7 Benefits of Omega-3 for Dogs: Learn Why It’s Essential

Filed in Dog Health on July 27, 2021

benefits of omega 3 for dogs

We all want our dogs to live long and healthy lives. While dogs live shorter lifespans than humans, what foods they eat can determine how healthy and long-lived they’ll be.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are an important part of that. They’re called essential because the body needs them but it cannot create them – they’re only available to our pets in the food they eat or the supplements we give them.

In this blog post, I’ll take a look at one particular EFA – omega-3 – and the benefits of omega-3 for dogs…

It’s All About Balance

There are two main kinds of EFAs – omega-3 and omega-6.

Omega-3 comes from cold-water fish and other marine species such as krill, calamari, green-lipped mussel, and algae.

The fish themselves do not create the oil but get it from the organisms that they eat, such as algae and krill. It can also come from plant and nut oils such as flaxseed.

Omega-6 comes from vegetable sources, such as the oils from borage, evening primrose, safflower, and sunflower.

What’s important to know is that the two need to be in balance to be of any benefit.

Sadly, too many pets are getting way more omega-6 than is needed because they eat commercial pet foods that are unbalanced. These dogs become omega-3 deficient and start to develop a wide range of symptoms that reflect that.

Some diets are better than others (high-quality, balanced raw diets usually have EFAs in the right balance)…but if you feed your dog kibble or canned food your dog may well be lacking in the omega-3 fatty acids that they need for optimal health.

Remember also that when commercial dog food is made it’s cooked at such a high temperature that any EFAs that were in it to start with have been made useless.

Supplements in the form of fish oil or marine life oil to the rescue!

High-quality fish oil is highly recommended for dogs that are fed processed food.

I’ll give you some pointers on which ones are best to buy below; but first, let’s look at the 7 benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for dogs to see just how important they are.

1. Skin And Coat

No one wants to see their dog constantly itching and scratching. Yet vets see this complaint all the time.

One of the best-known benefits of omega-3 for dogs is healthy skin and a shiny, soft coat.

Dr. Karen Becker, DVM says a lack of it will produce conditions such as itchy, dry, flaky skin, excessive shedding, sores that don’t heal such as hot spots, hair loss, and even mange.(1)

If your dog is experiencing any of these conditions, you may see a vast improvement to any of them after only a few weeks of adding a high-quality omega-3 oil to their diet.

2. Heart

The experts over at the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center give omega-3 the thumbs up for improved heart health.

They say its anti-inflammatory properties may help with heart failure and the muscle loss associated with it. They also say that there is evidence it can help reduce abnormal heart rhythms as well.(2)

Other reported benefits include:

  • Prevention of blood clots
  • Reduction in blood cholesterol
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of stroke

3. Bones And Joints

Old tired dog

As dogs age, they don’t move around as well and their joints may stiffen – they might even get arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce joint stiffness, swelling, tenderness, and general fatigue.

That’s why it’s commonly recommended by vets to help decrease the associated inflammation and pain.

Studies reported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) revealed that the use of a supplement of fish oil omega-3 fatty acids helped dogs with osteoarthritis.

It enabled them to stand up from a resting position and then play or walk with greater ease.(3)

4. Brain

Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM has been a vet for over 30 years and has much to say about omega-3.

She says that older dogs can experience brain disorders such as dementia just like humans can, and that omega-3 has been shown to improve the condition.(4)

She looked at a study performed on a group of older dogs with behavioral problems associated with the brain, such as not recognizing family members, pacing, and staring into corners.

The study showed a significant improvement in all the behaviors after the dogs were fed food supplemented with DHA (a component of omega-3).

On the other end of the spectrum, DHA also aids in the proper brain and eye development of puppies and may increase their learning abilities.

5. Immune System

Veterinarian, author, and radio personality Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM is the founder of the Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center & Pet Clinic in Ohio.

She believes that natural treatments should run alongside traditional medicine and she stresses the importance of nutrition and diet.

She believes that omega-3 is critical for good health as it’s one of the essential building blocks that a dog needs for a strong immune system, a healthy heart, and more.(5)

It can help reduce the harmful effects of a dog’s immune system when it gets over-activated and open to developing allergies, chronic infections such as ear or eye, and autoimmune conditions such as lupus.

If the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 is achieved, a dog’s healthy immune system will much more easily:

  • fight off illness and disease
  • reduce a dog’s allergic reactions to their environment, such as flea bite allergies, food allergies, and airborne allergies
  • reduce inflammation

6. Kidney

Another one of the potential benefits of omega-3 in dogs is improved kidney function.

