Many dog owners wonder whether their pets can benefit as much from fish oil supplements as much as they themselves do. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have widespread health benefits. But does your dog need it? And is it safe?
How Do I Tell If My Dog Needs Fish Oil?
If you have a typical, healthy dog who eats a healthy raw diet composed of mostly grass-fed animals, and it is free of grains and vegetable oils, your dog most likely does not need fish oil supplements – a serving of fish from time to time would be sufficient. However, if your dog has a special need, like suffering from a chronic condition like arthritis, has an injury, or is in a growing phase, then fish oil supplements might be helpful.
Because they are growing, puppies need more omega-3 and other fatty acids than full-grown dogs. Any dog, though, can have an omega-3 deficiency that would benefit from fish oil. Your dog might have an omega-3 deficiency if he tires easily, has a dry coat, brittle nails, and itchy skin, and if he has pain in his joints.
The Goal: Perfect Balance
The main goal in supplementing with fish oil is to strike a healthy balance between omega-3 fats and omega-6 fats. In many foods, omega-6 fats are far more present than omega-3 fats. So, the purpose of fish oil is to add omega-3 fats, which provides a better balance. The best ratio for omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats is somewhere between 10-to-1 and 5-to-1. It is important that your dog have the right balance, as these fats control hormones in their body.
Whenever you introduce a new dietary substance to your dog, you want to exercise caution, and giving your dog fish oil is no exception. First, be careful to follow the dosage directions very carefully, according to the weight of your dog. Too much fish oil and omega-3 can cause a deficiency in vitamin E. So, be sure that your dog eats a high-quality diet that is rich in vitamin E to guard against a deficiency.
Another thing to consider is that fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 are prone do oxidation. They oxidize and break down, which can be damaging to your dog.
While companies that produce fish oil supplements try very hard to make their products as pure as possible, there is no way to escape the fact that the fat in fish is where they carry any toxins that they have taken in. Metals like lead and mercury that get into the ocean from various pollutants are absorbed by fish and can be passed on as contaminants into fish oil supplements, so that is something of which to be mindful as you consider fish oil for your dog.
Tips for Using Fish Oil with Your Dog
As a responsible dog owner, there are ways to safely give fish oil to your pet so that he can gain maximum benefit. Be very selective in the product that you choose, and purchase the highest quality fish oil that you can. Consider giving your dog a vitamin E supplement to guard against a deficiency in that vitamin. You might also give your dog both fresh fish and fish oil supplements so that they can get a full range of healthy fat from those sources.