Omega-6 and Omega 3 for Dogs: Best Fatty Acids from Fish Oil in Dog Food - My Blissful Pet

Omega-6 and Omega 3 for Dogs: Best Fatty Acids from Fish Oil in Dog Food

 

Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids (also referred to as ω-6 and ω-3) play crucial roles in the health and well-being of dogs, as they do in humans. They benefit dogs of any age, since they need polyunsaturated fats as essential components of cell membranes. They are used to producing hormones and other molecules involved with inflammation.

The combination of CBD and omega 6 and omega 3 for dogs can be excellent. My Blissful Pet's CBD oil with fish oil is a key supplement to help with joint issues, inflammation and pain.

TL;DR: Key Points on Omega-6 and Omega-3 for Dogs

  • Omega-6 and Omega-3 are essential fatty acids that dogs cannot produce themselves, thus must be obtained from their diets.
  • These fatty acids have beneficial effects on a dog's skin and coat, inflammation, brain development, and overall health.
  • DHA and EPA are two types of essential fatty acids required for optimal health.
  • The ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in a dog's diet varies, but generally falls between 10:1 and 4:1.
  • Food items such as fish oil, nuts, canola oil, and some forms of vegetable oil can provide these fatty acids.
  • Overdose of omega-3 fatty acids may cause health issues such as excessive bleeding.
  • Unlike cats, dogs cannot produce EPA, and need to get enough omega-3 from diet.
  • Life stages (e.g., puppies, adults, seniors) can affect the dietary needs of omega-3 and omega-6 for dogs.

 

 

While omega-6 are abundant in the typical diet for a dog, omega-3 are not as common. In fact, a balanced diet of Omega 6 and omega 3 is key for managing inflammation, and for skin and coat health.

 

Intro to Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Dogs

Omega-3 fatty acids work in tandem with omega-6 to maintain proper homeostasis. To explain how, this section explores the biology of polyunsaturated fatty acids. It also includes why these quantities of two fatty acids are important.

Biological Role and Benefits of Omega-3 and Omega-6

Omega-3 and Omega-6 are polyunsaturated fats and essential fatty acid for dogs. They include different types of fatty acids, and are involved in a diverse range of biological processes.

  • Omega-3s, such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are essential for managing inflammation, supporting the immune system, and maintaining a healthy skin and coat.

  • Omega-6s like linoleic acid (LA) and arachidonic acid (AA) are key part of the cell membrane structure and function. The specific benefits of omega-6 compounds are primarily related to growth, reproduction, and skin health.

Essential Fatty Acids Explained

Fatty acids that are termed essential cannot be synthesized by the dog's body and must be obtained through diet. Both ω-3 and ω-6 are considered essential fatty acids.

ALA and LA are primary examples, with ALA being a precursor to other omega-3 and LA being converted to arachidonic acid. These acids are vital for the production of hormone-like substances called eicosanoids, which play a key role in the immune response.

Why Do You Need a Balance Between Omega-3 and Omega-6

Too many commercial pet foods have a high omega-6:3 ratio, that can lead to chronic inflammation. Ideally, a diet with a balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is associated with better health. A suitable ratio in dog's food is often considered to be ~4:1 of ω-6:ω-3. That is because can mitigate inflammatory responses.

Many commercial dog foods contain ratios of 20-1 and sometimes ratios up to 50-1 (often seen in foods that contain high amounts of corn, naturally high in Omega-6 EFAs). This will result in an Omega-3 deficiency and a huge amount of inflammation. - My Pet Nutritionist

If you end up feeding your dog with too much omega 6, there will be a deficiency of omega 3s and an increase in inflammation.

The benefits of omega-6 and omega-3 come from interaction with the endocannabinoid system

The downstream metabolites of omega fatty acids can bind to the endocannabinoid CB2 receptors, reducing inflammation and helping with pain management. Here is where the compounded effect of supplements like CBD with omega 3 becomes relevant. Both EPA and DHA can be transformed into metabolites that bind to endocannabinoid receptors. 

 

Health Benefits of Omega 6 and Omega 3 for dogs

omega 6 and omega 3 for dogs health benefits dog working out 

Joint Health and Arthritis

Omega-3 fatty acids are excellent at reducing inflammation, and that is why they can b used to manage canine arthritis. A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) in 2010 reported that dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3s led to an improvement in weight-bearing capacity in dogs with osteoarthritis.

Conversely, diets high in omega-6s without a counterbalance of omega-3s can exacerbate inflammation, potentially worsening joint health.

Older dogs are indeed more likely to suffer from conditions such as arthritis and osteoarthritis. Here, using food higher in omega-6 in your dog's food can be even more detrimental. In fact, higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids are proven to help dogs with inflammatory conditions. Moreover, this is not limited to dogs, but it is also true for other pets and humans.

Skin and Coat Health

While omega-6s promote a shiny coat and healthy skin, an excess can lead to inflammation that contributes to skin disorders.

Adding omega-3 fatty acids can help improve skin dryness thanks to their ability to improve water retention. This can be very useful for dogs with allergies or dermatitis.

Inflammation and Immune System Support

Omega-3s can modulate the immune system function, aiding a dog's natural defense mechanisms. They can be helpful in reducing the negative effects of autoimmune diseases; however, excessive levels may suppress immune function and compromise the body's ability to fight infections. (Roush, 2010)

When in the cell membrane, omega-3 fatty acids can compete with omega-6 fatty acids in the production of eicosanoids, resulting in fewer inflammatory forms of eicosanoids. Moreover, dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids, namely EPA and DHA, yields anti-inflammatory effects. Thus, any effects of the test foods on the severity of osteoarthritis were likely attributable to the increase in serum omega-3 fatty acids concentrations. (J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2010 Jan 1;236(1):59-66)

Cardiac Health

Omega 3 are well-known for being great at reducing triglycerides, a type of bad fat in your blood. Omega-3s reduce the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat, also called arrhythmias (Jain, 2015). They also lower resting blood pressure and decrease body fat levels (Chadda, 2015). The American Heart Association has recommended Omega-3s for the past 20 years to reduce cardiovascular risks.

The reduction in cardiovascular risk is more notable with EPA. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug Vascepa for patients that have high triglycerides and already take statins. Vascepa's main ingredient is, in fact, a form of EPA called Ethyl eicosapentaenoic acid.

Kidney Health

Research suggests that the balance between ω-3 and ω-6 fatty acids may play a role in kidney health.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) involves the progressive loss of kidney function. In 2021 Sharma and colleagues studied the role of omega 6 and omega 3 in the mechanical stress of kidneys, aka hyperfiltration. Their results show that omega-3s are protective on the cell's membrane, while omega-6s associate with persistent mechanical stress.

PUFA from both ω-6 and ω-3 families compete for the same COX, LOX and CYP450 enzymes to generate mediators that trigger cellular signaling. Omega-6 PUFA arachidonic acid generates anti-inflammatory lipoxins in addition to the known pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, thromboxane and leukotrienes.

Available information shows the renoprotective effects of ω-3 PUFA and their metabolites. Additionally, ω-3 PUFA also generate specialized pro-resolving molecules as the onsite agents for resolving inflammation. Both ω-6 and ω-3 PUFA are constituents of endocannabinoids that function as pro- and anti-inflammatory agents. (Biomedicines 2022, 10(2), 407)

Additionally, a study published in Nutrition in 2023 found that high dietary ω-6-to-ω-3 ratio positively associates with CKD in patients with diabetes, with an inverse relationship between omega-3 and CKD (Hara, 2023).

Healthy brain development

 

A study was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association where 48 bagel puppies were fed a diet supplemented with various levels of DHA. The group that received the high DHA diet had the best results in terms of cognitive abilities, and immune response (Zicker, 2012). This indicates the importance of having enough omega-3s in a healthy diet for optimal neuronal development.

 

What food contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids?

A balanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 dietary fatty acids is crucial to maximize your dog's health. They are in various foods and fatty acid supplement products, and are essential for energy production and healthy cellular function. But where exactly can we find them, and are they suitable for your dog?

 

Fish Oil for dogs and Supplements

Fish oil for dogs is a direct source of two omega-3 fatty acid for dogs: EPA and DHA. It is often derived from salmon, sardines, mackerel, or anchovies, and it's straightforward to mix it with food for both dogs and cats. While fish oil remains the best source of omega fatty acids, other sources like canola oil, and to a lesser extent, olive oil, contain good omega 3s.

  • Types of fish oil:
    • Salmon oil

    • Anchovy and sardine oil

    • Krill oil

 

Food Omega-3 (mg) Omega-6 (mg) Omega-3 Type Omega-6 Type
Fish Roe 3,120 - DHA, EPA -
Atlantic Salmon 2,586 - DHA, EPA -
Kippers 2,365 - DHA, EPA -
Atlantic Herring 2,217 - DHA, EPA -
Sablefish 2,125 - DHA, EPA -
Anchovies 2,113 - DHA, EPA -
Tuna (Bluefin) 1,710 - DHA, EPA -
Sardines 1,692 - DHA, EPA -
Atlantic Mackerel 1,422 - DHA, EPA -
Sprats 1,380 - DHA, EPA -
Trout 1,370 - DHA, EPA -
Swordfish 1,101 - DHA, EPA -
Striped Bass 986 - DHA, EPA -
Eel 838 - DHA, EPA -
Catfish 420 - DHA, EPA -

 

Natural Food Sources of Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids

Natural food sources of fatty acids include both animal and plant-based ingredients. The conversion rate of plant sources to EPA and DHA in dogs is less efficient than from fish oils. Nuts and seeds are also omega-3 rich foods. However, they should be fed in moderation due to their high-calorie content.

  • Animal sources:

    • Fish meal: High in protein and ω-3

    • Chicken: Generally higher in ω-6

Food Omega-3 (mg) Omega-6 (mg) Omega-3 Type Omega-6 Type
Turkey, breast, roasted 0.03 0.31 ALA AA
Bacon, pork, pan fried 0.03 0.63 ALA AA
Steak, sirloin 0.04 0.23 ALA AA
Steak, tenderloin, grass fed 0.13 0.28 ALA AA
Lamb chop 0.03 0.34 ALA AA
Chicken breast 0.11 - ALA -

 

  • Plant sources:

    • Seeds (e.g., flaxseeds, hemp seeds)

    • Nuts (in moderation due to high energy content)

Food Omega-3 (g) Omega-6 (g) Omega-3 Type Omega-6 Type
Walnuts 9.08 38.09 ALA LA
Chia Seeds 17.83 5.84 ALA LA
Flaxseeds 22.81 4.35 ALA LA
Hemp Seeds 8.67 28.68 ALA LA
Pecans 0.28 22.93 ALA LA
Pine Nuts 34.08 34.10 ALA LA
Almonds 0.00 12.37 - LA
Peanuts 0.00 15.69 - LA
Cashews 0.03 7.77 ALA LA
Hazelnuts 0.10 15.30 ALA LA
Macadamia Nuts 0.06 3.01 ALA LA
Pistachios 0.07 3.72 ALA LA
Brazil Nuts 0.01 5.80 ALA LA
Coconut 0.00 1.71 - LA
Avocado 0.16 1.87 ALA LA

Reading Dog Food Labels

To ensure that dogs are getting a proper balance of omega fatty acids look at the sources of omega-3s. That can be like fish oil, phytoplankton, or flaxseeds. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 commonly recommended is between 3:1 to 10:1.

While vitamins are typically added to dog foods, but the primary focus for this section is on the fatty acid content and sources.

  • What to check on labels:

    • Specific sources of omega-3 and omega-6

    • Ratios of omega-6 to omega-3s

    • Complementary nutrients like vitamins and protein

 

Guidelines for Supplementation

  

How to Choose Quality Supplements

The fatty acids to keep an eye on are ALA, EPA, and DHA. Quality fish oil or salmon oil supplements are often recommended sources of DHA and EPA. For plant-based alternatives, flaxseed oil contains ALA, which dogs can convert to EPA and DHA, albeit less efficiently.

When selecting a supplement, consider the following:

  • Purity: The supplement should be free from contaminants and heavy metals.

