Sunday, 1 December 2013

Omega-3, Omega-6 Fatty Acids for Dogs, Cats - A Complete Guide

My Sweet Boxer x Pit Bull 'Robbie'

 In This Article...
  1. The Importance of Providing a Balanced Intake
  2. Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  3. Health Benefits of Omega-6 Fatty Acids
  4. Selecting a Good Product
  5. Good Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids 
  6. Guideline for Typical Daily Dosage of Omega-3
  7. Good Sources of Omega-6 Fatty Acids
  8. Guideline for Typical Daily Dosage of Omega-6
  9. Omega-6 Fatty Acids To Be Avoided - Not Safe!
  10. Cautions
  11. Drug Interactions 

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are very important for the overall health of a dog and cat. Conversely a lack of good-source omega fatty acids can create many health issues, from allergies to cancer, fur and skin problems, heart disease and a host of other problems as you will see further below. 

Insufficient daily intake of Omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to or cause behaviourial problems such as stress, anxiety, depression and aggression.

1.0 The Importance of Providing a
       Balanced Intake of Omega-3 to 6

1.1 The Impact of a Balanced Intake
The intake of Omega-3 and Omega-6 must be balanced correctly. Failure to do so can result in health problems. An out-of-balance ratio can disrupt the balance of pro and anti-inflammatory agents in the body leading to chronic inflammation.
  • Inflammation is a trigger for many inflammatory diseases such as: 
    • Allergies;
    • Arthritis;
    • Cancer;
    • Diabetes;
    • etc.
As the body does not store Omega-3, daily intake of sufficient Omega-3 is essential for overall health and well being.
1.2 Correct Ratio Of Omega -3 to Omega-6 Fatty Acids
To strike the right balance - your dog's overall dietary intake (from food, supplements) should be in the range of 5:1 - meaning 5 parts Omega-6, to 1 part omega-3.
The actual ratio of supplementation of Omega 3 and 5 fatty acids will depend on what type of diet your dog is on - the reason for this variance is based on quality of diet.
      • Highly Processed Food Diets
        • Dry processed food (kibble) and many wet (canned) foods are too high in poor quality Omega-6 fatty acids, and low in quality Omega-3 fatty acids.
        • Grain-in processed food (dry or canned)results in an escalation of poorly balanced Omega 6:3 intake - you can read more about that here
        • And making matters worse:
          • Many treats - cookies, chews, etc., include very poor source Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, may contain grains and other inflammatory agents which adversely impact your dog's, cat's overall daily omega 6:3 intake.
        • Supplementation of fatty-acids for the above diets will need to bring the overall diet closer to the normal 5:1 intake - to do this you will need to add a good quality Omega-6, and several good source Omega-3, your actual supplementation ratio may be 1:2, resulting in supplementation of i.e. organic coconut oil + wild fish oil + hemp seed hearts or hemp seed oil + organic kefir, or yogurt.
        • If you are feeding your dog raw dehydrated or raw fresh/frozen in which the meat is sourced from factory farm-raised (CAFO) animals additional supplementation with a good quality Omega-3 is recommended.
        • If you are feeding pasture-raised, grass fed, or organic raw - incorporating coconut oil and a good-source omega-3 oil provides added benefit to your dog's, cat's overall diet.
There are three (3) omega three fatty acids that your dog or cat must take-in on daily basis: 
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA);
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and; 
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Good quality Omega-3 has all three of these important acids.

2.0 Health Benefits - Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Yes my boy is smiling - Dogs do smile, you can read about that here

2.1 Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help Avoid, Control, Treat,

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Atopy
  • Support optimum brain function
  • Bone health
  • Digestive disease
  • Eosinophilic granuloma complex
  • Excessive blood clotting 
  • Flea allergies
  • Hair/fur problems
  • Helps prevent cancer growth
  • Heart disease
  • Learning difficulties
  • Lowers the amount of lipids (i.e. cholesterol, triglycerides) circulating in the bloodstream
  • Immune-mediated skin disease
  • Inflammation throughout the body
  • Inhibits thickening of the arteries 
  • Kidney disease
  • Reduces risk of obesity
  • Seborrhea
  • Metabolism regulation
  • Military dermatitis
  • Maintains fluidity of cell membranes 
2.2 Omega-3 Fatty Acids - An Effective, Natural and Safe Alternative to Steroids and NSAIDs...

