Whether you’ve basking in the benefits of fish oil or are just curious about them, you’ve no doubt wondered about giving your dog fish oil. While it’s true that fish oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that are important anti-inflammatory agents, there are other benefits that you might not have been aware of. So, is fish oil safe in dogs and what can it be used for? Let’s find out.
In This Article
What Does Fish Oil Contain That is Beneficial to Dogs?
As we said before, fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, mainly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These fatty acids create hormones that are responsible for improving blood flow and decreasing inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids aren’t found or manufactured naturally in the body. Instead, they need to come from the food that your pup eats.
Most commercial dog foods contain an abundance of fatty acids from the meat and grain products that they are made from. However, most of those fatty acids are the omega-6 type, which are beneficial in their own way, but work better if they are in balance with omega-3s. Adding fish oil is about the easiest way to boost the omega-3 content of their diet in order to achieve the many benefits that fatty acids provide.
How Can Fish Oil Help Dogs?
Omega-3 fatty acids are involved in the production of resolvins, which help to decrease inflammation by altering the inflammatory cells themselves. This goes for all types of inflammation, making increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet helpful for many conditions including:
- Allergic dermatitis: When a pup has itchy skin due to allergens in the environment or food, fish oil can help decrease the inflammation, and therefore, the redness and itchiness of the skin and ears.
- Dry skin: Omega fatty acids are also helpful in decreasing fluid loss from skin cells, helping to keep skin hydrated and comfortable.
- Arthritis: Arthritis is a chronically painful condition involving the breakdown of the cartilage cushion in joints, leading to inflammation. Omega fatty acids can help decrease that inflammation and pain.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease: You guessed it, there’s inflammation involved in inflammatory bowel disease. Fish oil, along with a change in diet, can help decrease those IBD symptoms.
- Life stages: DHA is an important aid in the development of the brain and vision in puppies. It is also important for cognitive health in senior dogs.
- Other chronic illnesses: Pups with kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, and even some types of cancer can all benefit from fish oil. Any illness that causes chronic inflammation can have fish oil as an adjunct treatment.
- Healthy haircoat: Even your dog’s haircoat can benefit from fish oil. Along with helping to keep the skin hydrated, fish oil can also give your pup’s hair a softness and shine that lasts longer than a deep conditioning treatment.
What Kind of Fish Oil is Best for Dogs?
There are basically three types of fish oil on the market.
- Natural, meaning it comes directly from fish. This type is more easily absorbed but may contain contaminates that can be harmful.
- Reformed, meaning that it is processed in order to remove impurities but still retain the high levels of omega-3s.
- Synthetic, which is completely synthesized and tends to have higher concentrations of omega-3s but might not be as readily absorbed.
When choosing which type of fish oil is best for your dog, turn to your veterinarian. They will help you weed through the many, many forms of fish oil supplements available. It’s also important to weigh the risks of contaminates versus the higher concentrations of omega fatty acids when selecting your type. Your dog’s age, breed, and size will all factor in here.
While there are a lot of dog-specific fish oil products out there, you may be curious to try some human versions instead. Speak to your veterinarian first to help decide if the type of human fish oil you’re interested in using is safe and to ensure a proper dose.
Does Fish Oil Have Any Side Effects in Dogs?
At proper dosages, fish oil is very safe for dogs. However, higher doses may cause some digestive upset in the form of vomiting and diarrhea. It may also lead to a greasy hair coat and flaky skin. You may even notice a fishy smell to your pup’s kisses.
More serious side effects include pancreatitis, heavy metal toxicity from contaminates, or abnormal bleeding. This is why it’s important to consult your veterinarian before giving any supplements. Animals with a propensity for bleeding disorders or those that have had pancreatitis in the past should steer clear of fish oil, especially in high doses.
Always be sure to check the expiration dates on fish oil products. You can often tell if a product is past its expiration date by the odor. Just like other types of oil, fish oil can turn rancid and will smell as such.
Fish oil supplementation can provide many anti-inflammatory benefits to your canine companion, especially to those suffering from chronic illnesses such as arthritis and allergies. As with any supplement, always speak with your veterinarian first to find the right product for your dog at the right dose.