When is the last time you saw an online ad or had someone tell you that fish oil for dogs is the next big thing? I mean, do dogs really need all those fancy vitamin and supplement mixes and additives that seem to be dominating the pet industry these days? Yes and no. High atop our list of supplements our dog gets on a daily basis is fish oil.
Here’s the catch: not all fish oil products for dogs are created equal. If you are considering starting your dog on a fish oil supplement, take a deep dive with us so that you provide a high-quality fish oil that benefits your dog’s health in the long run.
Note: This post contains some Amazon affiliate links for which I earn a small income if you click through and purchase something on the links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.
Fatty Acids And Your Dog
Before I add anything to my dog’s diet, I like to understand why he needs it in the first place. There are three types of dietary fats in foods: saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats). PUFAs contain omega fatty acids and contain hormones the body does not make.
Most veterinarians and animal nutritionists focus on omega fatty acids, which are classified as three, six, and nine.
Omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids are considered to be anti-inflammatory while omega-6 fatty acids can be pro-inflammatory. Omega-3s can be given as a supplement to dogs with disorders of the skin, joints, nerves, or those who have any condition associated with inflammation (skin allergies, immune-mediated diseases, arthritis, cancer, etc.).
In my dog, Dexter’s case, I give him omega-3 fish oil every day for skin and coat health and because he has mitral valve disease of the heart. More about that shortly.
In terms of omega-6 supplementation, one vet I talked to, Dr. Patrick Mahaney, told me, “Omega-6 fatty acids are considered pro-inflammatory (lead to Arachadonic Acid synthesis) they can negate the effect of Omega 3 supplementation and I don’t recommend their inclusion for omega fatty acid supplementation.”
Are Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s Found In Dog Food?
Many meat products in dog foods are derived from animals who eat corn on top of any grains and fillers that get added to the final product. As a result, dogs wind up eating more omega-6 fatty acids and not nearly enough omega-3s.
“Fish oils, especially cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, and herring, as well as animals that feed on these fish, are the primary dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids,” according to petMD.
Omega-6 fats raise inflammation in the body while omega 3’s lower it. You never want too much omega 6 nor omega 3. Too much omega 3 can wreak havoc on a dog’s immune system, and those of you with Cocker Spaniels know that they live with delicate immune systems. My dog nearly died from immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT), so I am super cautious about his dietary intake and supplements.
If your dog already deals with inflammation, why add to it by feeding him or her a diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids? Some canine diets actually put the dog at risk for inflammatory conditions, including arthritis.
Does My Dog Need Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
Because omega-3’s are difficult to preserve in packaged foods such as dog food, most dog parents mix a fish oil into their dog’s meal as a topper or perhaps in capsule form.
Not all omega-3 fish oils are created equal, so buyer beware and let us explain what we use in our dog’s diet. Quality control is first and foremost, so any fish oil used in your dog’s diet should be sourced so that is free of unwanted nutrients and contaminants.
The benefits of a quality omega-3 fish oil as part of a dog’s diet include, but are not limited to:
- Shinier coat
- Less dry skin
- Reduction in shedding
- Allergy control
- Prevention and treatment of autoimmune disorders
- Helping dogs with idiopathic epilepsy when taken with regular medication
- Cancer prevention
Fish Oils And The Canine Heart
When my dog was diagnosed with a heart murmur and eventual stage B1 mitral valve disease, one of the supplements his cardiologist recommended was fish oil. Because Dexter already takes a fish oil supplement, we bumped up his dosage in accordance with his specialist’s recommendation.
According to Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, “Certain types of fatty acids present in fish oil (called omega-3 fatty acids) have been shown to have a positive effect in dogs with heart disease.”
Although the Omega-3s do not prevent heart disease in dogs in the way they can in humans, they can help a dog’s heart in other ways, including dogs with abnormal heart rhythms.
How Much Fish Oil Should My Dog Receive?
I like to follow convention on this because supplements are not regulated by the FDA. That said, there are companies that genuinely care and do right by our beloved dogs. Dr. Harvey’s is one of them, which is why I am a brand ambassador for the brand.