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are one of the many healthy, natural nutraceuticals that can be used in combination with anti-inflammatory herbs as an effective and safe alternative to steroidal (i.e. Prednisone) and non-steroidal (NSAIDs such as Metacam) that have very serious health risks. You can read more about natural anti-inflammatories here.

Robbie with Sarah my GSD x Husky

3.0 Health Benefits of Omega-6 Fatty

Omega-6 Fatty Acids Help...
  • Build cell membranes and support cell health
  • Dry coat
  • Mycoplasma
  • Regulate Blood Clotting
  • Seborrhea

Not All Sources of Omega Fatty Acids Are Equal...
It is also important to understand that although Omega 3 and 6 can be found in many food stuffs not all sources of these fats offer quality or safe nutrition. 

4.0 Selecting a Good Product

4.1 Decide On Your Approach
How you choose to supplement depends on your life-style, personal priorities etc...
  • Pre-blended Supplement 'all-in-one' liquid or soft-gel
    • If your priority is time-efficiency over quality than your best bet is a pre-prepared, pre-blended supplement that provides (or claims to provide) a full spectrum of omega fatty acids (3-6-9);
      •  This may save you time but you may end-up sacrificing convenience for quality if you do not choose the product wisely;
      • If you choose the pre-blended product  you will also need to decide if you are going to use a liquid supplement or a soft gel supplement. 
The photo below shows a few examples of  typical pre-blended 3-6-9 made for pets Omega fatty acid products...

Various examples of pre-blended, made for dogs and cats Omega 3-6-9 Supplements

A few Examples of Organic Human Food-grade, safe for Dogs and Cats Omega 3-6-9 Supplements
  • Single Source Whole Food Products:
    • You may instead prefer to use single source products that you add yourself to your companion animal's food;
      • This choice can provide you with more flexibility as to the quality of products as you can select the type and quality of the omega-3 and 6 you use;
      • For example you may decide to use Norwegian Krill Oil for omega-3 and organic virgin Coconut oil for Omega-6.
Made for Pets and Some Made for Humans Single Food Source Omega-3 Fatty Acid Oils

4.2 What's My Preferred Approach?
I prefer using good quality human food-grade whole food products such as organic, unrefined, cold pressed coconut oil, hemp oil, olive oil, flax seeds and a piece of real fatty fish added to my dog's and cat's meal once a day.

4.3 Read The Product Label for Quality Assurance
Next it is so important to read product ingredient lists - and here is why...
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
    • If the label says 'fish oil' and does not disclose the source of the fish then you are likely looking at a product that is derived from factory farmed fish;
    • What is wrong with that? well...
      • Factory farm fish are raised in confined and often man-made pools;
        • When many living organisms are forced to live in unnatural and confined conditions the environment that they live in becomes a breeding ground for disease and parasites;
      • Factory farm fish are:
        • Fed food pellets that are comprised of non-organic and often species inappropriate food;
        • Are given antibiotics, may be given growth hormones, chemcial-based pesticides and fungicides to control parasites and fungus;
      • All of these substances are ingested by your dog or cat when they consume the oil;
        • Resulting in: an increase of toxic loading, hormone disrupting build-up, anti-biotic resistance building - all health threatening conditions;
      • So while you may have the good intention of improving your dog's or cat's health with the supplement you may actually be furthering the development of health issues.
    • To avoid this pitfall choose a product that is labeled specifically and clearly with no ambiguity, i.e.
      • The ingredient list states that the source of the Omega-3 fatty acids are:
        • Norwegian Krill oil or Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil or;
        • Organic Cold Pressed Flax Seed (Linseed) oil, Organic Hemp Seed Oil, etc.
        • And remember that you are looking for a product that contain the full spectrum of Omega-3 fatty acids...
          • ALA -  Alpha-linolenic acid  
          • EPA - Eicosapentaenoic acid  
          • DHA - Docosahexaenoic acid
And one more important note about fish oil...
  • Avoid 'Fankenfish' - Nickname for GMO Salmon
    • GMO salmon has just been approved in Canada - shame on Canada (just so you know I am Canadian and I am appalled at the decision to allow another GMO product into the Canadian food chain);
    • DO NOT use any product that is derived from GMO fish - the long-term effects of ingesting an animal-based Genetically Engineered (GE) product IS NOT known;
    • What is evident to me is that such a product will have similar adverse health risks as GMO corn and GMO soy;
    • If you are not familiar with the multitude of serious health risks posed by:
  • Plant-Based Omega-6 GMO Oils v.s Quality Plant Oils
    • If the product includes poor source Omega-6 oil from GMO plant crops such as: soy, canola, cottonseed, safflower you are once again introducing an ingredient that is very high in pesticide residue, fungicides, genetically modified properties - all of which increase you dog's or cat's toxic load, increase the chance of hormone and endocrine disruption, renal issues, bladder and other cancers, etc.
    • To avoid this pitfall choose a product that is labeled specifically and clearly with no ambiguity, i.e.
    • The ingredient list states that the source of the oil is:
    • Omega-3 from Norwegian Krill oil or Wild Alsaskan Salmon Oil or Organic Cold Pressed Flax Seed (Linseed) oil;
    • Omega-6 from organic coconut oil, organic sunflower oil, virgin olive oil;
    • This way you know that you are getting a quality product that is as free of toxins as possible.
  • Avoid Products that Contain Fillers and Other Unnecessary Unhealthy Ingredients
    • Look for products that do not contain fillers, soy or wheat-based derivitives, food colouring, artificial flavoring, sweeteners, etc.
    • If you are going to use a soft-gel look for products that do not contain chemical-based slipping agents.
4.4 If You Choose an All-in-One Product Check Ratio
Read the label - if the product is not conforming to the ratio as described  in section 1.0 of this article then don't buy the product.

4.5 Decide on Human Grade or 'Made for Pets'
You can use a quality human-grade supplement or a product specifically made for dogs and cats.
  • The dog and cat supplements are not specifically formulated to be better for your dog or cat than a good human grade product;
  • The balance required for human, canine and feline intake of Omega 3 to 6 fatty acids are the same for all three species;
  • Products made specifically for the dog and cat food industry tend to be over-priced simply because the product is targeted to retail to a 'specialty' market.
4.6 Introduce Oils Gradually to the Diet

Some dogs and cats are allergic to or have a sensitivity to fish oil. Fish oil may cause diarrhea in some dogs and cats.

If your dog or cat has never had a fish supplement (liquid oil or gel) before introduce fish oil to the diet starting with 1/4  of the recommended daily dosage and over he space of a several weeks incrementaly increase the dosage until you reach the standard daily dose.

4.7 Allergies - Food and Environmental

If your dog or cat is allergic to shellfish do not give him/her krill oil.

If your dog or cat is allergic to fish then choose flax seed oil as the source of Omega-3 fatty acids. 

If your dog or cat has an environmental allergy to the Linum family of plants do not use flax or flax seed (also known as linseed) oil.

If your dog or cat has an environmental allergy to the Cannabaceae family of plants do not use hemp seed or hemp seed oil. 

The same is true for any other food or environmental allergy - check ingredients against allergens and substitute to suit.

5.0 Good Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
        ALA -  Alpha-linolenic acid 
        EPA - Eicosapentaenoic acid
        DHA - Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Atlantic Mackerel 
  • Anchovy
  • Bluefin Tuna 
  • Beans/legumes
  • Chia Seeds (whole or ground), Chia Seed Oil
  • Cod Liver Oil
    • If you are going to use be careful pay special attention to the product that you purchase...
      • Many brands of cod liver oil are very high in vitamin A and relatively low in vitamin D;
      • This lack of balance between A and D has the potential to cause vitamin A toxicity;
      • For this reason it is important to choose a cod liver oil that has a considerably lower ratio of vitamin A to vitamin D.
  • Dairy Products from pasture fed cows, goats and sheep
  • Eggs from organic free-range chickens
  • Flax Seeds (ground), or Cold-Pressed Organic Flax Oil (also called Linseed)
    • Unrefrigerated, non-organic flax oil does not have the same healthful properties of cold-pressed organic refrigerated flax oil; 
  • Green Leafy Vegetables
  • Norwegian or Arctic Krill oil
  • Pacific or Atlantic Herring
  • Wild Alaskan Salmon, or Wild Alaskan salmon oil
  • Sardines
  • Sprat
  • Menhaden fish
  • Meat from organic pasture fed animals
Norwegian or Arctic Krill oil is said to be the best, cleanest, most complete and bioavailable supplemental source of Omega-3 fatty acids. If you are going to use Salmon oil - be sure to buy only wild salmon oil or Atlantic salmon oil. Farmed salmon and other farmed fish is high in toxins, antibiotics etc. as noted in section 4.0 above. 

6.0 Guideline for Typical Daily Dosage -

If you are using a pre-prepared blended product (i.e. includes Omega 3-6-9 fatty acids) follow the manufacturers dosing instructions. If you are using a single whole food product - i.e. Krill oil you can follow the dosage provided below or the manufactures instructions.
6.1 Norwegian or Arctic Krill Oil, Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil or Norwegian Cod Liver Oil
Daily Dosage for Dogs and Cats

  • X-Small Dogs and Cats 
    • 1 -14 lbs – 250mg
  • Small Dogs and Cats
    • 15-29 lbs – 500mg
  • Medium Dogs 
    • 30-49 lbs – 1000mg
  • Large Dogs
    •  50 -79 lbs – 1500mg
  • X-Large Dogs
    •  80 lbs and up – 2000mg 

Chia, Hemp, Flax Seed 
  • Seed
    • 1/2 tsp for tea cup dogs 2 to 4 lbs;
    • 1 tsp for toy dogs 5 to 15 lbs;
    • 1 tbs for small dogs 16 to 25 lbs;
    • 1.5 tbs for medium-small dogs 26 to 39 lbs
    • 2 tbs for medium-large size dogs 40 to 70 lbs
    • 2.5 tbs for large dogs 71 lbs to 90 lbs 
    • 3 tbs for x-large dogs 91+ pounds
  • Oil
    • 1 tsp per every 11 lbs of body weight;
    • 1 ml per every 1 kg of body weight.

    7.0 Good Sources of Omega-6 Fatty Acids
            LA - Linoleic acid;
            GL - Gamma-linoenic acid, and;
            AA - Arachidonic acid
    • Animal (mammalian) Meats
    • Coconut Oil (see below)
      • While virgin coconut oil is 90% saturated fat, when added to a dog’s diet in small quantities, on a daily basis virgin coconut oil has many beneficial qualities. It is also very affective as a topically applied treatment on cuts, wounds and for ailments of the skin. To learn about the extensive benefits of adding coconut oil to your dog’s daily diet click here.
    • Chia Seeds (ground or whole) or Chia Seed Oil
    • Hemp Oil
    • Olive Oil 
    • Pumpkin Seeds
    • Sesame Oil 
    • Sunflower Seed Oil

    8.0 Guideline for Typical Daily Dosage Omega-6

    8.1 Hemp, Sesame, Sunflower, Pumpkin, Olive Oil
    • 1 tsp per every 11 lbs of body weight;
    • (1 U.S. tsp  is equivalent to 4.9 ml)
    8.2 Coconut Oil
    • 1/4 tsp per every 10 lbs of body weight twice daily;
    • 1/2 tsp per every 10 lbs of body weight once daily.
      • Coconut oil is a favorite of mine as it has a multitude of health benefits that you can read about here. 

