There’s a lot of shared science between the human and animal medical communities. There are many differences between the human body and your pet’s body, but there are also a lot of similarities.
Human medical research holds the key to good health for our pets and us.
One example of that is the research that’s been done on the role of essential fatty acids in human health. Veterinarians know as a result of this research that it’s important for our pets too.
What is an essential fatty acid?
Fatty acids are chains of carbon molecules that are present in dietary fats and oils, and they’re important in the prevention and treatment of disease.
As you may remember from our post about taurine, “essential” means the nutrient must come from the diet because the body doesn’t produce it.
There are two categories of essential fatty acids for humans, dogs and cats, Omega-3 and Omega-6.
In this week’s post, we’ll talk about the importance of omega-3s in your pet’s diet. Next week we’ll learn more about omega-6s.
How will your pet benefit by taking omega-3s?
Just like in humans, omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect that’s beneficial in treating many conditions including allergies, cognitive dysfunction, arthritis, skin conditions, intestinal problems, heart disease and cancer.
But if you’re going to give your pet a supplement, know that not all omega-3 supplements are created equal. Supplements contain varying amounts of the component fatty acids. Purity is always an issue, and rancidity can be a problem with omega-3 supplements too.
What’s the best way to assure that your pet is getting a beneficial form of omega-3s?
ALA (alpha-linolenic), DHA (docosahexaenoic) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic) acids are the 3 acids that comprise omega-3s. DHA and EPA are responsible for the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3s. ALA is the starting point for DHA and EPA. In humans, ALA turns into DHA and EPA. In dogs and cats, it does not.
So you’ll want to be sure that you’re giving your pet DHA and EPA directly. Cold water fish like salmon are good sources of DHA and EPA.
You can give your pet a fish oil supplement, but assuring the effectiveness of a supplement isn’t always easy. They can also have varying amounts of DHA and EPA. And the purity and rancidity issues make supplements the least desirable option for giving your cat or dog omega-3s.
Today, it’s pretty well accepted that a complete pet food should contain marine oils as a source of DHA and EPA. And you’ll find that many super premium dog and cat foods add omega-3s to their recipes. This is an easy and cost effective way to give your pet the essential fatty acids they need.
Husse’s Optimal, Light Optimal, Optimal Giant, Prima Plus, Senior, Senior Mini, and Valp dog foods; and Husse’s Exclusive Lean and Exclusive Sensitive cat foods all have salmon oil in their recipes to ensure that your pet gets a well-balanced diet…a diet that contains omega-3 fatty acids to minimize inflammation, promote healthy brain development, and prevent disease.
Is there any downside to giving your pet omega-3s?
There are some risks to giving your dog or cat too much of these fatty acids. Some of the risks are pretty benign and easily remedied—like fishy breath and weight gain from the added fat—but some can be very serious.
An excessive amount of EPA and DHA can interfere with platelet function. This can lead to increased bleeding which is very dangerous if your pet is having surgery or suffers from a condition that causes bleeding.
Too much EPA and DHA can also interfere with wound healing. Some inflammation is necessary as part of the healing process. Too much of an anti-inflammatory can have a negative effect on the healing process. Again, a problem if your pet needs surgery.
EPA and DHA can also contribute to inflammation rather than reducing it if you give too much to your dog or cat.
For all of these reasons, you should be sure to talk with your vet if you are planning on including omega-3 fatty acids in your pet’s diet. You want to be certain you’re not giving them too much.
And be sure to remind your vet that your pet is taking omega-3s if they need to undergo any type of surgical procedure.
You should also know that the effects of long-term high dose use of omega-3s have not been studied.
Do you give your dog or cat Omega-3s? Share your experience in the comment section above.