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Know Your Omegas: Good Fats for Dogs

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 Good Fats for Dogs: Omega-3 and Omega-6

“Just as is true in humans, healthy fats are an important part of your dog or cat’s balanced diet,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH of Animal Acupuncture in NY. It’s no secret that fat is absolutely vital to your pet’s health—the same, after all, is true for the human body. Our bodies need fat for energy, as well as to reduce inflammation, absorb vitamins, process hormones and protect brain and heart health. Your dog or cat is no different. Omega-3 and 6 are good fats for dogs and a vital part of your pet’s diet, which is why you’ll find them listed on the guaranteed analysis panel of any bag or can of pet food.

While good sources of fat are healthy, it’s also important to monitor your pet’s overall caloric intake to maintain a healthy weight.

Essential Fatty Acids

French fries and pizza crusts are full of fat, but not the type that you or your pet should consume. Your dog or cat’s body craves healthy, natural sources of fat, like the kind found in salmon, flaxseed, seeds or eggs.

“Omega-3 and 6 are polyunsaturated fatty acids—the so-called ‘good fats’ for dogs—and are important in your pet’s diet,” says Dr. Barrack. In fact, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are so important that they are called essential fatty acids. “Your pet’s body cannot synthesize these essential fatty acids on their own, so your dog or cat must get them through the food they eat,” she adds.

Benefits of Omega-6 and Omega-3 for Dogs

Omega-3 fatty acids—specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA)—are found in many types of fish, including anchovies, herring, salmon, mackerel, tuna and mussels. There are also vegetarian sources of omega-3 for dogs, called alpha linolenic acid (ALA), that are found in algae, eggs, flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts.

“Omega-3 health benefits include a more responsive immune system,” says Dr. Barrack. Omega-3s are useful in reducing inflammation, protecting brain and heart health, and improving your pet’s skin and coat.

Omega-6 fatty acids come from foods such as eggs and the oils in seeds and nuts. If there are so many omega-3 health benefits, then omega-6s must be twice as good, right? Not so fast. There are health benefits to omega-6s, but the important thing is to consume them in the right proportion to omega-3s.

“There’s a big difference between omega-3 and 6. One important function of omega-3s is they work antagonistically with omega-6s,” says Dr. Barrack. Too many omega-6s without enough omega-3s to balance them out can negate any health benefits. “The right balance is paramount,” she says. Your pet should consume about twice as much omega-6s than omega-3s.

Omegas in Your Pet’s Diet

You can add healthy fats to your pet’s diet through real food. Try adding a few anchovies to her food bowl as a surprise treat. Fish oil for dogs is also a good option. You can even share some scrambled eggs or a bite of your salmon.

While omega-rich real food is great, supplementation ensures that your pet gets everything he needs. Supplements give your beloved pet a balanced mix of high-quality omega-6 and omega-3 for dogs, as well as the lesser-known fatty acid called omega-9. Dr. Barrack recommends checking in with your veterinarian for additional advice on sources of good fats for dogs.

If you want to boost your pet’s health with omega supplements, check out these suggestions: