We’ve heard health experts talk about the benefits of fish oil for human beings but the real question here is can dogs have fish oil and what are the benefits to our furry friends? After all, both dogs and humans can suffer from the ill effects of inflammation, which can lead to cancer in both species. Anything that might prevent dog cancer is sure to pique the interest of pup parents.
Some pet owners say fish oil is great for pooches, while others say “No thanks.” It can be very confusing for pet parents who simply want what’s best for their canine companions. Let’s help you avoid confusion and dig into the question, can dogs have fish oil and give you some straightforward findings.
Benefits of Fish Oil for Dogs
We all want our dogs happy and healthy, so let’s discuss some of the noted benefits of fish oil and its nutrient-rich omega-3s for your canine companion.
- Supports Heart Health
- Protects from dry skin and coarse coat
- Supports kidney function
- Joint aid or pain relief
- Supports brain function
- Lowers triglycerides in the blood
- Supports immune system
Omega-3s support a number of natural body processes that your dog needs to maintain their health, so it’s natural to wonder if it makes sense to give it to them as a supplement along with their typical diet.
Typical Canine Diets & Sources of Omega-3s
The food you feed to your dog, usually meat or processed food, is likely to contain animal fats, which are high in omega-6 fatty acids and can contain some omega-3s. However, keep in mind, that omega-3s are more expensive so their inclusion in your dog’s food is typically minimal. Polyunsaturated fats like fish oils, dried algae, marine microalgae, fish meals, or whole fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered essential fatty acids, so supplementing your dog’s diet may be worth it.
Recommended Levels of Essential Fatty Acids in Pet Foods
It’s natural to wonder whether our pets really need fish oil. After all, can’t they get sufficient nutrients from their food? The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) uses certain types of studies, as well as published data by the National Research Council (NRC), to recommend nutrient levels for pet food manufacturers. One of the studies used by AAFCO to look at the role of DHA in growing puppies in relation to developing neurologic tissues used improved retinal development and cognitive function testing. One of the findings was that DHA aids in the proper brain and eye development of puppies. DHA may also improve cognitive function in older dogs dealing with canine cognitive dysfunction.
Currently, AAFCO has no minimum EPA or DHA requirements for adult canine maintenance diets. However, AAFCO recommends a safe upper limit of omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids at 30:1 for dog foods.
Fish Oil Dosage – How Much Is Right?
You should be aware that there is an upper limit on the amount of Omega 3 that’s good for your dog. You know what they say about too much of a good thing. To be on the safe side, let your vet know that you’d like to give your pet omega-3 supplements. That way, you’ll learn the recommended amount so you avoid overdosing, which can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, altered platelet function (which increases the potential for reduced blood clotting), delayed wound healing, weight gain, and altered immune function, among other issues.
This can’t be overstated enough, always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any type of dietary supplement. Do not rely on fish oil dog dosage charts or general suggestions you read in an article, your dog’s health is worth taking the time to ask the opinion of a medical expert who knows your dog personally and any vital health considerations.
Fish Oil as a Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish oil can be an important source of omega-3 fatty acids. As you can see by looking at the recommended upper limit ratio, your dog needs to balance out the omega-6s in his food with some omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re wondering why, here’s the scary truth: excessive levels of omega-6 can cause inflammation in your furry friend and this can lead to chronic illnesses like allergies, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, or cancer.
The essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are found in fish oil. The process your dog’s body uses to make EPA and DHA is inefficient and doesn’t provide the quantities your pal needs. Dogs, like humans, have to get EPA and DHA from their diet. So, it seems the answer to the question, can dogs have fish oil is YES and it is beneficial for them.
Signs Your Dog May Be Deficient In EPA or DHA
When your dog’s body is deficient in essential nutrients like EPA or DHA fatty acids, there are numerous effects on your pet’s health both mentally and physically. If your pooch seems to be depressed or out of sorts, the problem may be a lack of EPA and DHA as this deficiency is linked to cognitive issues. On top of behavioral signs, here are some more possible physical signs of omega-3 deficiencies:
- Dull or poor coat
- Dry or flaky skin
- Slow wound healing
- Hot spots
- Ear infections
- Kidney issues
Can Fish Oil Be Bad For Dogs?
We know that a deficiency in fatty acids harms your dog and that fish oil can positively impact your dog’s health – so is there any downside to giving your dog a fish oil supplement? Some dog owners choose not to give their dog fish oil because of possible downsides, like toxins, digestive issues, and dietary concerns. All of these concerns are worthy of consideration and ultimately it’s a decision each dog-lover can make.
