Canine Specific Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Let’s take a look at what omega-3 fatty acids consist of and the best ways to supplement your dog’s diet with this canine functional superfood.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), a dietary fat that is liquid at room temperature (unlike saturated fats such as butter, which are solid at room temperature).
There are three types of PUFAs: Omega-3 fatty acids, which can originate from both plant-based and marine sources, as follows:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a plant-based omega-3 found in seeds such as chia and flaxseeds, as well as in nuts such as walnuts and many vegetable oils.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are both found in fish oil and other marine sources, as well as some plant-based sources. EPA and DHA are the preferred form of omega-3 fatty acids for dogs.
- Omega-6 fatty acids, which include linolenic acid (LA) and arachidonic acid (AA). Omega-6s are found in seeds and nuts and the oils that are made from them.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids (EFAs) because the body cannot readily produce them, so they must come from dietary sources. Omega-9 fatty acids can be manufactured in the body and so are not considered essential.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for health, however there is an important distinction.
Omega-3 fatty acids regulate cellular metabolic functions and gene expression in a manner that reduces inflammation (Deckelbaum et al., 2006), while omega 6-fatty acids, particularly arachidonic acid (AA), can promote inflammation when consumed in excessive amounts (Deckelbaum et al., 2006; Laflamme, 2004; Waldron, 2004).
What About The Average Dog?
The average dog diet contains a significant imbalance in the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids, with both people and dogs consuming far too much omega-6s and far too little omega-3s.
As we noted above, EPA and DHA from fish oil and other marine sources are far better sources of omega-3s for dogs than plant-based ALA. This is so for two main reasons:
- Studies clearly show that EPA and DHA are more effective at modulating cellular metabolic functions and gene expression than plant-based ALA (Deckelbaum et al., 2006).
- Although dietary ALA can be metabolized into EPA and DHA in the body, dogs do not efficiently make this conversion. Therefore, they should consume EPA and DHA directly to gain maximum benefit.
We recommend incorporating foods rich in EPA and DHA into your dog’s diet. Here are our favorites:
- Fish oil
- Salmon (select only wild-caught)
Dogs can also benefit from a high-quality EPA/DHA supplement from fish oil or other marine source. Just bear in mind that the more omega-3s your dog receives from fresh food sources, the less you will need to supplement. A convenient way of adding these invaluable fish oils to your dogs diet is by using the Grizzly Wild Cold Pressed Salmon Oil from Alaska. We stock the 500ml and the 1000ml pump bottles. A quick squirt on their Healthy K9 Naturals Grain Free Kibble per day will give your dog all the beneficial PUFA’s they will need.
The use of dietary omega-3 fatty acids as adjunctive treatments for several clinical disorders has been evaluated to a greater extent in dogs than in cats. In dogs, evidence has accumulated regarding beneficial responses with dietary inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids or their provision for inflammatory conditions such as atopy and some renal disorders as well as cardiovascular problems, hyperlipidemias (high cholesterol),and osteoarthritis. Emerging areas of investigation include their role in IBD, cancer, cognitive function, and behaviour.