Omega 3 fatty acids: by now we know these polyunsaturated fats are healthy. We know that we should include omega 3 in our diets. But what about our pets? What do omega 3 fatty acids do for our dogs and cats?
Read on to discover 10 benefits of omega 3 fatty acids in your pet’s diet:
1. Conditioned Skin
Many pets today suffer from dry skin, particularly in semi-arid and arid climates, or those with cold, dry winters (hello, most of Canada!). Omega 3 fatty acids primarily nourish your pet’s skin and coat, restoring moisture to parched skin. Other than being healthy in its own right, moisturized skin has a host of other benefits for pets.
2. Less Shedding and Dandruff
One of the number one things pet owners complain about is shedding. While nearly all pets shed, there are ways to reduce shedding and dandruff. One of the prime ways to keep your pet’s coat where it belongs (and off of your couch and clothes) is to feed plenty of omega 3 fatty acids.
Omega 3 fatty acids keep your pet’s skin moisturized, and hydrated skin reduces pet shedding. That’s good news for everyone, but particularly pet-allergy sufferers, who respond to allergens in their environment.
3. Shinier Coat
Moisturized, healthy skin in your dog or cat improves the structure of the skin and coat. This, in turn, makes the coat look beautiful, too. A shiny coat full of lustre is a good predictor of overall pet health, and omega 3 fatty acids can get your pet there.
4. Fewer Ear Infections
Essential omega 3 fatty acids are helpful in preventing infection because they improve the skin barrier. If your pet is receiving sufficient omega 3 fatty acids, their immune system should be able to defend itself regularly against the threat of infection.
Also, omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, which inhibits infections from forming and reduces painful symptoms should an infection arise.
5. Reduced Scratching and Hot Spots
Dry, scaly skin is a symptom of essential fatty acid deficiency, and it does more than just make your pet shed and their coat appear dull. Overly dry skin is also itchy, and that can cause some troubles for your dog or cat.
When pets scratch too often, they can create hot spots. Hot spots occur when an area of skin is irritated to the point that it becomes inflamed and infected. Since hot spots are painful and annoying for your pet, your pet will instinctually lick or chew at them, exacerbating the infection and potentially spreading it. Hot spots can be a result of environmental and food allergies, but that is not always the case.
With the addition of an appropriate amount of omega 3 fatty acids to your pet’s diet, your pet will stop scratching and get some relief from chronic hot spots, even if the condition is allergen-induced.
6. Improved Health When Dealing With Chronic Disease
No pet owner wants to see their pet suffer through chronic disease, but it’s a reality many have to live with. With their immune-boosting effects, omega 3 fatty acids can reduce painful symptoms caused by chronic inflammation.
Supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids has been known to help pets who suffer from Oesteoarthritis, Inflammatory Bowl Disease, Kidney Disease, Heart Disease, Atopic Dermatitis, Flea and Tick Dermatitis, and Feline Miliary Eczema. Omega 3 fatty acids are even helpful in preventing the spread of certain cancers as well as slowing their growth.
7. Increased Immunity
The immune-boosting properties of omega 3 fatty acids have the added benefit of protecting your dog or cat from autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, lupus, mange, and more. The benefits come mainly from the anti-inflammatory effects of omega 3 fatty acids in your dog or cat.
8. Strong Nails
Does your dog have dry, brittle nails that crack easily? He could have lupoid onychodystrophy. This common condition is an autoimmune disease that can be very damaging, eventually resulting in nail loss. Omega 3 fatty acids are known to help in treating the symptoms of this debilitating condition.
9. Improved Mental Health
DHA is believed to help puppies learn better, but the mental benefits don’t end at that young age. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to work as a natural anti-depressant in people, likely due to a boost in serotonin, so they could do the same for your pet. In a specifically canine study, omega 3 fatty acids have been suspected to limit aggression in dogs, particularly in response to stressful situations. Cool, huh?
10. Weight Loss
Helpful for reducing levels of bad cholesterol while raising heart-healthy cholesterol, omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to increase weight loss in overweight dogs (and humans, too). Fats for the win!
Omega 3 fatty acids, primarily eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are beneficial to your pet’s health and well-being in a myriad of ways, from reducing inflammation to improving skin and coat. While they are present in most foods, high-heat cooking and long-term storage can destroy fragile fatty acid chains. And a modern commercialized diet rich in omega 6 fatty acids only accentuates the problem.
Feeding your pet healthy whole food treats and supplementing with fish (and other) high quality oils* can give them the proper balance of essential fatty acids they need for these benefits and more.
*Note: Make sure you feed your pet fish oils without added calcium and Vitamin D, which most supplements intended for humans include. Too much calcium can result in kidney stones in dogs and other issues.
- Mercola: Healthy Pets: The Frequently Missing Ingredient in Your Pet's Diet That Could Devastate Their Health
- Watson, Tim D. G.: Diet and Skin Disease in Dogs
- Nuttall, Tim, BSc, BVSc, CertVD, PhD, CBiol, MIBiol, MRCVS: Management of Atopic Dermatitis
- SÆVIK, B. K., BERGVALL, K., HOLM, B. R., SAIJONMAA-KOULUMIES, L. E., HEDHAMMAR, Å., LARSEN, S. and KRISTENSEN, F. (2004), A randomized, controlled study to evaluate the steroid sparing effect of essential fatty acid supplementation in the treatment of canine atopic dermatitis. Veterinary Dermatology, 15: 137–145. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3164.2004.00378.x
- Healthy Oil Planet: Fish Oil for Dogs
- Grizzly Pet Products: Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids