Let’s just face this simple fact. We’re nuts for our dogs! And these days, more than ever, dog owners like you will do whatever it takes to keep them healthy and happy.
According to stats from the World Atlas, dogs are the most popular companion animals, with more than 48 million U.S. households providing them with shelter, food and love. (Cats are no slouches either when it comes to popularity, clocking in at nearly 32 million American households, but that’s for another blog post.)
What wouldn’t we do for our furry companions? Whether it’s stylish dog carriers (MZ Wallace anyone?!) to trendy clothes, toys that promise to keep your dog’s brain active and engaged, or premium pet food, pet parents spare no expense when it comes to what they’re willing to spend to make their furry companions happy and healthy.
Overall, the U.S. pet industry grew from $97.5 billion in 2019 to $99 billion in 2020, with predictions estimating the global pet care market will reach nearly $360 billion by 2027, says petpedia.co. This includes pet care supplies like collars and leashes and pet boarding, grooming, training and even pet health insurance.
But the biggest expense here in the U.S. is centered around nutrition and treats, with some 61% of pet parents willing to spend more on foods targeted to their pets’ dietary needs. Forty-three percent of dog parents buy premium pet food, perhaps because as petpedia.co advises, pet parents are more aware of the impact pet food has on their pets’ health.
The American Pet Products Association (APPA), the self-anointed leading trade association serving the interests of the pet products industry, states $42 billion was spent on pet foods and treats in 2020.
Likewise, AAPA says vet care and related product sales reached $31.4 billion in 2020, right behind good nutrition when it comes to spending habits. With a growing emphasis from companies manufacturing vitamins, omega-3s, CBD oils and treats, and even probiotics specifically for dogs, pet parents have more options available for helping keep their dogs in the pink, so to speak.
Omega-3 Is an Important Nutrient Not Only for Humans But for Dogs Too
Why, you might ask, OmegaQuant’s seemingly sudden interest in dogs? Well, of course, like the rest of the country, we, too, have dog parents in our ranks. But our interest is not so sudden—and it is purposeful. So, read on.
Our interest starts with the nutrients dogs need. And that includes omega-3s EPA and DHA. If you’re wondering “can I give my dog omega-3 fish oil?” the answer is “yes.” Not only can you give your dog omega-3s, but you probably should. Because if your dog is anything like their human companions, they are probably falling short of this essential nutrient.
This article from HomesAlivePets provides a strong summary of why your dog may need added polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)—like omega-3 EPA and DHA—in their diet, whether from food (pet or human) or supplements. Let’s first talk about some of those reasons to talk to your dog’s veterinarian about if and why you should consider getting more PUFAs in your dog’s diet.
Four Reasons to Consider Omega-3s for Your Dog
- Heart Health. Chronic, high inflammation is associated with heart disease and omega-3s are known to reduce inflammation. It’s the EPA in omega-3s that are generally viewed as the inflammation warriors and are worth considering as one tool in the toolbox of preventing and maintaining a healthy heart for your canine.
- Brain Health. This is where the DHA in omega-3s takes the lead. DHA helps developmental growth of the brain and helps prevent deterioration as your dog grows older. By all means use those brain twister toys for Fido and Fifi, but don’t discount the virtues of DHA for cognition.
- Joint Health. If you’re noticing that your dog is a little slow, a little stiff, when they get up from a nap or work their way off the couch, omega-3s—and omega-6s—may help. It’s back to the role these nutrients play in reducing inflammation (which causes swelling and pain). And if your dog has arthritis, ask your vet how omega-3s can help.
- Skin and Fur Health. Who doesn’t want their dog to look good? But it’s not just about looking good. If your dog’s skin is supple and their coat is shiny, those are indicators of good health. Omega-3 fatty acids help moisturize your dog’s skin, which in turn may help reduce shedding, prevent dandruff and lessen itchiness.
Here are some additional reasons. Yes, the science is conducted in humans, not dogs. But be honest. Don’t you really think of your dog as a human?
So, if you (in consultation with your vet, of course) determine that your dog needs more omega-3s (or omega-6s) in their diet, how do you go about adding them? There are plenty of options, from dog food to nutritional supplements for dogs. You may be wondering whether you can just give your dog human food that’s high in PUFA’s—like salmon.
Let’s start with the question about salmon because the answer is yes and no.
Is Salmon a Good Source of Omega-3s for Dogs?
As you know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, salmon is a great source of omega-3 EPA and DHA and is also a good source of protein. Plus, your dog will likely find it tasty. Just be sure it is fresh, boneless, well-cooked and served in appropriate-sized portions. The American Kennel Club suggests you limit your dog’s salmon intake to once a week or less.
