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.

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.

Fish Oil and Cod Liver Oil are the Same right?

The quick answer is no, they are not equal when it comes time to chose 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

Typical Pet 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. In contrast, 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.

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.

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.

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

If your pooch seems to be depressed, the problem may be a lack of EPA and DHA. This deficiency is linked to cognitive issues. Here are some more possible signs of omega-3 deficiencies:

  • Dull or poor coat
  • Dry or flaky skin
  • Slow wound healing
  • Hot spots
  • Allergies
  • Ear infections

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Benefits of Fish Oil for Dogs

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. Research has also shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help to slow down the progression of chronic kidney disease.

Potential Drawbacks of Fish Oil for Our Canine Companions

There is no denying the health benefits of the omega-3s in fish oil but some say there may also be a downside to giving your dog this supplement.

By the way, pet parents should be aware that over the long term, using fish oil as a supplement to a grain-based diet may deplete Vitamin E, so some dogs may also ultimately require a Vitamin E supplement.

Toxins

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. It’s this fat that is turned into fish oil for your dog.

The pollutants that may be absorbed by fish include harmful heavy metals like mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium. These toxins may be in your fish oil, and they can potentially cause a whole host of problems in our 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.

Diarrhea

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.

Conclusion

The powerful benefits of omega-3s and EPA and DHA are undeniable. The only question is which source will you choose for your canine friend? You can easily add fish oil to supplement your dog’s diet so he gets the anti-inflammatory benefits of EPA, which may help to stave off cancer and heart disease, while promoting a healthy immune response. He can also get the DHA which is great for eye, brain, and nervous system health. It’s an appealing option that can be discussed with your veterinarian. However, if you are concerned about potential toxins and negative canine reactions you can incorporate fish or dried algae, or marine microalgae instead of feeding fish oil to your pet. It’s down to the decision that makes you feel comfortable and is in line with your vet’s recommendations.

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