The benefits of omega 3s for your dog

Dogs and humans share many common diseases, and studies have shown that many of the supplements that humans take are also beneficial to dogs. The advantages of Omega -3s have been widely recognized in humans, but what about using Omega-3s to help our canine companions?

Osteoarthritis is a painful degenerative joint disease that affects many canines, especially geriatric dogs. The benefits of using Omega 3s for humans suffering from osteoarthritis have been well documented, and science is now starting to recognize that they can help canine sufferers of this disease as well.

The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA), published studies in the January and March 2010 issues reporting the possible benefits of feeding foods high in Omega-3 fatty acid concentrations to dogs with osteoarthritis. The results of these studies showed that the dogs experienced less pain associated with the disease and greater mobility, according to contributing author Dr. Kevin Hahn, director of research and chief medical officer at Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc.

“Many of us write off mobility problems in dogs as a part of the aging process,” Hahn said. “These studies demonstrate that feeding a food containing Omega-3 fatty acids to a dog with osteoarthritis significantly improves mobility and quality of life. All three studies showed significant mobility improvement as assessed by either pet owners, veterinarians, or both.”

The three studies demonstrated that dogs with chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis showed improvements in their ability to play and get up from rest at six weeks after being switched to a diet containing high concentrations of fish oil Omega-3 fatty acids; that limb strength in dogs improved with Omega-3 dietary intervention; and common non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used for pain relief were able to be reduced while still maintaining relief from pain in dogs that were fed food supplemented with Omega-3 fatty acids.

“It’s also very important for dog owners to know that osteoarthritis can be a silent and unrecognized problem that affects both the pet’s and the owner’s quality of life. With proper nutritional intervention, we can enrich and lengthen that special relationship between people and their pets,”said Hahn.

Omega 3’s are beneficial in others ways:

•  They are effective in controlling allergies and skin disease
•  They help maintain mental alertness in older dogs
•  They help maintain a healthy, shiny coat and benefit the skin
•  They encourage the proper development of the retina and visual cortex
•  They help alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory diseases, such as irritable bowel disease
•  They can help prevent certain cardiovascular problems in dogs, such as high blood pressure and abnormal rapid heart rhythms
•  They control the growth of Malassezia pachydermatis (which causes yeast infections in both cats and dogs)
•  They can prevent the growth and slow down the development and spread of certain cancer tumors; they can also improve the
immune system, which may help the body fight cancer as well
•  Omega-3’s can also decrease levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood. Dogs receiving Vitamin -A therapy  for various skin 
problems may develop hyperlipidemia (an elevation of fats in the bloodstream). Also, dogs with kidney disease tend to have
elevated levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides.

Fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the body and therefore must be supplemented in the diet. Flax and flax oil are good sources of omega 3 but unstable. Heat processing destroys most of the flaxseed’s value. Cold-pressed flax oil is an excellent choice, but has a short shelf life and must be kept continuously under refrigeration.

Unless your dog is allergic to fish, omega-3 from fish oils such as salmon oil, cod liver oil, and sardine oil is always better than omega-3 from plant sources. Though plant sources, especially flaxseed oil, contain higher amounts of omega-3 than fish oil, those in flaxseed oil are in an inactive form (ALA). Special enzymes, which dogs do not have, are required to convert the inactive ALA into the active forms (EPA and DHA). The fatty acids contained in fish oil are readily available for use.

You can find fish oil supplements made specifically for dogs, or you can use the same supplements you use for yourself, but be sure they do not contain added Omega-6s. Dogs need a supplement high in Omega-3s and the added Omega-6 can upset the balance of the fats in your pet’s system.

Dosages vary based on the size of the animal, and you should always consult with your vet before giving any supplements to your dogs. Pets with allergies may require higher dosages than the standard. The easiest way to administer these oils is to puncture a capsule and squeeze the contents into your dog’s food. There are also many Omega supplements available in liquid form. There is no known toxicity if you give your dog too much Omega 3, but if you exceed his capacity to absorb it, your dog may get diarrhea. You should start to see an improvement in your pet’s health within three to six weeks.