  • Form: Triglyceride, ethyl ester, or phospholipid forms have differing levels of absorbability.

    • Studies shown that the triglyceride form of fish oil is better absorbed by the body compared to the ethyl ester form. This increased absorption translates into higher plasma levels of DHA and EPA.

    • The ethyl ester form is not found in nature and is less stable, resulting in a higher likelihood of oxidation. Additionally, the ethyl ester form has potential for more gastrointestinal issues (Park, 2021).

  • The company's reputation: They should have rigorous testing standards and positive reviews from veterinary professionals.

Recommended Dosage and Administration

The appropriate dosage of omega fatty acids is determined by the dog's weight and specific health needs. Veterinarians are the best source for advising on personalized dosages, but the following gives a general guideline:

  • For maintenance and wellness: EPA+DHA combined for a dog has an upper limit of almost 20-50 mg per kg is very safe.

  • For dogs with arthritis or inflammation: EPA+DHA may be increased to up to 80-100 mg/kg of body weight per day.

Supplements should be introduced gradually to the dog's diet to avoid digestive upset. Always follow the vet's instructions, and mix it with food for easier feeding.

Understanding AAFCO Standards

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets standards for pet foods and supplements in the US. When picking a supplement, choose those meeting or exceeding the nutritional levels set by AAFCO.

AAFCO Standards for Fatty Acids include:

for dogs, there also is a de facto minimum requirement for the omega-3s in order to meet the maximum 30:1 ratio of 6's to 3's. For example, if a complete and balanced adult dog food contained 1.1% dry matter linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) as needed to meet the maintenance profile, it would also require a minimum of 0.0367% of ALA, EPA, DHA or a combination of all three to meet the ratio. (MetaGene Canine)

  • Minimum amounts of ALA for dogs: 0.08% of dry weight for growing dogs and pregnant and lactating dogs.

  • DHA and EPA: as per AAFCO directions, the amount of EPA+DHA for growth and pregnancy should be 0.05% of dry weight.

  • Omega 6 LA + AA maximum ratio is 30:1 to omega 3

Remember that while AAFCO provides guidelines, it is critical to consult a veterinarian. They can tailor the supplementation to the individual dog's health needs, considering any specific conditions like arthritis.

 

Common Health Concerns and Myths

When addressing any dietary need, it's important to differentiate facts from myths. This section is designed to shed some light on prevalent myths about omega 6s and omega 3s.

omega 6 and omega 3 for dogs Health Concerns and Myths

Fatty acids are also a cause of obesity

A common myth is that all fats contribute to obesity and poor health in dogs. In reality, fats such as omega 3 and omega 6 are essential for various bodily functions. Omega 3s can reduce inflammation and support the immune system, while omega 6s are vital for skin health and coat quality.

  • Omega 3: Reduces inflammation, aids joint mobility, supports heart and kidney disease management.

  • Omega 6: Key for healthy skin and coat, promotes normal growth and reproductive health.

Fats make you sick

While there is some truth, it's important to separate the good fats from the bad ones. Omega 3 fatty acids help reduce chronic inflammation. This can often lead to more severe diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. They may also lower the risk associated with chronic kidney disease.

  • Heart health: Omega 3s help maintain a healthy heart by reducing inflammatory processes.

  • Cancer: While not a cure, omega 3s can be part of a dietary strategy to possibly lower cancer risk.

I should give my dog as much omega 3 and omega 6 as possible

Yes and no. A deficiency in omega 3 may lead to inflammation and joint issues, while an excess could affect blood clotting and function. Similarly, an excess of omega 6 may contribute to chronic inflammation and related health problems.

  • Deficiency: Leads to poor immune function, skin issues, and joint discomfort.

  • Excess: May exacerbate inflammation and negatively impact the immune system.

Adult dogs can make EPA

This is an incorrect statement, since dogs cannot make it internally. They need to receive it as a balanced blend of valuable omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 essential fatty acids added to their diet. The type of omega fatty acid is important. Furthermore, the amount of omega-6 is also important. As mentioned already, a ratio of less than 10:1 of omega 6 to omega 3 is optimal. This means that supplemented food should not have more than 10 time the amount of omega-6 than omega-3.