Studies revealed by the Pet Health Network show that omega-3 in fish oil improved kidney function in dogs with chronic kidney disease, especially those associated with high levels of protein loss in the dog’s urine.(4)

Many kidney diets include significant amounts of omega-3 because the fish oil seems to slow down kidney damage, has a protective effect against severe injury to the kidneys, and extends lifespan.

7. Anxiety And Depression

I refer to Dr. Karen Becker once more for advice on anxiety in dogs and how it can be helped with diet and nutrition – specifically omega-3.(6)

She reports that nearly one in three dogs may exhibit signs of anxiety, which may include excessive barking, trying to escape, excessive energy, destructive behaviors, and aggression.

These behaviors often lead to dogs being taken to shelters and/or being euthanized.

However, in her experience as a vet, and from studies she has read, she thinks that these behaviors can be helped by simply adding omega-3 to a dog’s diet.

She says it has a calming effect on anxious dogs and leads to improvements in behavior.

She also found studies that pitted omega-3 against the antidepressant drug Prozac in humans and found it to be just as effective — the study said that the same may be true in dogs as well.

Dr. Carol Osborne agrees. She says that omega-3 may work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain just as drugs such as antidepressants do.(5)

Recommended Omega-3 Supplements

Omega-3 supplements and treats

Here are two products that I have researched and can recommend because they tick all the quality boxes:

There’s such a wide variety available on the market – you’ll need to do your research beforehand to make sure you’re getting what your pup needs!

Buy the best food or supplement you can afford. But note that price alone will not always guarantee quality.

A lot of fish oils come from the remains of what manufacturers use to create products for humans (although even those can be sub-standard and contain toxins).

The problem with this is that they are not tested for contaminants and toxins such as mercury that can be harmful to your pet.

The product label must indicate that it has been tested for these and found to be safe. Or you can call the manufacturers themselves and ask them.

Fish oil should be from wild-caught, cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies) caught with sustainable practices. Krill oil is an excellent choice, too.

Buy it in small quantities and use it up in a timely fashion. Oils can go rancid and it’s better not to supplement at all than use rancid ones. If it smells “off” always discard it. Store oils in the fridge.

Always choose fish oil over seed oil as dogs cannot process seed oils.

Conclusion on Benefits of Omega-3 for Dogs

Well, I hope you enjoyed these benefits of omega-3 for dogs.

The evidence seems overwhelming that omega-3 is fundamental to good health. Even if your dog doesn’t show any obvious signs of being sick, by supplementing their diet with omega-3 they will most likely thrive, not merely survive.

Dogs don’t just benefit from omega-3 they NEED it. If you don’t think your dog’s food gives them enough of it, either upgrade their diet or supplement it.

If you don’t, you may find yourself taking your dog to the vet more at best, shortening their lives at worst. By the way, you can also find out what health conditions they’re susceptible to with dog DNA tests.

Note: always check with your vet before starting a supplement such as fish oil in case it might clash with a prescription they are on, especially blood thinners.

And don’t OVER-supplement as this can lead to other problems. Always follow the dosage chart on whatever product you buy.

If you have tried an omega-3 supplement on your dog and want to share your experience with it, we’d love to hear from you. Leave your comment below. And don’t forget to share this post so others can benefit from it. Thanks!

 

Resources:

  1. https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2009/06/13/the-frequently-missing-ingredient-in-your-pet-s-diet-that-could-devastate-their-health.aspx
  2. https://heartsmart.vet.tufts.edu/nutrition/
  3. https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.236.1.67
  4. https://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-diet-nutrition/five-dog-diseases-fish-oil-can-help-treat
  5. https://www.chagrinfallspetclinic.com/2007/08/23/omega-3-and-omega-6-fatty-acids/
  6. https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2016/06/13/dog-anxiety-probiotics-omega-3-fats.aspx

About the Author

Wendy Hollandsworth is a contributing writer to Dog Endorsed. She is a freelance canine copywriter who specializes in blog posts, content articles, product descriptions, and sales emails. An experienced editor and writer, she’s worked in four countries, has had hands-on experience with dogs in boarding, grooming, training, and pet-sitting, and loves what she does. When she’s not creating content she’s usually taking her three dogs Finn, Meg, and Ziggy Stardust to the dog park or making them a home-cooked meal! Sometimes her husband gets one, too.

Comments (1)

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  1. Marlene Bone says:

    Thank you so much Wendy for this article. It’s going to be very beneficial for us! One day I hope we can meet Finn, Meg and Ziggy Stardust and be friends forever!

    Love Zoey and Loki Bone (and our mom Marlene) 😁

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