Pets are the best, aren’t they? They provide joy and companionship, reduce stress, and can even support heart health. However, being a pet owner does come with some important responsibilities—like ensuring they get the nutrients they need to thrive.
Most pet foods—whether dry, canned, or raw—typically contain higher amounts of omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils and lower amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil. This is far from optimal, considering that an unhealthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to negatively affect everything from animals’ skin, hearts, brains, and kidneys to their inflammatory response.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for the normal structure and function of cell membranes.
Upon ingestion, both omega-3s and omega-6s are incorporated into membrane phospholipids where they play fundamental roles in regulating membrane properties and cellular signaling. However, whereas omega-3s help initiate cellular processes and signaling molecules that reduce cell stress and support a healthy inflammatory response, omega-6s can give rise to signaling molecules that promote an inflammatory response.
To help minimize the pro-inflammatory effects of omega-6s and maximize the health-promoting effects of omega-3s, it is generally advised that mammals consume a balanced ratio (around 6:1 or less) of omega-6s to omega-3s from EPA+DHA.
A growing body of literature finds that supplementation with EPA and DHA can provide a wide range of beneficial effects for cats and dogs. Although these fatty acids naturally occur and function together, they each have their own distinct, yet mutually supportive role in promoting pet health.
IS MY PET GETTING ENOUGH OMEGA-3?
If your cat or dog eats commercial pet food, check the nutrition label to see if fish oil is listed as an ingredient, or whether it has been enriched with EPA and DHA. However, keep in mind that even if the ingredients do list omega-3 sources (e.g., salmon, salmon meal, trout, etc.), many pet foods are manufactured at very high temperatures, which are detrimental to temperature-sensitive omega-3 fatty acids. This means that, even if their food does contain omega-3 sources, it will be difficult to know whether the amounts they are actually receiving are sufficient for foundational health.
Compounding this issue further, because many commercial pet foods contain high amounts of omega-6s from vegetable oils, this will also affect the amount of omega-3 fatty acids that are ultimately available to your pet’s cells.
HOW MUCH OMEGA-3 DOES MY PET NEED?
There isn’t a consensus on omega-3 dosing guidelines for animals; however, veterinarians and the National Research Council generally adhere to the following weight-based recommendations for dogs and cats:
Dogs: 50-75 mg of EPA+DHA (combined) per kg of body weight
Cats: 30-50 mg of EPA+DHA (combined) per kg of body weight
For reference, this would amount to 500-750 mg of EPA+DHA per day for a dog weighing 10 kg and 150-250 mg of EPA+DHA per day for a cat weighing 5 kg.
Different pet foods provide different amounts of these and will require different amounts of additional omega-3 supplementation.
We recommend talking to your pet’s veterinarian about their specific cellular health needs and integrating EPA and DHA into their diets accordingly. This can be done most efficiently by providing these fatty acids in a supplemental form, such as fish oil.
SELECTING A FISH OIL SUPPLEMENT
When selecting a fish oil supplement for your pet, it is important to look for a high-quality product that is:
- High in EPA and DHA—as opposed to ALA.
- Free of toxins and pollutants—pay special attention to whether the manufacturer takes measures to avoid common contaminants like mercury.
- Manufactured and stored using methods that limit oxidation—the highly unsaturated nature of omega-3 fats makes them susceptible to rancidity.
- Third-party tested for quality control—nutritional supplements are not tested by the FDA, so choose a manufacturer that voluntarily undergoes third-party testing to verify their ingredients, purity, and safety.
Written by: Gina Jaeger, PhD
Source: Nordic Naturals