Fish Oil for Dogs and Cats

Pet owners hear a lot about the benefits of omega fatty acids for humans, so it's natural to wonder what they can do for our furry friends. We help explain the science behind these beneficial fats, along with some of the risks if taken in excess.

What are omega fatty acids?

Before we describe what omega oils do, we should explain the problem they're trying to solve. Mainly, inflammation. When cells in the body are damaged by some type of stress, the damaged cells release chemicals including histamine, bradykinin, and prostaglandins. These chemicals cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the surrounding tissues, causing the swelling.

Omega-3 fatty acids works alongside the nervous system to send signals that reduce inflammation. This has multiple effects including the reduction of pain, which is often a side effect of the inflammation. They inhibit the pain receptors and improve the development of neurons or nerve cells, which controls the primary symptoms. Constant swelling and inflammation can reduce the function of vital tissues, so reducing these symptoms ongoing can be a benefit.

The body makes most of the fats it needs from other fats or raw materials. That's not so for omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats aren't made from scratch by the body, so they must be ingested from food. Examples of foods high in Omega-3 include fish, flax seeds and flaxseed oil, vegetable oils and leafy vegetables.

Omega-3 fats form a vital part of cell membranes throughout the body and impact the function of the cell receptors in these membranes. They provide the building blocks to make hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, as well as controlling inflammation. They also bind to receptors in cells that regulate genetic function. Omega-3 fats have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke, may help control skin conditions or arthritis, and may play protective roles with cancer and other conditions.

What is EPA?

EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid works together with probiotics in the digestive system to improve the effectiveness of these beneficial bacteria. EPA has been shown to increase the adhesion of probiotics to intestinal cells and studies have shown they boost Bifidobacteria levels in mice. Probiotics in turn help increase the absorption rate of omega 3 fats and increase their volume in the tissue. The higher mobility of the fats then increases the levels of EPA and DHA in the brain.

What is DHA?

DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid is plentiful in oily fish. DHA works together with EPA, rather than alone. While DHA is technically twice as effective as EPA with its health-giving properties, both are most effective when taken together.

The difference between Omega-3 and Omega-6

Omega 6 is often found to be too high in dogs’ diets. Most dogs eat meat or processed foods that supply high amounts of Omega 6. An excess of Omega 6 can cause chronic inflammation in dogs, which can lead to diseases such as:

  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer

Bear in mind that these fatty acids work together, so this doesn't mean Omega 6 is technically bad for dogs, it just means it needs to be consumed in moderation and balanced with Omega 3 to offset the negative side effects.

Omega oil for dogs is most easily derived from fish oils, although it can come from other sources as well. Green-lipped mussels are another excellent source

Benefits of EPA and DHA

EPA and DHA are powerful additions to your dog’s diet. EPA has anti-inflammatory effects and supports your dog’s immune response. DHA is vital for eye, brain and nervous system health.

Here are some of the known benefits of EPA and DHA:

  • Support brain health
  • Promote nervous system development
  • Fight inflammation
  • Lower heart disease risks
  • Maintain eye health
  • Promote brain and eye development in puppies
  • Support healthy skin and coat, relieve allergies
  • Improve joint health
  • May decrease the risk of some cancers 
  • Reduce metabolic endotoxemia in the gut
  • Work with probiotics to boost beneficial bifidobacteria in the gut

Is fish oil good for dogs?

Fish oil is an excellent supplement for your dog's diet. Fish oil supports heart health and can help prevent cardiovascular disease. You may also notice a silkier coat, reduced itching and skin conditions. It can also help relieve allergies and joint pain. It can even help strengthen their immune system and could help dogs fight canine cancer.

Fish oil is a good way to give your pets the omega 3 fatty acids they need. Depending on their general health and diet, fish oil supplements may become part of a long-term plan. Or, they may just provide a temporary nutritional boost to your dog’s diet.

Another benefit of fish oil is that it helps dogs across the span of their lifetimes. DHA, a component in omega-3 fatty acid, aids in the proper brain and eye development of puppies. DHA may also improve cognitive function in older dogs dealing with canine cognitive dysfunction. Research has shown that omega 3 fatty acids can help to treat canine arthritis and chronic kidney disease.

As with anything affecting your dog’s health, talk to your veterinarian about supplementing your dog’s diet with fish oils before proceeding.

Fish oil for cats

Fish oil has similar benefits for cats as it does for dogs, just be sure to reduce the dosage accordingly for their smaller size. Read on in this article for dosage information.

EPA or DHA deficiency

Lack of EPA can cause depression and other negative health effects in animals. Lack of DHA is also linked to cognitive issues. Other signs of omega-3 deficiencies can be:

  • Allergies
  • Dull or poor coat
  • Dry or flaky skin
  • Ear infections
  • Hot spots
  • Slow wound healing

Which fish oil should I use?

We have a balanced omega oil supplement for dogs, which is also suitable for cats. You can view the product here.

We also have fresh sardines if you'd like to obtain the fish oils from natural sources. These are suitable for both dogs and cats.

Care and Storage of Fish Oil

Protecting fish oil from heat, light, and air is important. Buy your fish oil in dark bottles and store it in the refrigerator. It can become rancid since they are susceptible to oxidation, so make sure to throw it away if it has an “off” odor.

What's the dosage I should use?

Dosage for dogs:

  • Small Dog up to 10kg: 3ml daily (1 bottle per month)
  • Medium Dog up to 25kg: 8ml daily (1 bottle per fortnight)
  • Large Dog over 25kg: 15ml daily (1 bottle per week)

Dosage for cats:

  • 1mL-3mL daily from 3kg-8kg (a little under 1 bottle per month)