Dr. Al Townshend
Today, Guardians are aware of the importance of the nutrition they provide for their cherished pets. It is a primary factor in encouraging a long and healthy life. Making sure a pet’s diet is easily digested and includes optimum nutritional levels that promote health and well-being is the goal of everyone committed to protecting their pets.
Aside from balanced vitamins and minerals, the essential components of any recipe designed for a carnivore are protein and fat. Neither the domestic dog nor cat has a nutritional requirement for carbohydrates.
Animal proteins are the best sources of the essential amino acids required to build all of the tissues of the body; muscle, organs, skin, brains, etc. When it comes to the best fats, they are one of the best sources of the calories needed to maintain a pet and support activity, they help to absorb certain vitamins, and help control hormone levels in the body. In addition, certain fats are a valuable source of essential fatty acids, generally called Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids.
What are Omega 6 and 3 Fats?
Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids (EFA), necessary in the diet because the animal cannot produce them, and they are required for a healthy and balanced diet.
The omega-6 fatty acids increase hormone levels which, in turn, increases inflammation and is an important part of the immune system’s response to sickness or pain. They also help with cell growth and blood clotting.
The omega-3 fatty acids produce hormones that regulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, and work in tandem with the omega-6 acids. Balance is the key to a healthy immune system.
Where Do Omega 6 and 3 Fatty Acids Come From?
Most commercial pet foods provide adequate amounts of Omega 6 fats.
- Vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn, safflower, canola, and soybean oils are particularly rich in Omega-6 fatty acids.
- Chicken and other animal fats are also a good source.
Omega 3 fatty acids are a family of essential fats. Two important members are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). They play a critical role in growth and development and reducing inflammation which is often the root cause of chronic diseases such as arthritis, heart and kidney disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and even cancer.
Sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Fish and fish oils. Fish are high in Omega-3 fats. Look for Salmon, Herring, Anchovies, Mackerel, and Sardines.
- Phytoplankton. These tiny microscopic organisms are the base for the entire food chain in the oceans. They are the source of the Omega 3 fats found in fish.
- Krill are small, shrimp-like crustaceans living in large amounts in the world’s oceans. Krill get their Omega 3s by feeding on phytoplankton.
- Hemp Seed Oil. Hemp seeds are a natural source of Omega 3 fats.
Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids must balance for maximum benefit. A ratio of 6-parts Omega-6 to 1-part Omega-3. A ratio of 6:1 or lower has been shown to be the ideal balance to assure optimum benefit for the pet.
Many commercial pet foods list the percentage of Omega 6 and 3 fats in their Guaranteed Analysis. If the portions are not guaranteed, there is no assurance they are even in the foods or at what levels and ratio.
Why Supplement with Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
To get the best ratios of Omega 6 and 3 fats, supplementing is an easy and inexpensive way to assure the best benefits for the health pf the pet.
Commercial dry, wet, raw and almost raw recipes have adequate amounts of Omega 6 fats from the typical grains, legumes and animal meats and fats used in canine and feline recipes. Supplementing with Omega 3 sources encourages the best balance and the most effective benefits.
What are the Benefits?
The benefits of supplementing with Omega 3 fatty acids are to support the overall, long-term health of the pet.
Prevention and Optimum Health
- The Omega 3 fatty acid DHA is essential for proper brain and eye development in puppies and kittens.
- Omega 3 fats support cognitive function in senior pets and slow the progress of age-related dementia.
- Support the optimum long-term health of the heart and kidneys.
- Encourage a lustrous and healthy skin and haircoat.
- Omega 3s reduce inflammation, the most common cause of chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, pancreatitis, digestive disorders, and even cancer.
Pets suffering form medical conditions should be under supervision by their trusted veterinarian. Any changes or additions being considered should always be discussed with the veterinarian.
- Reduce the discomfort that comes with arthritis.
- Reduce the skin inflammation and itching that are signs of an allergy.
- Controlling anxiety, hyperactivity and depression.
- Support pets with cancer.
- An aide in reducing the signs of cognitive dysfunction in senior pets.
Based on all we know about Omega 3 fatty acids, it is hard to argue that every pet can gain long-term benefit from supplementing.
A Word of Caution
Like most things in life, too much of a good thing can be detrimental to overall health.
- Too much Omega 3 can thin the blood and cause bleeding
- Fishy breath
- Acid reflux