Fatty acids are the smaller subunits of fat; the most well-known are omega-3 and omega-6. A pet’s body cannot produce most omega fatty acids on its own, but supplementing them can help harness their health benefits.
Linoleic is an omega-6 fatty acid found in plant oils, whereas arachidonic acid is common in animal fats. The omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found in fish oil supplements. These omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids play a role in almost every aspect of pet health.
How fatty acids could benefit your pet
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have specific functions in your pet’s body:
- The omega-6 fatty acids support normal reproduction and growth, as well as a normal inflammatory response in the skin.1-4
- Omega-3 fatty acids support development of healthy nervous tissue and help maintain a normal immune response.1-6
- The omega-3 fatty acid DHA has been shown to support puppy trainability.5,6
- EPA, another important omega-3 fatty acid, has been shown to help promote joint health, flexibility and mobility and reduce inflammation due to normal activity.1-3,7,8
The role of fatty acids in normal inflammation
Despite having similar names, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids have very different jobs when it comes to a normal inflammatory response. Omega-6 fatty acids begin the inflammatory cascade to combat infection or tissue injury, while the omega-3s, EPA and DHA, are needed to help decrease normal inflammatory pathways. It is the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids that help maintain the body’s proper inflammatory response.1-4
Omega-3 fatty acids for dogs and cats
Veterinarians may recommend omega-3 supplements with high levels of EPA and DHA to maintain the normal inflammatory response and help support normal body functions in dogs and cats. For example:
- Omega-3 fatty acids help support a normal inflammatory response in the skin and may be used to support pets with seasonal allergies.1-4
- Omega-3 fatty acids may be used to maintain an aging pet’s normal kidney and cardiovascular functions.3,9-12
- Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids are important for supporting everyday activity and healthy joints.3,7,8
What you need to know about fish oil supplements
Your veterinarian will be able to recommend:
- A quality product with a high amount of EPA and DHA.
- A safe and effective dose to give your individual pet.
1Gross KL, Yamka RM, Khoo C, et al. Macronutrients. In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, et al, eds. (2010). Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. Topeka, KS; Mark Morris Institute; 96-105.
2Fats and fatty acids. In: National Research Council. (2006). Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 81-110.
3Bauer JE. (2011). JAVMA. 239(11):1441-1451.
4Saker KE. (2006). Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 36(6):1199-1224.
5Heinemann KM, Bauer JE. (2006). JAVMA. 228(5):700-705.
6Zicker SC, Jewell DE, Yamka RM, et al. (2012). JAVMA. 241(5):583-594.
7Curtis CL, Hughes CE, Flannery CR, et al. (2000). J Biol Chem. 275(2):721-724.
8Budsberg SC, Bartges JW. (2006). Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 36(6):1307-1323.
9Brown SA, Finco DR, Brown CA. (1998). J Nutr. 128(12)(suppl):2765S-2767S.
10Brown SA, Brown CA, Crowell WA, et al. (1998). J Lab Clin Med. 131(5):447-455.
11Brown SA, Brown CA, Crowell WA, et al. (1996). Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 26(6):1277-1285.
12Smith CE, Freeman LM, Rush JE, et al. (2007). J Vet Intern Med. 21(2):265-273.