We aren’t used to a society that emphasizes dietary fat as an essential and necessary component for good health. As dog owners, we often approach the concept of fat as it applies to our dogs in the same way. More fat must be bad, right? The truth is that, as it is for humans, dietary fat is critical to a dog’s health
Fat is used by the canine body for far more than just storing it for energy; it also has the responsibility of creating membranes for cells, forming and adjusting hormones, helping the body to absorb significant vitamins, and lessening inflammation in the body.
All of these components are important for an older or injured dog, and that’s why omega-3 is such an important fat for your dog to have in her diet. When you learn about the benefits of omega-3 for dogs, you will understand why your dog needs this supplement.
What is Omega-3?
Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fat, as essential fatty acid. It helps to regulate body functions and can prevent and treat common disorders in dogs. Research has shown that omega-3 can have a positive impact on inflammatory skin conditions, cardiovascular and kidney disease, cognitive function, and arthritis.
Dogs should be able to get an adequate supply of omega-3 from their food, but modern foods are so processed and full of fillers that dogs rarely get the amount of omega-3 they need. With a fresh, balanced diet and proper supplementation, dogs can easily achieve the right level of omega-3 in their bodies.
How is Omega-3 different from Omega-6?
Both omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated, essential fatty acids. Where omega-3s help to calm inflammation, omega-6s cause inflammation as an immune system response. This reaction keeps a dog’s immune system in working order. Omega-6 fats also promote cell growth, control blood clotting, and ensure healthy reproductive functions. In essence, omega-3s and omega-6s work as antagonists to each other thereby creating a balanced body system.
Omega-6 is can be found in many vegetable oils in dog foods, in poultry, and in natural sources such as primrose and black currant seed oils. Omega-3 is typically found in fish, fish oils, and walnut oil. Of these two essential fatty acids, omega-6s are less likely to be in shortage in a canine body.
The Benefits of Omega-3 for Senior Dogs
The benefits of omega-3 for dogs, especially older and injured canines, are widespread. Here are some ways omega-3 can help your senior dog:
- Neurological and cognitive function
- An older dog’s brain function can begin to slip as he ages. Omega-3 supplementation will improve memory, cognitive function, retinal functions, and immunologic functions in any dog. Research has shown that puppies supplied with the right amount of Omega-3 from when they are weaned improve in all of these functions as they grow.
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Many senior dogs are prone to various heart ailments, and omega-3 supplements can reduce inflammation in the heart as well as improve heart function altogether, especially in blood flow and reduced blood pressure and heart rate. Additionally, research has shown evidence the omega-3 stimulates a dog’s appetite and keeps him lean.
- Kidney disease
- Another common disease in older canines, kidney disease can be an uncomfortable ailment that shortens a dog’s life span. With omega-3 supplementation, kidney function is improved and life span extended, even in chronic kidney diseases.
- This severe form of arthritis strikes almost every senior dog in some way or form. The addition of omega-3s in an older dog’s diet can counteract the painful symptoms of arthritis. Studies have shown that the addition of omega-3 in a dog’s food encourages significant improvement in mobility. Dogs were less stiff, were more likely to walk up and down stairs, and were more eager to interact with family. Omega-3s work to decrease inflammation in sore joints, allowing an older dog to act more like a puppy again.
- Inflammatory skin disorders
- Omega-3 alleviates the itching and discomfort associated with allergies and dry skin conditions. This fatty acid improves coat character and hair loss, and it also assists in healing cuts or wounds quickly.
What are the Side Effects of Omega-3?
Omega-3 only causes side effects if it is supplemented in excess in your dog’s diet. That’s why it’s so important to speak with your veterinarian to determine the right amount of omega-3 for your dog’s individual needs. Too much omega-3 may result in weight gain, stomach upset, insulin sensitivity, and poor immune function.
What Types of Omega-3 Supplements are Available for Your Dog?
Omega-3 supplements need to be carefully considered due to how sensitive and vulnerable this supplement is to heat and oxygen exposure. Both of these elements cause omega-3 supplements to spoil quickly. Using pour-on oils or cutting up omega-3 capsules and immediately mixing them into your dog’s food is the best way to use it and not lose it.
The primary sources for omega-3 supplements are fish, krill, and plant sources, such as flaxseed oil. Of all these sources, plant-based omega-3s are the weakest as dogs are not able to properly and effectively convert plant sources in their bodies.
Fish oil is a common omega-3 supplement, but it comes with its fair share of concerns and controversies which we will address in an upcoming article. Krill sourced omega-3 is the best supplement source for dogs provided it is non-toxic and sustainably sourced.
Recently, attention has been given to studies about phytoplankton supplemental sources as a superior omega-3 source. Because it is algae, phytoplankton is less likely to be toxic and is easily digestible. A future article will be dedicated to examining this newer supplemental form for omega-3s.
Omega-3 is a Healthy Fat Essential for Your Older Dog
Older dogs are prone to developing osteoarthritis, cardiovascular and kidney diseases, and declining cognitive function. Omega-3 supplements, given at a proper, veterinarian-approved dosage, can alleviate or outright prevent some of these issues.
Who doesn’t want to see their senior dog chasing that tennis ball again? Or running after that rabbit in the backyard? Or being able to walk that extra half a mile on a cool summer evening? Omega-3 supplements are a means by which your senior or injured dog can reclaim her health and her mobility. Talk to your veterinarian today to see if this supplement is right for your “golden oldie.”