    9.0 Oils That Are Not Recommended  

    Do not give your dog or cat non-organic:
    Canola Oil, Cottonseed Oil, Safflower Oil, Soy Oil

    Canola oil, soy products, soy oil, safflower oil, cotton seed oil are grown from Round-up Ready Genetically Modified (GM) seed crops (i.e. in North America). These oils are all very high in pesticide residue...
    Canola and soybeans in the USA and Canada are almost all grown from Genetically Modified (GM) seeds - the long term affect of ingesting GM food is not known. Further to this, large factory farms use a method to process soy that leaves it very high in photoestrogens. Photoestrogens have been proven to interfere with reproduction and thyroid function. Factory farming processing methods for soy also result in a product that is very high in phytates. Phytates prevent mineral absorption as well as substances that prevent the normal function of enzymes required to digest protein. And one last thumbs down for large factory farm produced soy - it has one of the highest concentrations of pesticides found in North American crops. Traditional methods of processing soy by fermentation (as employed in Japan and China) greatly reduces photoestrogens, and phytates, thus making consumption of the resulting soy, safe and nutritional.

    10.0 Cautions
    • Allergies;
      •  If your dog or cat is allergic to shellfish do not give him/her krill oil. 
      • If your dog or cat is allergic to fish then choose flax seed oil as the source of Omega-3 fatty acids
      • If your dog or cat has an environmental allergy to the Linum family of plants do not use flax or flax seed (also known as linseed) oil.  
      • If your dog or cat has an environmental allergy to the Cannabaceae family of plants do not use hemp seed or hemp seed oil. 
      •  The same is true for any other food or environmental allergy - check ingredients against allergens and substitute to suit.
    • Stop giving your dog or cat Omega-3 Fatty Acid supplements 10 days prior to scheduled surgery;
    • Wait 10 days after surgery and/or after stitches/sutures are removed before resuming supplementation;
    • Allergic reactions to shellfish for dogs and cats is rare but possible;
      •  If you think your dog or cat is allergic to shellfish do not give him/her krill oil.
    11.0 Drug Interactions

    If your dog or cat is on the following drugs consult your veterinarian before supplementing with Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
    • Blood thinners;
    • Beta blockers;
    • Diuretics.

    Holistic Wellness and Behaviorist Services

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    Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld

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    Important Note

    1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Alternative Medicines:

    Safe use of items and protocols in the article above, is your sole responsibility.

    Foods, herbs and alternative medicines have health issue, condition and conventional drug interactions. Safe use of all substances and protocol are your responsibility.

    Before you use any substance or protocol do your research. Check for cautions, contradictions, interactions and side effects. Do not use substances or protocols not suitable to your animal's individual circumstances.

    If your animal has an underlying condition substances and protocols may conflict.

    2.0 Definition of Holistic…

    Food, herbs, alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’.

    If you use a ‘natural’ substance (ie. an herb) you are using a natural substance, not a holistic substance.

    Holistic is not defined by use of one or several substances. Holistic is an approach.

    Definition of “holistic” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press


    "relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts"

    "Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease."

    Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that health, and well-being.

    3.0 Expectation a natural substance remedies a health or behavioral situation.

    A natural substance used to treat symptoms. But, if factors causing the underlying issue remain you do not have a remedy.

    Remedy requires a comprehensive approach. It is necessary to identify root cause. Remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues. Holistic approach includes design, implementation to treat, remedy and maintain long-term health.

    4.0 Leave a Comment

    I review all comments and publish those deemed appropriate for this site.

    I answer questions deemed appropriate when I have time to do so.

    Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

    Karen Rosenfeld
    Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
    Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
    Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats