From allergies and itchiness to canine arthritis and even dementia, there’s no end to the canine complaints that fish oil can remedy. If you’re wondering what the deal is with fish oil for dogs, or if you’re considering adding fish oil to your dog’s diet, you’re in the right place.
Below you’ll find everything you need to know about fish oil for dogs, why we think there are benefits, and why the science points towards krill oil being a better alternative.
What is fish oil?
Fish oil is a dietary supplement that comes from the nutrient-rich fat stores of cold-water fish species, such as salmon, anchovies, sardines and mackerel. Its value as a supplement comes from its particularly high levels of organic molecules called Omega-3 fatty acids.
What are Omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, often referred to as “good fats”) that are essential for good health because they get absorbed into the membranes that surround the cells in the body, helping them to function more efficiently.
From the 1980s onwards, Omega-3s became some of the most studied and celebrated nutrient supplements, ever since research from Denmark observed that Inuit communities in Greenland, — whose diets were rich in fatty fish and seals — seemed to have lower rates of heart attacks than the rest of the western population.
The scientists proposed that this might be as a result of the fatty acids in their diets. Since then, tons of other studies seem to keep bearing this out.
In humans, Omega-3s have been shown to be particularly potent against a multitude of different diseases, including heart disease, stroke, arthritis and even certain cancers. They have proven anti-inflammatory properties and have also been shown to support our immune systems.
Their classification as “essential nutrients” has come about because Omega-3s are not fats that our bodies can produce efficiently on their own. That means that they can only be increased and maintained through diet, making it essential that we include them.
Benefits of Omega-3s for dogs
So, if those are the benefits for humans, what are the benefits of Omega-3s for dogs?
Well, as it turns out, many of the same, as well as others.
In addition to lowering the risk of diseases such as heart disease, multiple scientific studies have found that supplementation with Omega-3s in dogs can also:
- Maintain mobility and joint health in dogs with canine arthritis
- Reductions in joint pain have also been shown in otherwise healthy dogs as well, who can experience joint pain after strenuous exercise, which can be a long-term risk factor for arthritis
- Enhance brain development, trainability and cognitive abilities
- Lower risks of kidney and renal disease
- Reduce inflammation of the skin, which can lessen the intensity of allergies, dermatitis and improve the condition of your dog’s skin and coat
- Act as a general anti-inflammatory.
This makes Omega-3s one of the most powerful natural supplements that you can give your pet, not only for their physical health but for their mental stimulation and wellbeing too.
Fish oil supplements as a source of Omega-3s for dogs
There are three main types of Omega-3s: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
ALA is found in plants with high fat content, like nuts and flaxseed. EPA and DHA are the two that are hardest to generate in the body, which is why they are considered particularly important. And these two are only found in high concentrations in certain types of fish and seafood.
Dosages of fish oil supplements for dogs
Although fish oil is a natural product that can be bought over the counter with no prescription, it could still cause an unwanted reaction in your pup.
Before starting the course of supplements, speak to your vet and monitor your furry friend after giving fish oil supplements. The right dosage to choose depends on a number of factors, including your dog’s breed, sex, age and weight.
As a rough guide:
The recommended daily dose is between 75-100mg/kilogram for a healthy dog. So, for a 22kg (50lb) female German Shepherd for example, a good ballpark figure would be between 1,650mg and 2,200mg a day. For a smaller dog, it would be much lower.
For a dog with a particular health condition like osteoarthritis, this figure could be higher, up to 3,227mg for a dog of the same weight.
Can a dog have too much fish oil?
Yes, a dog can have too much fish oil. Like everything, it is always possible to get too much of a good thing, which is why it’s always advised that you seek veterinary advice before starting any range of supplements, including Omega-3s.
What type of fish oil supplement is best for your dog?
Fish oil supplements for dogs usually come in capsule or liquid form. They can be taken with or without food, although with food is usually easier and is likely to have a lower impact on their stomachs — particularly as you’re starting out.
There’s no obvious difference between fish oil as a liquid or in a capsule. This will depend on what your dog prefers. Some dogs are happy with the liquid being mixed in with their wet food, while others seem to turn their noses up at the taste, which can make capsules easier.
On the other hand, for dogs who absolutely hate taking the capsules, the liquid is often an easier alternative. Other factors like taste, and a brand that you trust, will also guide you.
Note: We add whole krill, not fish oil, to our all-in-one powder supplement, The One. While fish oil is certainly a great source of Omega-3, krill has been shown to work better for pets. For more on this, check out: The Benefits of Krill Oil for Dogs
Side effects and other factors to consider
While fish oil is known to have a range of amazing benefits for dogs, it can also cause side effects and aggravate other conditions.
These sometimes include bloating and weight gain, diarrhea and vomiting.
Dog owners whose dogs have obesity are not always advised to use fish oil supplements or to manage the dosages for their pups differently.
The dosage as well as other ingredients in your dog’s diet could play a role in how they react to fish oil supplements. Another reason to check out the best way forward for your pooch with your vet.
Fish oil can contain traces of other chemicals that have entered the fish’s digestive system through the water, and through the smaller fish that they consume.
These can include traces of some pretty nasty toxins and heavy metals, such as lead and mercury. Check the labels beforehand to see that any supplements you’re considering have been tested for these chemicals and do not contain them.
Side note: krill are lower in the food chain than fish, meaning the risk of contamination is lower when you use a product containing krill oil, like The One.
Supplements are not regulated as strictly as medications, and this is even more true when it comes to pet supplements. As a result, some manufacturers sell products that don’t actually contain the ingredients their labels claim, or they use sub-par ingredients to cut corners.
This is one of our bugbears at Front of the Pack, and we’ve made it our goal to raise the standards of quality control in the pet supplement industry. We do this by leading by example. We put all of our ingredients under the testing microscope not once, not twice, but eight times — using four world-class, accredited, and independent testing laboratories.
Whoever you go with, make sure that they’re approved by your vet.
Krill oil: a better alternative for your dog to get Omega-3s
Oily fish, which fish oil supplements are derived from, are one of the best sources of EPA and DLA. This means they’re commonly recommended for humans and pets. But they’re not the only source, and indeed not necessarily the best.
Researchers have discovered that there are potentially better, safer and more sustainable marine-based supplements which give equal or superior results to fish oil for dogs.
For example, scientists have recently found that krill oil, an extract from the tiny shrimp-like creatures that many other animals feed on in the waters around Antarctica, contains high levels of EPA and DLA, and that their chemical structures in krill are even better for absorption into the blood than in fish. That makes krill oil a superior option to fish oil.
As we mentioned earlier, krill are also much lower in the food chain than other fish species that are used for fish oil, and so the risk of krill oil containing trace toxins is much lower.
At Front of the Pack, as you may have noticed, we take science pretty seriously. This is why after multiple rounds of tests and research, we chose to use krill in our revolutionary new supplement, The One. It’s a fantastic source of Omega-3 fatty acids for your dog, and as an alternative to fish oil, it’s unrivalled. It
The important thing is that your dog gets the best possible balance of essential nutrients to support their health and happiness. The right mix of Omega-3s for them is likely to be part of that picture. Ask your vet about Front of the Pack and our revolutionary, science-backed approach to Omega-3s for your dog.