Veterinarians often prescribe fish oil supplements containing essential fatty acids (EFAs) for dogs and cats with allergies, and dry itchy skin. Now, research shows that omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial for numerous health conditions in pets, including:
- Cardiovascular disease (including heartworm and CHF)
- Food Allergies
- Atopic dermatitis
- Kidney disease
- Otitis (ear infections)
- Autoimmune disorders
- Respiratory diseases, including asthma
What are Essential Fatty Acids?
Essential fatty acids are the fats that animals—including humans—can't live without! They are critical to every cell in the body, and regulate nearly every bodily function.
Essential fatty acids help build muscle mass and strong bones and teeth. They nourish your pet's skin, hair, mucous membranes, nerves, thyroid, adrenals and much more. Fatty acids keep the gastrointestinal tract lubricated and aid in smooth, efficient digestion and elimination. They also control the way cholesterol works in the body, and play a key role in the functioning of the brain, in regulating inflammation and healing, and immune, digestive, reproductive and cardiovascular functions.Omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
EPA and DHA are found primarily in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut and herring, and fish oil supplements. ALA is found in dark, leafy greens, and in soybeans, walnuts, flaxseeds and their oils, as well as canola oil.
Hundreds of scientific studies have demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids:
- Support healthy brain development
- Exert a positive effect on inflammatory problems, including stiff and aching joints
- Lower risk of heart disease and cancer
- Support healthy blood lipid levels and blood viscosity
Provide high levels of vitamins A and D necessary for the development of strong bones and teeth; healthy skin and mucous membranes; and healthy night vision
Why Does My Dog or Cat Need an Fatty Acid Supplement?
Most pet foods contain the minimum daily requirement of essential fatty acids, which is generally not enough for optimal health. On top of that, processed foods have increased omega 6 fatty acids and decreased omega-3 fatty acids, so if your pet eats processed food, it's a good idea to add omega 3 supplements. And most importantly, adding omega 3 fatty acids to your pet's diet will increase the production of non-inflammatory eicosanoids and decrease inflammation.
Also, as with other supplements, supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids often lowers the need for your veterinarian to prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids or antihistamines.