A really important part of your dog’s balanced diet are omega fatty acids and other healthy fats. Omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids have a lot of health benefits for your dog. For example, they can contribute to brain development, support the immune system, help decrease normal inflammatory pathways, help with mobility issues and benefit heart health. Therefore, it’s important to know how to incorporate them into your dog’s diet.
Different types of fatty acids explained
The short term for omega fatty acids is “omegas”, which include Omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids.
Like humans, dogs cannot make their own omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for their heart health, brain & vision function, inflammation processes, and more. The most important types of omega-3s are ALA, EPA, and DHA.
ALA comes from plant sources, like flaxseeds, canola, soybeans and pumpkin seeds. EPA and DHA are most powerful when it comes to health benefits in dogs. They come mainly from aquatic creatures such as fish and algae. It’s recommended to supplement the diet of your dog with omega-3 fatty acids high in bioavailable EPA and DHA because dog's bodies aren’t very efficient at converting ALA to EPA and DHA. Even though algae are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, seafood like fish and krill remain the source with the highest bioavailability od EPA and DHA fatty acids.
Like omega-3s, omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. The most common omega-6 fat is linoleic acid, which the body can convert to longer omega-6 fats such as arachidonic acid (AA). Omega-6 fatty acids are usually not necessary to supplement, because the average diet provides plenty of omega-6 fatty acids. Good sources of omega 6 fatty acids are corn, sunflower, canola/rapeseed, and soybean oils.
A lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases. The ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids should be around 4:1 or less.
Omega-9 fatty acids are monounsaturated, meaning they only have one double bond. Oleic acid is the most common omega-9 fatty acid and the most common monounsaturated fatty acid in the diet. Omega-9 fatty acids aren’t strictly “essential,” as the body can produce them. Good sources of omega-9 fatty acids for dogs are olive oil and canola oil.
Should you give your dog an omega-3-6-9 supplement?
Combined omega-3-6-9 supplements provide each of these fatty acids in suitable proportions, such as 2-to-1-to-1 for omega-3:6:9. Such supplements can help increase your dog's intake of omega-3 fats and enhance the balance of fatty acids so that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is less than 4-to-1.
However, most dogs already get enough omega-6 from their diet, and the body produces omega-9 on it's own.
Benefits of Omegas for Dogs
Promote Healthy Skin and Coat:
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in maintaining healthy skin and a lustrous coat. They help with dryness, itchiness, and flakiness, and can improve overall coat condition, making it shinier and softer.
Helps maintain a normal inflammatory response :
Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), have anti-inflammatory properties. They can help alleviate inflammation potentially reducing discomfort and improving mobility in dogs.
Support Joint Health:
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have a positive impact on joint health in dogs. They can help reduce joint inflammation, promote flexibility, and support overall joint function.
Aid in Cognitive Development:
DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid, is crucial for brain development in puppies. Including adequate amounts of DHA in their diet can contribute to healthy cognitive development, supporting learning, memory, and trainability.
Boost Immune System:
Omega-3 fatty acids have immune-modulating properties, which means they can help regulate the immune system. By including omegas in a dog's diet, you may help strengthen their immune system, making them less susceptible to infections and illnesses.
Improve Heart Health:
Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to improved cardiovascular health in dogs. They can help regulate blood pressure, reduce triglyceride levels, and maintain healthy heart function, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
Support Overall Well-being:
The benefits of omegas extend beyond specific health conditions. By including these essential fatty acids in a dog's diet, you can contribute to their overall well-being, promoting optimal health and vitality.