Fish Oil for Dogs: Essential Omega-3 For Good Canine Health

How to make sure they’re getting enough of these fatty acids to stay healthy.
By The Bark Editors, September 2016, Updated August 2021
Benefits Of Omega-3s For Dogs

Yes, your pup might perk up at the very smell of steak or fried chicken sizzling on the stove. But despite their enthusiasm for meat and poultry, protein is not actually their main source of energy. Fats, in fact, boost dogs’ energy 2.5 times more than either protein or carbohydrates. And fats not only rev up your dog’s energy but also help keep their skin and coat healthy and foot pads supple. Feel good, look good? Win, win.

That being said, not all fats are created equal. Omega 3 fatty acids are the best, healthiest fats for dogs. You’ve likely heard of them, but do you know where to find them? And how to work them into your dog’s diet? Here’s everything you need to know about omega 3 fatty acids for dogs and how to make sure your dog is getting enough.

What Are Fatty Acids Anyway?

Fatty acids are a specific type of polyunsaturated fat, and they are classified into omega 3s or omega 6s. Essential fatty acids are those that the body cannot make for itself, and your dog needs to get them daily in their diet. 

Nutritionally, fatty acids aid in the absorption of vitamins because they transport fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, K, and E) into the body from the intestine. They also play a role in cell structure and function, including vision and learning abilities. Plus, they make food, manufactured or homemade, tastier and more palatable. 

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While both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are important for your pup, many nutritionists think commercial dog food contains too many omega 6s and not enough omega 3s. Omega 6s can be found in meat products, egg yolks, whole grains, and vegetable oils, while the best source for omega 3s for dogs is cold-water fish.

The Benefits Of Omega 3 Fatty Acids For Dogs

Omega 3 fatty acids are especially crucial for dogs because they have a positive impact on so many aspects of their health. They support normal neural and nervous system development, cardiovascular and immune systems, and healthy reproduction; help manage chronic inflammatory disorders like colitis, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, joint pain due to arthritis, and allergic skin problems; help with stress management and cognitive function, especially in senior dogs; and support skin and coat health and relieve dry, itchy skin.

Fish oils can also decrease triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood, and omega 3s fatty acids for dogs have even been shown to slow the development and metastasis of certain cancers.

How to Max Your Dog’s Intake of Omega 3s

To make sure your dog is getting enough omega 3 fatty acids for optimal health, go beyond the kibble. (Permission to give them some salmon from your dinner plate!) Top their regular food with fish like mackerel, sardines, salmon, or tuna, or look for an essential fatty acid supplement. 

When it comes to supplements, talk to your vet before adding any to your dog’s diet. Then look into purity, freshness, potency, bio-availability, and sustainability to ensure you’re selecting the best for your dog.

Purity: The fish oil must meet international standards for heavy metals, PCBs, dioxins and other contaminants. See the manufacturer’s Certificate of Analysis (CoA) for third-party verification. 

Freshness: Check that they’re guaranteed-fresh source packaged in an oxygen-free form, such as soft gel capsules that prohibit air from contacting the oil.

Potency: The fish oil must contain DHA and EPA. DHA provides the most benefit to dogs, so it should exceed the levels of EPA.

Bio-Availability: The oil must be in a natural form, not a synthetic triglyceride (which many fish oils are).

Sustainability: Many fish oils are made from fish that are endangered. Choose products made from fish certified by organizations such as the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED).

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