Most dog owners understand that their dog’s need omega 3 fatty acids in their diet, but the big question seems to be what is the best form of oil to use?
To recap why Omega 3 fatty acids are important, let’s discuss what it does for your dog. It helps support the immune system. It keeps the coat and skin healthy. It is supportive of heart, liver and kidneys functions. And, it helps fight inflammation. It is, however, difficult to obtain in the foods we feed our dogs and it is fragile because it is easily and quickly destroyed when exposed to heat, light or air (oxygen).
Want to Feed the Best Diet for Your Dog, But Don’t Know How?Now there is a fast and easy way to learn! Check out Lew Olson’s easy-to-follow, on-line course videos! Read on to learn about Canine Nutrition and preparing Raw and Home Cooked Diets! Click for Video
Omega 3 fatty acids are not usually found in the common foods we normally feed to our dogs, so supplementation of this essential fatty acid is important. They are mostly found in certain fish. If livestock are raised on good grasses, beef can contain some of the needed fatty acids, but usually not in the quantity your dog’s needs. Omega 3 fatty acids also help balance omega 6 fatty acids, which are very abundant in the fats from animal-based foods, vegetables and grains. But, too much omega 6 can ELEVATE inflammation. This is why balancing the fatty acids is important. Adding Omega 3 counters the effects of the omega 6. Some processed dog foods claim to add omega 3 fatty acids to their products, but it is highly unlikely the valuable properties of the Omega 3 fatty acids survive the high heat required in the cooking process or the length of time spent stored in bags or boxes.
So now that you know why Omega 3 fatty acids are an important supplement to add to your dog’s diet, which one should you use?
The first big NO is omega 3 from plant oils! Plant oils, which include flax seed oil, hemp oil, coconut oil, or any other plant-based oil. Why? Because the form of omega 3 found in plant oils is ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid), and it has been proven that it is almost impossible for dogs, and most humans, to convert it to a usable form.
If plant oils are out, what should we use for our dogs? There are a few choices. One is fish oil, which is made mainly from herring, menhaden, sardine, mackerel or salmon. These types of fish are high in omega 3. There is also krill oil, which is made from a tiny, shrimp-like crustacean. Another choice is oil from algae, known as Algal oil, and lastly, squid or calamari oil. Let’s take a look at these options and compare them.
This oil comes from deep water fish, most often herring, salmon, sardines or menhaden. The omega 3 in fish oil is already converted to the form needed and is easily absorbed and utilized by dogs. It contains EPA and DHA. The EPA is most useful to use for arthritis as it fights inflammation. The DHA helps with brain and eye development and also helps maintain brain health. The best way to buy this product is in capsule form. The capsules protect the fragile omega 3 from heat, air and light, which can destroy it. The fish used in the oil are also generally sustainable, and plentiful.
Most of Krill is harvested in the Antarctic regions. As mentioned earlier, it is a small crustacean. It is the primary food source for many fish and whales. The omega 3 oil found in Krill is a phospholipid source, while fish oil is triglyceride based. Both have been found to be equal in absorption. Krill oil does contain astaxanthin, which is a type of antioxidant. It comes from the red pigment of the krill, which in turn comes from their diet of sea algae. Astaxanthin is also found in red salmon, crabs, lobster and of course, various sea algae including spirulina. It can help enhance color in dogs’ coats.
However, Krill has been found to be over harvested and is not a sustainable (replaced) sea life. Some krill is also thought to be dying off from ocean waters becoming warmer. In that light, I cannot recommend using krill oil, not when fish oil is just as good in the amounts of Omega 3.
It has been discovered that certain algae contain good amounts of omega 3. This is good news for vegans, as they will avoid animal-based oils. Algae is especially high in DHA. However, since it is a plant, the omega 3 is ALA based, and while high in DHA, it is fairly low in EPA, when compared to fish oils. If you are using omega 3 to fight inflammation and skin issues, algae-based oils would produce the results wanted, however, the sustainability of using algae for oils is questionable.
Calamari or Squid Oil
Calamari, the delicacy people eat – often fried, is plentiful in the ocean but it is unknown if harvesting it for oil would affect its population. It is a fairly new oil on the market, so not much research has been done to date. And while it is a source of omega 3 fatty acids, it only has about half the amount found in fatty fish. It is high in DHA, however very low in EPA which is what we use to control inflammation and pain. It is also very high in cholesterol – much higher than fatty fish oil. While cholesterol is not much an issue for canines, it is for humans. In my opinion, it would be important to wait for more research to be completed. Additionally, it is not as cost productive as fish oil when you compare the low omega 3 count.
For the best comparison of which seafood contains the most omega 3 fatty acids, please refer to this chart:
The best omega 3 fatty acid choice for dogs is fish-based oils. While some people are concerned about the mercury levels in fish, most of the choices for fish oils are low mercury fish. It’s important to know that the mercury content that we are concerned about is found in the flesh of the fish, not the oil. Most all the fish used for fish oil are very low mercury, even the type of mackerel used in fish oil. Please use this chart to understand high and low mercury type fish:
I would recommend feeding one capsule of fish oil (180 EPA and 120 DHA per capsule), per 20 pounds of body weight daily. I have used as much as one capsule per 10 pounds of body weight, especially for small dogs who have a faster metabolism, dogs that are immune compromised, or dogs who have cancer. Cancer cells cannot use fat to multiply and omega 3 fatty acids fight cancer cell growth and supports the immune system. I simply open the capsules and put it on my dog’s food daily!
On a final note, if you want the benefit of astaxanthin (found in krill) to use as an antioxidant, and for the enhancement of coat color, I suggest the Berte’s Green Blend. It contains kelp, spirulina, Dulce and Irish moss which all contain this antioxidant.