You have heard a lot about omega-3 fats and how important they are in our diet. Well,
they are important in dogs’ diets as well. Omega-3 fats calm dogs’ red, itchy skin and relieve joint pain in arthritic dogs. You probably also know
that omega-3’s even improve learning in young puppies and decrease the symptoms of old age dementia and improve heart function in senior dogs. But
these positive effects require only small amounts of omega-3 fats in the diet. Dogs actually need 8 times more omega-6 fats than omega-3 in their daily diet.
The most important fat required in your dog’s daily diet is an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid. Diets that do not have enough
linoleic acid or diets supplemented too heavily with omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil and flaxseed oil can cause:
1) Hair loss and/or dry, coarse hair with skin infections and ulcers
2) Decreased immunity to bacteria and viruses
3) Poor clotting and spontaneous bleeding
4) Delayed wound healing
5) Kidney and reproduction problems
Corn, canola and soybean oils contain linoleic acid in a ready to use form. These are the best oils to use in commercial and homemade diets.
The linoleic acid in the following oils needs processing by the body before it can be used so they are unreliable dietary sources for omega-6:
- Peanut oil
- Safflower oil
- Sesame oil
- Walnut oil
Processing fatty acids is the least efficient of all cell function in mammals, including humans and is dependent on sex, age and medical condition. We
don’t know how much peanut, safflower, sesame, sunflower or walnut oil to add to the diet to get adequate conversion to usable linoleic acid. Adding
large amounts of these oils to solve the problem only adds unnecessary fat calories that causes weight gain.
The omega-6 found in meats needs the same processing so it is equally unreliable and dependent on the amount of meat in the diet.
The poorest sources of omega-6 fats are:
1) Coconut oil
2) Flaxseed oil
3) Olive oil
A dietary deficiency of omega-6 fat can take months to years to become noticeable and have long term devastating health consequences for
dogs fed such a diet. Skin infections and susceptibility to other infections will develop because of a diminished immune system function. Anemia, poor
wound healing and kidney problems are even worse signs of omega-6 deficiency.
Do your homemade dog food recipes or your commercial dog food contain enough linoleic acid? Are you over-supplementing with omega-3 fats? Over supplementing
with fish oil disturbs the body’s omega-6 and omega-3 balance and will look exactly like an omega 6 deficiency. If you are using a homemade dog food recipe for your dog, make sure the source of that recipe guarantees adequate levels of readily available omega-6 in corn, canola or soybean oil. Check the label on your commercial dog food and make sure it contains canola, corn or soybean oil.
Seek veterinary advice on the proper ratio of omega-6-to-omega-3 for your dog so you don’t give your dog too much omega-3.
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