically like getting a full pamper session every time you eat a meal!

Good skin and glossy, luscious locks are key signs of good overall health. When your dog’s coat is looking silky and their skin is soft and supple, it means that your pooch is feeling nourished from the inside out. This can be down to your pup getting all the nutrients they need from their food, omega-3 fatty acids being a big contributor.

And not only do you want your dog looking good, but you also want them feeling good too. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatories, meaning that they should keep your dog’s joints in good nick, free of aches, pains and stiffness. This’ll allow your pooch to move around easily so that they can continue running around and causing mischief right into their senior years.

Why is omega-3 good for senior dogs?

As your pooch starts to reach their senior years, they might start experiencing some of the aches and pains that often come with old age. Degenerative diseases such as arthritis are prevalent among the senior population, and this can cause pain, discomfort and severely stiff, creaky joints. And that’s where the addition of omega-3 fatty acids comes in.

Omega-3 for senior dogs

As stated, omega-3s help battle off inflammation, helping to alleviate symptoms and make those joints that little bit less creaky, a welcome change for your senior pooch suffering with achy bones. Also, as we know, omega-3s help to boost the immune system, and this is exactly what your pooch wants in their old age, the stronger their immune system the easier they’ll be able to fight off illnesses that could otherwise have a super detrimental impact on their health.

How do I know if my dog has an omega-3 deficiency?

Spotting an omega 3 deficiency is pretty much impossible for pooch parents as there isn’t one distinguishable symptom.

If you know your dog isn’t getting any omega-3 fatty acids in their day-to-day diet, look out for things like a lack of vitality (in both appearance and general wellbeing), a dull, dry coat, muscle weakness, discomfort when moving around and other general health issues.

How can I make sure my dog is getting enough omega-3?

So, as we know, omega-3 fatty acids are essential, and the body can’t produce them naturally. Therefore, it’s essential that your dog is getting this ultra-talented, incredibly important nutrient into their body in some way. This can either be done through food sources rich in omega-3s, or through the use of supplements. Of course, if you can get everything your dog needs to occur naturally within their dinners, then that’s the best way to go.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Many commercial dog foods don’t include the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 and are processed beyond belief so that the nutritional value is next to none. This harsh processing method is called extrusion, and it can have an extremely detrimental effect to your dog’s food, sucking away all the goodness until it’s barely recognisable as food anymore and you’re just left with a burnt, brown biscuit.

Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely vulnerable to these high temperatures so it’s best to opt for a dog food that’s minimally processed.

Even with raw food that has of course had next to no processing involved, it’s likely that your dog is still missing out on those omega-3s if you’re not adding extras to your dog’s dinner.

Both EPA and DHA can be found naturally in oily fish such as sardines, anchovies and mackerel,  and your dog would probably find this to be a super delicious snack. Although you can add this scrumptious seafood to your mutt’s meals, why not just find them a dog food that includes everything they need in it anyway?

Well, that’s where Pure can help.

Instead of foods that are fortified with synthetic sources of omega-3 fatty acids, we want to keep everything simple, natural and nourishing, so we include omega-3 from totally natural sources such as from linseed and algae, and salmon too as the main protein source in some of our tailored recipes.

Not only is Pure naturally nourishing, but it’s also made by gently removing the moisture from a load of real, tasty ingredients to lock in all the goodness, so your pup gets every bit of nutrition they need in every bite. No harsh processing methods or artificial ingredients here, just good, honest food.

With Pure, every tasty morsel your dog scoffs down will be jam-packed with loads of nutritious ingredients, and of course plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. Get ready for good joints, good skin, good fur and a good dog!

Recap

Now you’ve got the expertise on omega-3s, it’s time to check your dog’s food to see if they’re getting enough of this super nutrient in their daily dinners. If not, now’s the perfect time to figure out how to switch up your dog’s food and make sure they’re getting everything they need. A healthy dog is a happy dog.

Dr Andrew Miller BVSc MRCVS

Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS

Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.

Sources
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  2. Beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids in cardiovascular disease The Journal of Small Animal Practice, 9, Sept 2010, 462-470, doi: 10.1111/j.1748-5827.2010.00968.x
  3. Effects of extrusion processing on nutrients in dry pet food Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 88, (9), 1487-1493, doi:10.1002/jsfa.3247
  4. Evaluation of cognitive learning, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions in healthy puppies fed foods fortified with docosahexaenoic acid-rich fish oil from 8 to 52 weeks of age Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 241, (5), Sep 2012, 583-594, doi: 10.2460/javma.241.5.58
  5. Responses of dogs to dietary omega-3 fatty acids American Veterinary Medical Association, 231, (11), Dec 2007, doi: org/10.2460/javma.231.11.1657
  6. Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 21, (6), Dec 2002, 495-505, doi: 10.1080/07315724.2002.10719248.

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