Should you be adding fish oil to your pet’s food? To begin, let’s take a step back and examine why it’s good for cats and dogs (and us). Fish oil contains essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. They are called “essential” because we need them, but for the most part, our bodies don’t produce them naturally – they must be obtained through the diet or other supplementation.
Omega-3 fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatories, so they can help alleviate pain from osteoarthritis in pets and pet parents alike. Fatty acids can help clear up chronic skin conditions and play a role in immune function, battling cancer and kidney disease. On the other end of the scale, omega-6 fatty acids are actually pro-inflammatory, and too much can lead to arthritis and other inflammation.
The most important thing when considering both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is the ratio in which they are consumed. The correct ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is somewhere around 5:1. This may sound extreme, but the typical diet of many Americans (and their pets) is around 10:1! To balance things out, omega-3 fatty acids need to be added, and a diet low in omega-6s may need to be considered. Talk to your vet to find the best balance for your dog or cat.
Two specific omega-3s to look for that are particularly important nutritionally are DHA and EPA. These are most widely available in cold water oily fish, such as herring, sardines, salmon and halibut. There are hundreds of fish oil products on the market, so it’s important to know which to choose. When dosing your pet, the ideal mark to hit is 50 to 100 milligrams of DHA and EPA combined per kilogram of body weight. So for a 45-lb. dog (which equals 20.5 kg), that means anywhere from 820 mg to 2,050 mg of omega-3s per day.
However, keep in mind that some commercial pet foods are already formulated to include omega-3 fatty acids. If this is the case for your pet, he may not need any more.
If itchy skin or aching joints are plaguing your pooch or pussycat, ask your veterinarian about adding fish oil to their diet. He or she likely has a preferred brand or formulation for you and can recommend the best dose for your pet. Even if your pet has no current complaints, he may still benefit from finding these “good fats” in his bowl each day.