The lowdown on Omega 3
You may have heard about something called Omega 3 but just what is it and why does your dog need it in their diet?
Omega 3 is a group of three essential fatty acids, which means that they can’t be made by the body so need to be obtained via food. The primary source of Omega 3 is fish which contains EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The third fatty acid in the group is ALA (alpha-Linolenic acid) which is found in certain plants and is converted by the body into EPA and DHA, although this is a relatively slow process making fish based Omega 3 a more effective source.
Omega 3 works together with another fatty acid, Omega 6, to control inflammation in your dog. Omega 3 lowers inflammation whilst Omega 6 raises inflammation. Whilst inflammation can be painful it has an important role. It’s the body’s protective response to injury or infection and brings white blood cells to the area to clear away the cause of the inflammation and begin the healing process.
But long term inflammation, known as chronic inflammation, is the cause of a range of health issues such as arthritis, skin conditions and inflammatory bowel disease. This is where Omega 3’s anti-inflammation action is important. So the balance of these omega fats is vital in maintaining a healthy immune system in your dog.
Most dry commercial dog foods contain plenty of Omega 6 fatty acids which is easily found in seeds, nuts, poultry and vegetables. But levels of Omega 3 in these foods are often very low or sometimes entirely absent. So it’s important to supplement your dogs diet with a good source of Omega 3, such as fish treats. It’s also important to make sure your dog doesn’t get too much Omega 6 in their diet as its pro-flammatory effects can cause painful joints if fed too much.
Benefits of Omega 3 for your dog
Omega 3's anti-inflammatory effect aids healthy joints, improves coat and skin condition as well as gut and gum health, and improves brain function. It’s also helpful for dogs with kidney disease, helping combat protein loss in urine, plus it’s very good for dogs suffering with heart disease.
Arthritis and joint issues
Omega 3 helps alleviate joint pain caused by inflammation, such as with arthritis. Omega 3 from fish has been proven to help improve movement in dogs with osteoarthritis and allow them to carry out their daily activities more easily. The 2013 study1in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition showed that dogs in the study who ate a diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids from fish origin performed better than the dogs who did not.
Skin and coat health
Most coat and skin conditions involve inflammation of the skin, resulting in itchiness and flaking. Some itchy dogs are very prone to biting, scratching and chewing and can make themselves very sore. Omega 3 can help reduce the itching, making your dog much more comfortable, as well as reducing the need to administer steroids. For example, a2014 study2published in the Veterinary Journal found that Omega-3 was a beneficial treatment for dogs suffering from canine atopic dermatitis (CAD).
Omega 3 also improves the condition of your dog’s coat. By adding some fish to your dogs diet it’s coat should become healthier and shinier. This is especially helpful for show dogs.
Long term inflammation of both the gums and the gut can cause problems for your dog in both eating and digesting its food. By combatting this inflammation with Omega 3 your dog will not only feel better, they’ll be better able to digest their food and will be healthier overall. Fish skin treats also have the added benefit that they act as a natural toothbrush.
Boosts cognitive function and eye health
Omega 3 is important for your dog’s brain and helps improve cognitive development in puppies and cognitive function in older dogs. Adding fish to your dog’s diet is helpful for improving their memory and concentration too. Omega 3 is also essential in the development of a puppy’s central nervous system and eyes. And for older dogs, Canine cognitive dysfunction is a well known condition and the Omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, has been shown to improve this condition.
- Moreau et al. Oct 2013. Effects of feeding a high Omega 3 fatty acids diet in dogs with naturally occurring osteoarthritis.Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition.
- Blaskovic et al. Jan 2014. The effect of a spot-on formulation containing polyunsaturated fatty acids and essential oils on dogs with atopic dermatitis. Veterinary Journal.