Person giving dog fish oil liquid drops for omega-3s

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Your dog's diet supports their overall health and wellness, and their food should provide them with all the minerals, vitamins, and nutrients they need. But unfortunately, many dogs don't get a high-quality diet, increasing the likelihood of nutritional gaps.

Omega-3s for dogs are polyunsaturated essential fatty acids, and they're the building blocks for good general health.1 All dogs require a healthy balance of fats and fatty acids. Unfortunately, dogs can't create fatty acids on their own, so they must get them through food and supplements. Fish oil for dogs is one of the best sources of omega-3s and can ensure your dog gets the nutrients they need for healthy skin, brain function, and immunity.

Should you give your dog omega-3s? This article will discuss everything you need to know about omega-3 for dogs, including its benefits and ways of adding it to your pet's diet. 

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3s are polyunsaturated essential fatty acids that are the building block for good overall health. They're required to store energy, aid the body in absorbing vitamins, and regulate hormones.1 Fatty acids can also improve skin and coat health and can aid in puppy development. Puppies fed low-fat diets can develop dry skin and deficiencies associated with impaired learning ability.2 

Omega-3s are a healthy type of fat that every dog needs. If your dog isn't getting it from their diet, you'll have to give them supplements because they can't produce it on their own. 

Benefits of omega-3s for dogs

Omega-3 Benefits For Dogs

Dog fish oil is a common supplement for dogs that can provide a healthy balance of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps support your pet's overall health. Omega fatty acids are necessary for creating hormones that regulate blood flow and inflammation and are typically found in cold-water fish, shellfish, and other foods like plants, nuts, and flaxseed.3 

Omega-3 also balances out another type of polyunsaturated fat called omega-6, which is found in processed foods and grains.3 If you feed your dog a commercial diet, you already know that most foods are made from corn-fed animals and refined oils high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3.3 Omega-6 is good for dogs, but a proper balance is crucial for overall health, with low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids linked to several health conditions.1 

So what are the omega-3 benefits for dogs? Let's take a closer look at the other reasons why your dog needs this vital nutrient. 

Puppy development

Omega-3 is beneficial for dogs throughout their entire lives. For example, DHA, a component in omega-3 fatty acids for dogs, can help brain and eye development in puppies.3 Additionally, omega-3 might support puppies with underdeveloped immune systems to help them fight off illnesses and infections while supporting their mental development.1 

In a study on the role of omega-3 for puppies, subjects were fed omega-3-enriched diets during weaning. The puppies in the study showed significantly improved cognitive function compared to puppies fed a low omega-3 diet.4

Improve cognitive function

Omega-3 has been proven to enhance cognitive function, memory, and learning ability.1 Additionally, it may improve cognitive function in older dogs with dementia.3 Omega-3s support overall brain health, and fats benefit cognitive and behavioral functions throughout a dog's life. 

Unfortunately, there are few studies on the cognitive benefits of omega-3 for dogs. However, we know that in humans, omega-3 may support healthy aging, and low amounts of omega-3 are associated with cognitive impairment.4 That said, more research is needed to determine the role of omega-3s and cognitive function in dogs. 

Vet listenings to large dog’s heart

Heart health

Omega-3 supplements for dogs also support a healthy heart by reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids for dogs are even used in patients with heart disease to protect against arrhythmia.5 Many dogs suffering from heart failure require a proper diet, and supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids for dogs can help decrease inflammation. However, it's highly unlikely a dog's heart disease is caused by omega-3 deficiency.6

Relief from canine arthritis

Omega-3 for dogs can relieve osteoarthritis pain and swelling by reducing inflammation. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids for dogs can help treat arthritis and other diseases.3 

Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids for dogs may improve weight-bearing and functional activity, such as walking, and reduce the amount of pain medications required. However, more research is needed to determine the effects of fish oil and natural sources of omega-3.7 

That said, a recent study demonstrated that dogs over 12 weeks on a diet supplemented with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids required decreased pain medication dosages than dogs fed a control diet.8 

Immune system support

As mentioned, omega-3 can help support underdeveloped immune systems in puppies. It can also alleviate some symptoms associated with inflammation, including pain and decreased mobility.1 Omega-3s for dogs are especially beneficial for dogs suffering from inflammatory disorders, including allergies, atopy, and arthritis. By supporting a healthy immune system, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the severity of the symptoms to make dogs more comfortable.

