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Omega Fatty Acids for Dogs and Cats

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Benefits of omega fatty acids for pets.

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. 

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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 healthy 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. The balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is what helps 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 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

High-quality fish oil supplements can provide your pet with omega-3 fatty acids. However, before you purchase a fish oil product for your dog or cat, it’s important to talk to your veterinarian.

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
  • 1 a b c d e Gross 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.
  • 4 a b c Saker KE. (2006). Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 36(6):1199-1224.
  • 6 a b Zicker SC, Jewell DE, Yamka RM, et al. (2012). JAVMA. 241(5):583-594.
  • 5Heinemann KM, Bauer JE. (2006). JAVMA. 228(5):700-705.
  • 3 a b c Bauer JE. (2011). JAVMA. 239(11):1441-1451.
  • 7 a b Curtis CL, Hughes CE, Flannery CR, et al. (2000). J Biol Chem. 275(2):721-724.
  • 8 a b Budsberg 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. 
  • 12Smith CE, Freeman LM, Rush JE, et al. (2007). J Vet Intern Med. 21(2):265-273.

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