Anxiety and Stress in Dogs – The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Treating, Preventing Dog Anxiety and Stress

Anxiety is a very serious and increasingly common issue in dogs – in-fact it has become an epidemic issue. 

Anxiety when left unaddressed or when addressed in the wrong way can quickly increase in intensity. Anxiety may take many forms, separation anxiety, fear of unfamiliar inanimate or animate objects, sounds, weather – i.e. thunderstorms, or insecurity leading to aggressive-reactive behaviour.

The most effective and beneficial approach to solving your dog’s anxiety issues is definitely NOT medicating your dog with anti-depressants such as Doggie-Prozac. Doggie-Prozac will not cure your dog – in addition it can also cause very serious health issues, you can read about that here. On the other hand, ensuring that your dog has a sufficient daily intake of quality Omega-3 fatty acids can have a beneficial effect on your dog’s ability to overcome anxiety.

In order to successfully remedy anxiety, each factor that contributes to the condition must be addressed.  A gently cooked or raw diet supports optimal brain function, the endocrine system and overall health.

    Dog kibble (dry highly processed food) is not a good source of  Omega fatty acids .

    EPA’s Importance In Proper Brain Function

    A balanced in-take of high quality EPA can help your dog better handle stress.

    • Increases the fluidity of cell membranes;
    • Improves communication between brain cells;
    • As such daily ingestion of enough EPA:
      • Works to support proper functioning of the brain, and;
      • Enables calming.

    Ingesting too much of the Omega-6 fatty acid Arachidonic Acid (AA) causes cellular inflammation.
    • The brain is very sensitive to cellular inflammation. 
    • Cellular inflammation creates a breakdown in the signalling between cells. 
    • When breakdown occurs the brain cannot function at optimal levels.
    Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines are ineffective in treating brain cell inflammation as they cannot cross the blood-brain barrier that isolates the brain from undesirable substances in the blood-stream. 

    When brain cells become inflamed the only substance that can protect these compromised cells is sufficient levels of Omega 3 fatty acids. 

    When the level of Omega 3 fatty acids available to the brain are insufficient, neuro-inflammation is exacerbated and disruption of signalling between nerves becomes significant. 

    The brain uses two Omega 3 fatty acids – DHA and EPA. While DHA is an important and necessary structural component of the brain, EPA is the primary anti-inflammatory Omega fatty acid for the brain. When used by the brain EPA has a short life-span. This means that the supply of EPA (via the blood stream to the brain) must be constantly present. For this reason it is very important to make sure that your dog is taking in a sufficient amount of EPA on a daily basis. 

    Commercially manufactured dog kibble contains high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids and respectively low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids.
    • To make matters worse, when coupled with increased consumption of omega-6 fatty acids refined carbohydrates (such as wheat flour, rice and sugar):
      • Increase insulin production;
      • Which in-turn increases the amount of AA (the Omega-6 fatty acid which causes inflammation);
      • At the same time decreased consumption of EPA:
        • Results in an increased AA to EPA ratio;
        • Which further exacerbates inflammation.
    DHA’s Importance To Brain Function

    When the brain is not receiving sufficient daily amounts of DHA, serotonin levels are decreased. Decreased levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety.

    Other Impacts on Brain Function, of Insufficient Intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Omega-3 Deficiency Can:
    • Compromise the blood-brain barrier. 
      • This barrier protects the brain from uninhibited flow of undesirable substances/matter into the brain;
    • Decrease normal blood flow to the brain;
    • Decrease phosphatidylserine (PS) levels; 
      • PS is a naturally occurring anti-depressant, and also helps improve the ability to concentrate.
    Go here to learn more about the health benefits of omega fatty acids and how to add omega fatty acids to your dog's diet.
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      Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld.

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