The Complete Guide to Feeding Your Dog Fish Oil and Omega-3

Dog food is carefully formulated to give your dog most of the nutrition they need to live a healthy, active lifestyle. But there are places where dog food just won’t cut it.

Fish oil and omega-3 products are a great supplement to your dog’s diet. Fish oil restores your dog’s coat and soothes itchy or flaky skin. Fish oil is also said to promote heart health and even fight cancer. But not all fish oils are made equally.

What is fish oil?

You might not be familiar with fish oil. That’s okay!

Fish oil is a dietary supplement derived from the tissue of certain fish. This is refined into either tincture, pill, or gel form, for human or animal consumption. 

Fish oils may contain multiple nutrients, but the most common and most important is omega-3.

What is omega-3?

Omega-3 is a kind of fatty acid. These are the molecules that make up the fats both in our bodies and in the foods we eat. Fatty acids are essential to life. This type of fat is polyunsaturated, or the “good” kind of fat. Omega-3 is one of many fatty acids that mammals need in order to live.

All fish oil contains omega-3, but not all omega-3 is fish oil. Omega-3 may be obtained from eating fish, or even certain plants. Supplements are not necessary to receive omega-3, but they make it easy to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.

There are three kinds of omega-3. There is EPA and DHA, most commonly found in fish, and ALA, which is found in plants. Fish oil supplements focus on EPA and DHA omega-3. ALA omega-3 is found in flaxseed oils.

The body does not naturally produce Omega-3, and it therefore must be obtained through the diet. 

Do dogs need omega-3?

Omega-3 is an essential part of the diet for dogs and humans, alike. Dogs need to get omega-3 from the food they eat, but unfortunately, most dog foods are not a good source of omega-3.

There is another kind of fatty acid called omega-6, which is also essential. However, omega-6 is abundant in most grains. This means that most dog foods are very high in omega-6. The result is that many dogs have too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3.

Luckily, omega-3 balances out and neutralizes high levels of omega-6 in kibble diets. Dogs and humans need both omega-3 and omega-6, but too much of either is never good a thing. This is why omega-3 is an important supplement to your dog’s diet, but you should never give your dog too much.

If you’re thinking about adding fish oil or another omega-3 supplement to your dog’s diet, make sure to consult your Vet first. They can help you make a plan that’s best suited to your dog.

What are the benefits of omega-3 and fish oil?

Most studies of fish oils and omega-3 are ongoing. There are many claims out there about the miraculous effects of omega-3, and it can be hard to sort fact from fiction (or, at least embellishment).

Skin & Coat

For dogs, the most common use of omega-3 is to improve a dog’s coat and skin health. Omega-3 boosts the fur and leaves it looking silky, shiny, and refreshed. Additionally, it should help with any itchiness or dry skin your dog is experiencing (just make sure the cause isn’t flea or tick-related, first). Many omega-3 supplements for dogs will advertise themselves as a skin and coat supplement.

Blood Pressure & Cholesterol

Fish oil shows promising results for lowering blood pressure and reducing the “bad kind” of cholesterol. Studies show that fish oil also significantly reduces blood triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are what make up the fat in our bodies, and too much in the blood is unhealthy.

Heart Disease

Researchers are mixed on whether omega-3 supports heart health. Studies consistently show that consuming seafood can lower the risk of heart disease, but they have not found convincing evidence that the same is true for fish oil supplements.

A meta-analysis from 2019 (basically, a study that combines data from many other studies instead of conducting their own experiments) found that fish oil omega-3 supplements lowered the risk for heart attack and death from coronary heart disease.

Arthritis & Joint Pain

Fish oil should not be your first choice for fighting joint pain, but studies have shown that it can lead to a modest reduction in pain. Fish oil is often used to manage symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Fighting Cancer

Some sources claim that omega-3 can help prevent or even fight off cancer. Unfortunately, these claims are not proven. If omega-3 can fight cancer, we will need more evidence to prove it.

How to give your dog fish oil/omega-3

Giving your dog fish oil/omega-3 supplements is easy and can be added to your dog’s food during meal time.

Most fish oil for dogs is liquid. With these fish oils, you simply add a pump of fish oil on top of your dog’s. Make sure to check the instructions to know how much to give your pup.

Gels are another popular form of fish oil supplement. For smaller dogs, you may puncture the gel and sprinkle it on top of your dog’s food, like you would a liquid. For bigger dogs, the gel may be put into the food bowl.

There are also soft chews. They look like treats. These may be more exciting to your dog, but many people critique chews for smelling bad or even being unappetizing to some dogs.

The most important part is finding a supplement your dog enjoys. Each pet is different, and it may take a little trial and error to find that omega-3 that best suits your furry friend.

Tyler Kupcho
Author: Tyler Kupcho

Animal lover, proud husky parent. Writing Intern at DogFriendly.com

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