What Are Omega-3s?
Omega-3s are the fatty acids that are available in your dog’s food, as well as in the form of nutritional supplements. Different brands praise the virtues of omega-3 fatty acids, citing they help with skin and heart conditions, allergies, kidney functions and cognitive functions. Many vets and dog owners recommend the usage of omega-3 supplements as a preventative health measure.
Omega-3 is a fatty acid that is considered “polyunsaturated.” Polyunsaturated just means that the omega-3s have double bonds within their carbon chain. In simple terms, double bonds make omega-3s more prone to rancidity, and because of those double bonds, it is physiologically impossible for dogs to make their own omega-3s. They must get it from diet and nutrition.
Why Does Your Dog Need Omega-3?
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the cornerstones of healthy nutrition for your dog. But one thing to keep in mind is there also needs to be a balance between omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Despite having similar names, they have somewhat opposing jobs. While both fatty acids help to control hormones, they each control hormones that perform different functions.
Omega-6 fatty acids produce the hormones that help with cell growth, blood clotting, and increasing inflammation as part of the immune response. However, omega-3 fatty acids produce hormones that help the immune system, decrease inflammation, and work alongside omega-6 in such a way a good balance of both is essential.
What Are Benefits of Omega-3 for Dogs?
1. Reduces Inflammation and Effects of Inflammatory Skin Disorders
Remember that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids work in conjunction together when it comes to controlling inflammation. Omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation and omega-3 fatty acids lower inflammation. Balance is necessary.
If either of those get out of balance, your dog’s immune system will get out of whack and may experience all the negative symptoms associated with inflammation and an impaired immune system.
Omega-3 fatty acids are especially helpful for dogs that suffer from inflammatory disorders such as allergies and early atopy. Allergies and early atopy causes severe itching and sometimes even hair loss if it gets too bad. Keeping your dog supplemented with omega-3 is helpful in controlling these types of canine skin disorders.
2. Supports Cognitive Function
Omega-3 supplementation can also support your dog’s neurological health and cognitive function. Especially in dogs who may suffer from age-related changes with behavior and mobility.
There are studies with evidence that suggests consuming omega-3 fatty acids can positively impact cognitive and behavioral memory and performance, such as improved agility, and improved recognition of family members and other household pets.
It may also improve behaviors like excessive licking and patterned pacing, and it appears it could have a neuroprotective effect as well. This hinders the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in humans, meaning those neuroprotective effects could transfer over to dogs too.
Another benefit to supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids is found in dogs that are pregnant and nursing. It may improve the neurologic development of puppies, as well as learning and memory in young dogs.
3. Could Help with Joint Inflammation
Due to its anti-inflammatory abilities, study results report potential improvement in the clinical signs of osteoporosis, and some objective improvements when it came to dogs exhibiting lameness. It also appears to offer objective improvements in a dog’s weight-bearing scores.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in supplements like flax work by decreasing the production of prostaglandins. These prostaglandins are what trigger joint inflammation. Based on observation, dogs with joint inflammation appear to be more agile and move around more freely than dogs that do not receive an omega-3 supplement.
4. Promotes Heart Health
Dogs that supplement with omega-3 may reduce their chances of developing atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heart rhythm, as well as reduce their potential to develop heart problems. It can also work as an anticoagulant to prevent the formation of blood clots.
Regular supplementation may also help your dog decrease his blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, maintain a healthy blood pressure, and reduce your dog’s risk of stroke or other heart related problems. It may even help to normalize your dog’s body weight, which can only be of benefit the heart!
5. Reduces Dry, Flaky Skin
Unfortunately, when a dog has a poor coat and unhealthy skin, they are at an increased risk for irritation, itching, skin allergies, and bacterial infections.
Regular supplementation of omega-3 can increase the health of your dog’s skin and coat. It can help to reduce the effects related to skin allergies, and reduce the occurrence of yeast infections. It can also reduce the incidence of hotspots in your dog, and even eradicate dandruff. Plus, omega-3 may decrease shedding. All things which help promote a healthy, shining coat.
Other Conditions Giving Your Dog Omega-3 May Help Improve
There are many health conditions that are thought to improve by giving your dog a regular omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Dogs that are fed plant-based omega-3 could decrease the loss of protein in the urine, lower high blood pressure, and reduce the production of other inflammatory substances that are thought to contribute to kidney disease and its progression.
It’s also been discovered that omega-3 may increase stamina and renew energy, protect your dog against a variety of autoimmune diseases, reduce the risk of stroke, and even lower the risk of cancer due to its antioxidant properties.
Possible Side Effects to Omega-3 Supplementation
Though omega-3 fatty acid supplements are not particularly toxic if you go overboard, they can produce some side effects that may be uncomfortable for your dog. Because omega-3 fatty acids can have an anticoagulation effect, it may not be wise to use with any medications you already give your dog intended for blood thinning. The same rule applies to anti-inflammatory medications because of omega-3 fatty acids anti-inflammatory properties.
It is also wise to speak to your vet if your dog is on any kind of immunosuppression medications to make sure omega-3 supplements are safe to give him. Based on current research, there are many benefits to giving your dog omega-3 fatty acids as part of a well-balanced nutrition plan.
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*This article is for informational purposes only. Please see a vet if your pet shows any symptoms.