As humans, a trip to our local pharmacy sees us facing rows upon rows of supplements, with some of the most popular being omega-3 supplements. What might not be as well known is that omega-3 can have great health benefits for our dogs, too.
What is omega-3?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that are needed for us and for our four-legged companions alike. Omega-3s can’t be made by our bodies, so we need to rely on a diet that includes sources of omega-3s.
The omega-3 family contains many types of omega-3 fatty acids, however there are 3 main ones involved in dog physiology:
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
ALA is found in some plants (including seeds and nuts of the plant) while DHA and EPA originate from marine life like fish, algae and green lipped muscle.
Common sources of omega-3 for humans include oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel, oysters, flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. However, not all pooches are pampered with a gourmet diet that includes these delicious ingredients, so we need to ensure their diet includes omega-3 from other sources.
Benefits of omega-3 for dogs
The most important omega-3s for dogs are DHA and EPA, both sourced from marine animals. They have anti-inflammatory properties that provide benefit to dog’s skin and joints. These omega-3s via the diet also provide benefit to the heart, eyes, kidneys, brain and immune system.
Omega-3 for dog coat health or itchy skin
A diet rich in omega-3 can help reduce the effect of skin allergies (flea allergic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis and more), by reducing the inflammation that results in itchiness. With the inflammation reduced, the dog will scratch less which will give their skin a chance to heal. Omega-3 also works with Omega-6 to hydrate and provide a barrier to the skin resulting in a healthy base for lustrous coats to thrive.
Omega-3 for dog joint health
The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3, particularly EPA and DHA, can reduce joint inflammation and therefore joint pain in dogs. As part of a long-term joint health plan with your vet, omega-3 can be a useful tool in slowing the progression of joint health issues including osteoarthritis. Reduced joint pain will help your dog to stay agile and mobile for longer.
Omega-3 for dog heart health
Omega-3 in your dog’s diet can be beneficial to heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids are a major energy source in the adult dog heart. EPA and DHA provide anti-inflammatory, antiarrhythmic and hypotensive properties. Antiarrhythmic properties help reduce the chance of developing an irregular heart rhythm while hypotensive properties help ensure a stable healthy blood pressure, which in turn reduces the risk of stroke and other heart related challenges.
Omega-3 supplements for dogs
Omega-3 can benefit your dog’s health at all stages of life from puppy to adult and senior.
Omega-3 for puppies
Puppies grow and develop rapidly! As they physically grow, they are also learning new skills every day. Omega-3 (particularly DHA) is essential for puppies, as it can help improve cognitive and neurological development. Supplements for puppies containing DHA may improve their memory and learning ability which is very important as you lay down the ground rules and establish good habits with your new companion. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to increase retinal function in growing puppies’ eyes.
Omega-3 for dogs’ general health
As your dog grows from a puppy into an adult (after 12 months of age), their need for omega-3 remains constant. Now they are older, these essential fatty acids provide a wide range of health benefits, including enhancing a healthy immune response and supporting brain, joint, heart and kidney health. Look for an omega-3 supplement for adult dogs containing DHA & EPA to ensure they are getting the full benefit from the supplement.
Omega-3 for senior dogs
As our best friends become more senior, omega-3 intake is still important, so considering a supplement for senior dogs with omega-3 is a great thing to consider. At this life stage, these important fatty acids can help alleviate symptoms associated with age-related cognitive decline (or doggie dementia). They can also help optimise their immune response and support joint health, allowing them to move more freely and therefore maintain muscle mass – all important to support our cherished senior pets.
Can you give your dog human omega-3?
Human omega-3 supplements often come in the form of fish oil supplements which can have a strong fishy odour. Adding this pungent oil to food may leave you and your house with this odour. It will also leave your dog’s breath smelling very fishy! Your dog may not find fish oil particularly tasty either. If you are attempting to go down this route of using fish oil, also be aware of fish oil-induced diarrhoea.
It’s also important to know that giving your dog too much omega-3 (particularly in the form of fish oil) can result in them becoming unwell, with symptoms including vomiting and diarrhoea, slow healing wounds, weight gain and even adverse effects on their immune system.
With the above in mind, it’s best to stick with dog supplements with omega-3, for the correct dosage and ease of delivery.
The information in this article was checked by ZamiPet Veterinarian and General Manager Dr Andrew McKay, BVSc, University of Melbourne, 2000. Vet Registration No: V3985
Disclaimer: This information is general advice only. Before starting any treatment or supplement with your pet, please consult your vet first for the best approach to getting your pet back to their best health.