 

 

The Importance of a Balanced Diet

Nutritional Balance: Achieving the right balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fats is crucial. Too much of either can lead to health issues. Omega-6 fats are abundant in many dog foods, making it important to supplement with omega-3 fats to prevent an imbalance.

  • Monounsaturated and Saturated Fats: Include a variety of fats, limiting saturated fats and including monounsaturated and other unsaturated fats.

  • Skin and Coat Health: Omega-3 fats can help improve itchy skin, promote a healthy and shiny coat, and alleviate symptoms of flaky skin.

  • Joint and Mobility Support: Adequate levels of omega-3 can support joint health, reduce inflammation, and enhance mobility.

  • Reproduction and Cell Membrane Health: Essential fatty acids are key to reproduction and maintaining the integrity of cell membranes.

Implementing this advice can lead to noticeable improvements in a dog's health, from their coat condition to their joint mobility and immune function.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of supplementing a dog's diet with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids?

Foods with enough omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential and can enhance a dog's skin and coat, reduce inflammation, and support heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly noted for their beneficial effects on osteoarthritis in dogs.

How do omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids affect a dog's overall nutrition and health?

These fatty acids play crucial roles in cellular function and immune response. A balance of omega-3 and omega-6 is essential for maintaining a dog's healthy inflammatory response and overall well-being.

Can omega-6 and omega-3 supplements help dogs with allergies, and if so, how?

Omega-6 and omega-3 supplementation can help manage a dog's allergies by supporting skin health and modulating the immune system. Diets rich in these fatty acids may lead to improvements in canine atopic dermatitis.

What are potential side effects when giving dogs omega 3 and 6 fatty acids?

Fatty acids are usually very safe. Yet, while beneficial, these supplements can cause side effects, like gastrointestinal upset or a burpy fishy odor. There is also a potential for adverse effects when fatty acids like omega-3 are used in high doses or without proper balancing with omega-6 fatty acids.

How can I ensure my dog is getting enough omega-3s in their diet?

Dog owners can incorporate foods high in omega-3 fatty acids in their diet, such as fish oil or certain plant oils, into dog's food. It's key to maintain the correct balance with omega-6 fatty acids for optimal health.

Which dog foods are known to be high in omega-6 fatty acids?

Many commercial dog foods contain omega-6 fatty acids, typically sourced from animal fats and plant oils like corn or sunflower oil. It is important to check the labels for specific fatty acid content.

Is krill oil a good source of omega 3 fatty acids?

Krill oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are the two types of omega-3 fatty acids that provide most of its health benefits. Krill oil is known for its potential to be better absorbed by the body and more effective than fish oil, which is derived from fatty fish like anchovies, mackerel, and salmon. 

 

References

  • My Pet Nutritionist. https://mypetnutritionist.com/post/essential-fats-for-my-dogs-diet-the-ultimate-guide/

  • Roush et. al, 2010. Multicenter veterinary practice assessment of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on osteoarthritis in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2010

  • Jain et. al, 2015. Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. 2015;19(3):441-5

  • Chadda et. al, 2015. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Heart Health. Circulation, Dec 1, 2015 Vol 132, Issue 22

  • Hara et. al, 2023. Distinct associations between dietary omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids intake with chronic kidney disease in adults with and without diabetes: A cross-sectional study. Nutrition, Volume 115, November 2023, 112156

  • Zicker et. al. Evaluation of cognitive learning, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions in healthy puppies fed foods fortified with docosahexaenoic acid–rich fish oil from 8 to 52 weeks of age.
  • Sharma et. al, 2022. Glomerular Biomechanical Stress and Lipid Mediators during Cellular Changes Leading to Chronic Kidney Disease. Biomedicines 2022,10(2), 407

  • Park et. al, 2021. Effects of the re-esterified triglyceride (rTG) form of omega-3 supplements on dry eye following cataract surgery. The British Journal of Ophthalmology, 2021 Nov; 105(11): 1504–1509.

  • MetaGene Canine. https://www.petfoodindustry.com/nutrition/article/15462456/fatty-acids-aafco-dog-and-cat-food-nutrient-profiles

 

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