DHA is an ingredient in almost all pet foods, but most pet owners haven't ever heard of it. It’s an Omega-3 fatty acid that’s known to help puppies learn faster, perform better, and succeed in training sessions more than their counterparts that aren’t fed enough DHA.
So what is DHA for dogs, and why does your pet need it in their diet?
What is DHA for dogs?
DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. It’s found in eggs, fish, and some animal organ meat and it’s one of the most beneficial nutrients in a puppy’s diet. That’s because DHA is one of the major structural components of the brain, and it plays a crucial role in developing a dog’s nervous system and retinal function.
Because humans usually have access to plenty of seafood, we have an abundance of DHA in our diet. However, some dogs can miss out on these benefits if their diet isn’t high in natural sources of it.
Why do dogs need DHA?
It goes without saying that supplements that aid in the brain development of a puppy are vital. But the secondary benefits of this are useful not just for the pup themselves, but for their owners too. For example, healthy brain development will make your dog easier to train, better equipped to form strong bonds with humans and other animals, and less likely to suffer from other diseases and allergies.
Benefits of DHA for dogs
1. Brain And Central Nervous System
As already mentioned, DHA is vital for dogs' brain development. As the most abundant fatty substance in the brain (it makes up 30% of fatty grey matter), supplements can help boost brain health in both puppies and older dogs. Feeding pregnant and nursing dogs DHA is also known to benefit their puppies.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known anti-inflammatories, so if your dog is fed enough they can help to reduce the symptoms of allergies. DHA-rich supplements, like fish or krill oil, can calm itchy or dry skin and other adverse side effects that result from allergic reactions.
This is because Omega-3 fatty acids are able to halt production of substances that cause inflammation. So while it doesn’t cure allergies altogether, DHA could be a helpful supplement in easing your dog’s reactions.
3. Joint Health
The anti-inflammatory benefits that make DHA a soothing antidote for allergies also helps support their joints. As dogs get older their cartilage wears and degrades, which can become painful as the bones rub together when they move. DHA helps reduce this pain so your older dog should be able to walk and play a little easier again.
4. Healthy Coat
Dog supplements are known to be beneficial for shiny looking coats. DHA especially helps dogs' fur grow long and healthy with less chance of shedding. This is another side benefit of DHA’s anti-inflammatory properties, as the less your dog’s skin flakes or dries out, the better chance their coat has of growing healthily.
5. Heart Conditions
If your dog suffers with heart disease, DHA can help treat some of the side effects like loss of appetite and muscle degradation. This is just another benefit of DHA’s anti-inflammatory properties.
6. Immune System
Omega-3 fatty acids enhance B cell activation which can lead to immune responses linked to inflammation. This helps the immune system to protect your dog from viruses and bacterias.
7. Kidney Disease
Studies have found that DHA has the ability to slow kidney damage.
Side effects of DHA for dogs
Though DHA is perfectly safe when fed in the correct dosage for your dog’s size, there are some known side effects. This can be a result of the DHA source, i.e. fish, being polluted through heavy metals and other toxins found in the ocean. These side effects can include:
- Acid reflux
- Bleeding, especially if your dog is already on blood thinning medication
- Heart issues
- Bad breath
- Spikes in blood sugar
Where should your dog get DHA from?
Due to its well known benefits, most dog foods are fairly high in DHA. But if you want to supplement your dog’s intake, there are a variety of options.
DHA-rich supplements like krill oil and fish oil provide all the benefits associated with Omega-3 fatty acids. And you could even feed your pet boneless fish for a direct source of marine goodness.
Front of the Pack’s The One supplement is made with krill oil as one of 8 clinically-proven ingredients that offer numerous benefits to your dog’s health. Krill oil is rich in Omega-3, and is known to improve heart function, reduce inflammation, and promote healthier skin and fur.
The recommended amount per day is as follows:
- Up to 10lbs - 0.03g
- Up to 20lbs - 0.04g
- Up to 50lbs - 0.09g
- Up to 70lbs - 0.11g
- Up to 90lbs - 0.13g
Before introducing new supplements or changes to your dog’s diet, you should consult your vet. They will be able to advise you on the best way to increase your pet’s DHA intake and whether it is necessary. But for owners of new puppies especially, a DHA supplement is an easy way to ensure a smart, fun-loving, and healthy dog.