For years, I added two capsules of Dr. Harvey’s Health + Shine all-natural salmon oil caps to my dog’s diet. I would pierce the capsule, squeeze the oil onto his food, mix, and feed.
The Health + Shine capsules contain Total Omega 3 Fatty Acids* (min) – 210 mg Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)* (min) – 75 mg Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)* (min) – 90 mg *Not recognized as an essential nutrient by AAFCO Pet Food Nutrient Profiles.
This is right in line with what Cummings recommends, which is a one gram fish oil capsule that contains 180mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 120mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
What About Liquid Pumper Fish Oil?
I prefer to use a pumper containing fish oil for my dog, but until recently Dr. Harvey’s didn’t have the product available. That’s all changed, as there is now a bottle of fish oil that comes with a pumper and also a bottle of salmon and krill oil that comes with a pumper. Let the angels sing!
It is so convenient to simply store the oil either at room temperature or in the fridge, pump a few times onto Dexter’s food, and know that I don’t have any mess, fuss, or worry about squirting the fish oil into my eye or on my clothes (trust me on this, been there, done that).
The ingredients in the Wild Caught Health + Shine Omega-3 fish oil from Dr. Harvey’s are Mackerel Oil, Sardine Oil, Herring Oil, Anchovy Oil.
I love this fish oil so much for convenience and because it contains cold-water Icelandic fish using certified sustainable fishing methods. Since it’s purified, my dog does not have stinky fish breath. It’s non-GMO, has no toxins and no artificial colors, preservatives, or flavors.
On arrival, the pumper is separate from the sealed bottle and it is vacuum packed.
The ingredients in the Health + Shine Wild Caught Salmon and Krill Oil are salmon oil and krill oil. That’s it! Same promise and guarantee, nothing that is artificial at all.
So which one is better? I prefer the Omega-3 fish oil and I know it agrees totally with my dog, but Dr. Harvey’s is all about variety, which I respect. It’s really a matter of preference and which ones you want to use in your dog’s diet. You are welcome to rotate, too.
Each pump is the equivalent of ½ teaspoon, so use the guide on the bottle as to how many pumps per day to give your dog. I take the Health + Shine caps with me when we travel with the dog, which is always. #HaveDogWillTravel
Are There Any Dangers Or Side Effects To Fish Oil In My Dog?
Overall, omega 3 fatty acids are safe for dogs, but like anything new, always talk to your pet’s veterinarian before starting anything new.
Tufts says that if your pet has a bleeding disorder or is already eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, supplementation should be carefully considered with your veterinarian. They also say fish oil supplements should contain vitamin E as an antioxidant, but other nutrients should not be included. Cod liver oil and flaxseed oil should not be used as sources of omega-3 fatty acids in dogs and cats.
Some dogs may show tummy upset if too much fish oil is added too quickly, so I recommend to personally take it slow.
Most dogs can tolerate fish oil, but there are always caveats if your dog has a pre-existing condition, so talk to your vet first. You can read more in-depth data if you like white papers, too. Here’s one from the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine on the topic.
The Bottom Line on Dogs and Fish Oil
Over my nearly three decades of being a Cocker Spaniel mom, half of which I’ve devoted myself to the health and well-being of Cockers and dogs in general, one thing is for sure: A lot of dogs have a lot of deficiencies.
I run a popular Club Cocker Facebook group that is resplendent with Cockers who are itchy, have eye issues, heart issues, and show signs of chronic disease. Many of these dogs are deficient in EFAs, as explained above.
Both of my Cocker Spaniels have used fish oils, and I can attest I see a firm improvement in coat, condition, and ability to fight disease. Further, a healthy dog whose diet contains the proper amount of EFAs tends to fight off fleas, too.
Not all fish oils are created equal, so do your homework and take our advice. I told you what we use, and you purchase Dr. Harvey’s products by visiting their website or you can order many of their products on Amazon.
Note: The above post contains some Amazon affiliate links for which I earn a small income if you click through and purchase something on the links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.
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Did you ever try omega 3’s on your dog? Would you if not? Bark at me in the comments below.