Benefits of Fish Oil for Dogs

Redbarn March 03, 2019
Benefits of Fish Oil for

As a health-conscious pet parent, you want to give your pet the very best.  Most of us are well aware of the numerous benefits fish oil has on humans, but did you know these benefits also apply to your furry friends?  

Fish oil is one of the most common supplements added to a healthy diet for both people and canines. Derived from marine animals such as tuna, salmon, mullet, and anchovies, fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. And within these fatty acids, you’ll find docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), directly responsible for many of these benefits.  

Because dogs can’t make these fatty acids on their own, they must be added to their diet.  Keep reading to find out the main reasons why and how to properly feed fish oil to your dog.  

1. Arthritis Relief  

Omega-3 fatty acids are an anti-inflammatory superhero with therapeutic benefits for dogs with arthritis. The Multicenter Veterinary Practice studied 127 dogs over 60 days while feeding them their recommended dose of omega-3. The dogs showed significant improvement in their abilities to play, walk, and rest comfortably.  This is one of the reasons dogs are prescribed supplements, like fish oil, for arthritis. 

2. Naturally Treats Skin Conditions  

The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 mentioned earlier also assist in the healing of allergic skin reactions and skin diseases in dogs. Crossover Studies using fish oil as a supplement for dogs with various skin conditions showed significant improvements including less itching, less self-inflicted trauma by the animal, and an improvement in the softness and appearance of their furry coats.  If your dog is suffering from a serious inflammatory condition, fatty acids will not fully treat it by itself; however, omega-3 may be able to enhance the effects of medications used to treat their condition.  

3. Cognitive Functions

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is a disease common in older dogs, resembling Alzheimer’s disease in people. Regular doses of DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, are known to improve the cognitive functions of affected dogs, as well as their human counterparts. 


4. Healthier Weight 

Rapid weight loss in dogs is a common problem that can lead to heart failure. According to Pet Health Network, fish oil may help by reducing weight loss in afflicted canines.  Dogs fed fish oil may maintain healthier overall weights than dogs who do not include this supplement in their diet. 

5. Naturally Treats Kidney Disease  

Fish oil is frequently recommended to dogs with kidney disease to fight symptoms like excessive loss of protein. According to the Pet Health Network and The Department of Internal Medicines, fish oil can have a protective effect against acute injury to the kidneys.  The omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce glomerular disease, subsequently improving kidney function in affected dogs.  Many studies show fish oil can have a protective effect against acute injury to the kidneys and may be a great option to help treat compromised kidney function.   

As always, be sure to speak with your vet about adding this supplement to your pet’s diet.  

How To Feed Fish Oil to Your Dog 

Introduce slowly 

Too much of a good thing can often have unintended side effects.  Excessive amounts of fish oil can cause diarrhea, blood clotting, weight gain, and a lowered immune system.  According to PETMD, a dose of fish oil between 20-55 mg combined EPA and DHA per pound of body weight are safe for dogs and cats.  

Simply put, find out your dog’s weight in pounds and multiply it by 20. This should give you the correct dose of EPA and DHA  in milligrams. 

For example: 

If your dog weighs 30 pounds, then the right dose is 600 mg of EPA. Look for fish oil containing higher EPA content than DHA as it is more effective for fighting inflammation.  

But, as always, confirm these numbers with your veterinarian to make sure you are safely adding fish oil to your dog’s diet. Every dog is unique and could very well have different dosage requirements even if they weigh the same.  

But what about the other fatty acid, omega-6? 

Why Most Dogs Get Enough Omega-6 

Like us, dogs require both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The ratio for dogs is between 10 and five omega-6 to one omega-3. Because omega-6 fatty acids are prevalent in poultry and certain vegetable oils used in commercial dog foods, most dogs are already receiving plenty of omega-6 in their diets.    

How To Choose a Good Fish Oil for Your Dog 

According to research by Doctor’s Advantage, omega-3 fish oils are available in two forms: the natural triglyceride form or the synthetic ethyl ester form. Fish oil in natural triglyceride form is easier to absorb; however, the ethyl ester form is more prominent in the market.  

Natural triglyceride oil 

Natural triglyceride oil is the most natural and easiest to absorb. However, because it isn’t purified, it may contain contaminants like PCBs. Natural triglycerides are one of the most common fish oils on the market. This form of fish oil is often preferred because of their natural form and close similarity to eating fish. 

Ethyl ester oil 

Ethyl ester oil (EE) is concentrated and distilled, which removes impurities. According to the AKC, you can think of it as, “semi-natural with high levels of the important components of omega-3, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).”  The manufactured EE allows for molecular distillation at lower temperatures, creating higher levels of EPA and DHA than naturally found in fish. This form of fish oil is called “fish oil concentrate. 

If you are thinking of starting your dog on a healthy fish oil supplement, be sure to discuss the idea with your veterinarian.  

3 Questions to Ask your Veterinarian about Fish Oil:

1. What is the proper dose for my dog? 

2. What brand of fish oil do you recommend? 

3. Will the fish oil supplements clash with any other medications my dog is taking? 

It’s important to know all the different factors that go into a quality fish oil supplement for your dog. With many options creating noise for the consumer,  we hope to clear some of the confusion.  

Have you given your pet fish oil supplements?  

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