Contaminants have made their way into our marine life and if these toxins in the ocean may find their way into fish, they are stored in the fatty areas of fish’s bodies. The pollutants that may be absorbed by fish fat include harmful metals like mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium. These toxins may be in your fish oil, and they can potentially cause problems in pups, ranging from neurological issues to leaky gut and cancer.
Other pollutants like industrial chemicals can increase cancer risk and high levels of environmental pollutants, like dioxins and furans, have been found in Great Lakes fish. These environmental pollutants can negatively affect the immune system, disrupt hormones, and cause cancer.
So if you are giving your dog fish oil, make sure it’s from a reputable brand that you and your veterinarian trust.
Diarrhea & Digestive Issues
Beware your pet may not tolerate fish oil well. This is the case with some dogs, especially if they are given high doses, and they may suffer diarrhea or other digestive issues as a result. In these instances, it’s best to find a non-fish oil source of omega-3s.
Your dog’s stomach may react fine to fish oil, but if you notice less than solid results as the pup fertilizes the grass, stop giving the supplements and consult your veterinarian immediately.
Grain-Based Diets & Fish Oil
Dogs that eat a diet that’s high in grain or grain-based can become deficient in Vitamin E if they also take fish oil supplements. Check to see if the food and treats you feed your dog are primarily meat-based and mention this to your veterinarian as you’re asking about fish oil. If you are thinking about giving your dog fish oil, it may also be a good time to reconsider the foods that make up their diet.
Types of Fish Oil
After reading the information on fish oil for dogs, if you decide to start giving it to your pup, ask your veterinarian to help you choose the type of fish oil. The vet will take into account their breed, size, weight, and overall health. It is nice to have some guidance in the matter, to be sure you are giving enough, but not too much.
Here are the three main types of fish oil you’ll find on the market:
- Natural triglyceride oil is the most natural type of fish oil and the easiest to absorb. However, because it isn’t purified, it may contain contaminants.
- Ethyl ester oil is concentrated and distilled to remove impurities. It can be considered semi-natural with high levels of important components of omega-3: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
- Synthetic triglyceride oil is synthetic, as indicated in the name, and absorbs the least easily of the three.
Can I Give My Dog Human Fish Oil?
Fish oil supplements can come from a variety of sources with varying levels of potency. So while, technically, yes you can give your dog the same fish oil you take, you still probably want to talk to your veterinarian about the specific dosage or even brand of fish oil that’s right for your pup. Don’t just read some articles and guess. If you search for “I almost killed my dog with fish oil” you can read all about why (not fun to read!).
Fish Oil and Cod Liver Oil are the Same right?
The quick answer is no, they are not equal when it comes time to choose your fish oil. Fish oil is made from salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines and the oil resides in their body. Whereas Cod LIVER oil comes from the oil that is stored in their liver, which also contains Vitamins A&D. While Cod Liver Oil is a good source of the Omega 3’s we are looking for you really need to make sure you don’t give too much to cause your pups Vitamin A&D level to rise too high which can harm the liver.
Alternatives To Fish Oil As Canine Diet Supplement
Some dog owners prefer to get their pet’s omega-3’s from sources other than fish oil and supplement the diet in other ways. There are other sources of omega-3 fatty acids than just fish oil, the three most popular for dogs are:
- Fish protein-based food – There are brands of dog food that provide fish proteins that also include omega-3’s that you can feed your dog.
- Dried algae – Fish get their omega-3’s from the algae they eat, so you can skip that part of the food chain and mix dried algae into your dog’s food.
- Microalgae blends – A mix of different microalgae that provide omega-3’s and other nutrients typically found in sealife.
The powerful benefits of omega-3s and EPA and DHA for dogs are undeniable. Fish oil supports your furry best friend’s heart health, makes his coat silky, improves itchy and flaky skin, can help relieve allergies and joint pain, and treat canine arthritis. It can help strengthen his immune system and may even help him fight canine cancer and research has shown that they can help to slow down the progression of chronic kidney disease.
The only question is which source will you choose for your canine friend? Diet? Fish oil supplements? Omega-3 supplements? Do what you’re comfortable with and is in line with your vet’s recommendations and you can’t go wrong. Fish oil and the omega-3 fatty acids in them are critical for your dog’s health, so make sure to talk to your veterinarian today if you’re considering adding them to your pet’s diet regime.
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