Here’s “the no” when it comes to feeding salmon to your dog. Do not ever give your dog undercooked or raw salmon because it may contain a parasite, which can be deadly. In addition, raw salmon, with its tiny bones, may create a choking hazard or a digestive issue for your dog.
There’s no shame if you’re not making fresh fish dishes for Fifi. There are several salmon-flavored pet foods to choose from. And there are also nutritional supplements.
How to Find the Right Pet Food
Speaking of pet food, because your dog’s body (like human bodies) can’t make their own omega-3s, you’ll likely want to choose a pet food that contains these fatty acids. So check the label to be sure these essential nutrients are included. And be sure you’re buying pet food from a reputable company.
Here’s a tip from last week’s blog about pet food. Reputable dog food companies are careful to manufacture dog food products that are formulated to meet label claims that may state “complete,” “balanced,” or “100% nutritious.” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates these products on a federal level and offers a guide to pet food labels here. And here’s another source and another that explain how to read a dog food label.
This post from The Bark not only explains why omega-3s are must-have essential nutrients for your canine companion but also breaks down the sources of omega-3 fatty acids and even omega-6 fatty acids. Here’s what The Bark editors have to say about sources of omega-3 fatty acids:
– EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) cold water fish and their oil.
– DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) cold water fish and their oil, eggs from chickens fed omega-3.
It is important to note that, unlike humans, dogs cannot convert ALA to the all-important EPA and DHA, so plant oils are not an ideal source of omega-3s for them. ALA from plant foods are often the primary sources of omega-3 found in dog food. While they are still important, this does mean that your dog’s diet may be lacking in EPA and DHA, causing them to miss out on certain health benefits.
And about sources of omega-6 fatty acids:
– LA (Linoleic acid) can be found in corn, canola, safflower, sunflower oils, whole grain and body fat of poultry.
– GLA (Gamma linolenic acid) is found in black current seed oil, borage oil and evening primrose oil.
– AA (Arachidonic acid) is found in the body fat of poultry, lean meat, egg yolks, some fish oils.
– DGLA (Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid) comes organ meats.
In other words, if you’re raising your dog as a vegetarian, you can still get some—but not all—of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids—both from foods and/or supplements.
Does My Dog Need Omega-3 Nutritional Supplements?
Quite possibly. People fall surprisingly short of having the right amount of omega-3 EPA and DHA in their blood. Therefore, it wouldn’t surprise us if dogs are falling prey to the same disappointing results.
However, the only way to know for sure is to test their blood levels of omega-3, so you know their starting base and can figure out how to improve their Omega-3 Index to access all the benefits that EPA and DHA offer.
And to answer the question we posed earlier about why OmegaQuant is blogging about dogs? It’s because OmegaQuant has unveiled its newest Omega-3 Index test—The Omega-3 Index for Pets. We’ve been working on it for a while.
How Does the Omega-3 Index for Dogs Work?
The Omega-3 Index for dogs measures long-chain omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), divided by all fatty acids in the red blood cell membranes. It reflects your pet’s omega-3 status over the last 4 months. In other words, the test will tell you if your dog’s diet is delivering a healthy amount of omega-3s EPA and DHA.
The amount of EPA and DHA needed to achieve a beneficial Omega-3 Index—one at which the benefits of omega-3s are most accessible—will be different for every dog due to dietary, metabolic and genetic factors. Routine testing and changing the amount of EPA and DHA in the diet of your dog should be used to determine the appropriate dose of EPA and DHA needed to maintain an optimal Omega-3 Index.
As a part of an overall healthy lifestyle, an Omega-3 Index >3% may help to support your dog’s coat, skin, joint and immune system health. To increase your dog’s Omega-3 Index, include foods rich in EPA and DHA, like fish, fortified dog foods, or omega-3 supplements in their diet.
The National Research Council recommends a supplemental dose for dogs of EPA and DHA at 50-75 mg/kg/day with the safe upper limit of 2800 mg EPA+DHA per 1000 Calories. Below is a suggested dosage chart to help correct a low Omega-3 Index, based on a study from Mehler et al. And if you’re looking for some assistance in choosing the right fish oil supplements for your dog, here’s a list to get your started.
|Dog weight (kg)||EPA+DHA Dose (mg/day)|
|4 to 14||720|
|15 to 27||1440|
|28 to 41||2160|
The most efficient way to raise your dog’s Omega-3 Index is to incorporate more omega-3 EPA and DHA from fish, fortified dog food, or supplements into their diet. Omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed oil (alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA) will have little to no effect on the Omega-3 Index and is not a substitute for EPA and DHA. It will take 3-4 months for your dog to reach their new omega-3 level and we recommend re-testing at that time. Once your dog has achieved a desirable Omega-3 Index, it is advised you re-check their values every 6-12 months.