Fat is a very important nutrient for dogs! However, for dogs to get the most benefit from fats, it is paramount that the fat source comes from a quality animal-based origin. Dogs are carnivores and are designed to utilize animal sourced fats for energy, to keep warm, to stay hydrated and to keep their skin and coat healthy. Unlike humans, dogs can to consume large amounts of fat without health consequences such high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries or plaque buildup. Their digestive tract and anatomy are made to handle large amounts of fat and animal protein. They systems are not designed to handle large amounts of fiber (i.e., carbohydrates).
Fats provide a source for essential fatty acids. The dogs' diet must have a good source of fat in order to maintain sufficient levels of fatty acids. Rancid fat or poor quality fat can cause a deficiency of these necessary fatty acids. Poor coat quality and skin conditions are common symptoms of deficiencies of essential fatty acids. These can include pruritis (itching), dermatitis (skin inflammation), and seborrhea. To ensure you are getting the best absorption of essential fatty acids, adding a quality source of vitamin E is also recommended as it helps with the absorption of the fatty acids.
The two essential fatty acids that are most commonly discussed are Omega 6 fatty acids and Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in animal sources such as chicken and pork. Smaller amounts are found in beef. The largest amounts of Omega 6 are found in plant sources such as olive, safflower, corn, coconut and other plant oils. Omega 3 fatty acids are less common and found in fatty fish sources, fish oil, flax seed oil (although dogs cannot utilize omega 3 fatty acids from plant sources) and marine sources, such as spirulina and blue green algae.
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Because Omega 6 fatty acids are naturally found in animal fats and plant sources, it is not necessary to add additional Omega 6 fatty acids to the dog's diet. Research is still incomplete on the optimal balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids, but it is currently thought to be approximately 5:1 to 10:1. Since most foods already contain high amounts of Omega 6, it is important to add a daily source of Omega 3 to your dog's diet to ensure a good balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids.
The best source for Omega 3 fatty acids are found in animal based oils, such as fish oil or salmon oil. Cod liver oil, on the other hand, is quite different as it carries much lower amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids and is very high in vitamin A and D. I do not recommend Cod Liver oil for everyday use. You can use regular fish oils daily. Plant based oils, such as flax, hemp, coconut, corn and sesame seed oil contain Omega 3 in the form of ALA. The ALA found in plant oils needs to be converted in the body to become a usable form of Omega 3 fatty acids and most dogs are unable to do this. This results in dogs getting a lot of Omega 6 fatty acids from the plant oils, but little or no Omega 3 fatty acid. Omega 6 fatty acids are already abundant in most food sources, so this in turn gives an overload of Omega 6. This results in inflammation, allergies, and poor coat hair and skin problems. Stick to animal-based oils (fish oils) in capsules, as it is already converted to a usable form of Omega 3 and your dog can easily assimilate these into their systems!
If dogs are fed a homemade diet, either raw or home cooked, it is important that the diet is contains LEAST 75% animal-based foods. This is includes meat, organ meat, yogurt, cottage cheese and eggs.
Raw diets require no carbohydrates, which consist of plant-based foods, as the raw meaty bones in the raw diet provide the needed fiber (and calcium).
In home cooked diets, about 25% of the diet should consist of plant-based vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, cabbage, etc. to obtain the needed fiber. Additionally, when feeding a home-cooked diet, calcium must be added to the diet. Good sources of calcium include calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. The balance of the diet should be made of up 75% animal-based foods.
The best source of Omega 3 fatty acids come from meat from grass fed animals, grass fed (free-range) chicken eggs and canned mackerel, salmon or sardines packed in water. Good animal-based oils include mixed fish oils, which include mackerel oil, sardine oil, menhaden oil and salmon oil. Oily fish from salt water make the best concentration for fish oil.
Remember, Cod Liver Oil is NOT the same thing! It is lower in Omega 3 fatty acids and very high in vitamin A and D. To supplement with fish body oil capsules, you want to find fish oil that is at least 180 EPA and 120 DHA per capsule. These usually come in 1,000 mg capsules and contain both EPA and DHA, which is the important Omega 3 fatty acid part of the oil!
A good rule of thumb is to give your dog one fish oil capsule per 20 pounds of body weight daily. There are certain times when I give higher doses. These may include times when I am fighting issues such as inflammation or in cases of illness such as an autoimmune issue or cancer.
The Omega 3 in fish oil is fragile. Heat, light and air can destroy the essential qualities of the fatty acid. In order to keep the Omega 3 oils intact and to maintain the best product integrity, I recommend using fish oil capsules instead of bottled oils.
The importance of Omega 3 fatty acids in the diet cannot be overstated! They are vitally important for fighting inflammation, supporting the immune system, supporting renal, heart and liver function and providing for healthy skin and coat. You can feed canned fish a couple of times a week however, the most effective way to provide the need amount of Omega 3 essential fatty acids is to give EPA fish oil capsules at a dose of one capsule per 20 pounds body weight daily.
A good companion supplement for your dog's diet is the Bertes Immune Blend. This supplement contains vitamins A, C, D, E, B vitamins and probiotics and digestive enzymes. The Bertes Immune Blend can be given at half dose to healthy dogs to further promote good health, immunity and digestion!
We are very glad that fall is finally approaching! It has been a very hot summer and we are looking forward to cooler weather! We want you to remember it is not only important to feed your dog well it is also important to play with your dogs daily and offer them plenty of mental and physical stimulation!
Keep your dogs happy and healthy