Promotes a healthy coat and skin

Omega-3 may reduce inflammation and the symptoms associated with inflammatory skin disorders to promote a healthy coat and skin. In addition, fatty acids help moisturize your dog's skin to reduce dryness, flakiness, and irritation due to inflammatory disorders like allergies. Of course, omega-3s for dogs likely won't solve all of their issues, especially if they have a skin infection, but it can support the immune system to help fight off bacteria that can affect your dog's skin and coat. 

Risks of giving your dog too much omega-3

Omega-3 Risks For Dogs

Omega supplements for dogs are some of the most overlooked dog care products because most pet parents assume their pets get all the nutrients they need from their diets. Unfortunately, this is only sometimes the case, especially if you feed your dog low-quality commercial pet foods. 

Omega-3 supplements like fish and salmon oil can be beneficial for dogs, but there are some side effects associated with them, including the following:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting 
  • Weight gain 
  • Stomach upset
  • Overdose9
  • Slow wound healing

If you're unsure whether omega supplements are suitable for your dog, it's best to ask your vet. In addition, knowing how much to give your dog can prevent serious health issues. For example, fish oil overdose can cause serious illnesses, from liver disease to pancreatitis. Your dog can also react adversely to fish oil and experience vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach upset. 

Adding Omega-3 To Your Dog's Diet

Before buying omega supplements for dogs, you should know how much your pet needs. The recommended dose of fish oil is 75-100 mg/kg or 34-45 mg/lb.7 

Ways to add omega-3 to your dog’s diet

There are several ways you can add omega-3 to your dog's diet, including the following:

  • Fish oil: Fish and salmon oil are the two most common omega-3 options for dogs, and they usually come in an easy squirt bottle that allows you to add the oil directly to food. Remember that you should only give your pet products designed for dogs. You can also try giving your dog fish as long as it's prepared properly. 
  • Supplements: You can find dog omega-3 supplements in different formats, such as pills or oil. These can be added directly to your dog's food. 
  • Dog food and treats: Many food and treats are enhanced with omega-3 for healthy skin, coat, and joints. You can also make homemade dog treats that contain essential nutrients like protein, omega-3, and other healthy fats. 

Of course, before you add anything new to your dog's diet, it's always best to discuss it with a vet. Since there are risks associated with giving your dog too much omega-3, you should determine whether they need more in their diets. 

Omega-3 For Dogs: FAQs

How much omega-3 should I give my dog?

How much omega-3 you should give your dog depends on their weight and how much they're already getting through their regular diet. If you need help determining how much to give your dog, you should always talk to your vet, who can help you identify the correct dosage based on their overall health. 

Do I give my dog omega-3 daily?

You can give your dog omega-3 daily, but we recommend discussing it with a vet first. Giving your dog too much fish oil can result in health complications and stomach upset, so your vet might suggest giving it to them on a schedule rather than every day. 

What happens if my dog eats too much omega-3?

Giving your dog too much omega-3 can result in an overdose with serious complications like weight gain and altered immune function.7 Additionally, it can cause stomach upset with symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. It can also cause severe illness, so you should always speak to a vet before giving your dog any new supplements.

Final Notes

Omega-3 for dogs can help reduce inflammation, fight inflammation-linked health conditions, support the immune system, and contribute to healthy skin. However, you should never give your dog a supplement without first consulting your veterinarian. 

Are you wondering if omega-3 fatty acid supplements are suitable for your dog? Talk to a Dutch-affiliated vet today.

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References

  1. “Omega-3.” The Kennel Club, https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health-and-dog-care/health/health-and-care/a-z-of-health-and-care-issues/omega-3/

  2. "Your Dog's Nutritional Needs: A Science-Based Guide For Pet Owners." The National Academies Press, https://nap.nationalacademies.org/resource/10668/dog_nutrition_final_fix.pdf.

  3. Arford, Kaitlyn. "Fish Oil for Dogs." American Kennel Club, 29 May 2020, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/fish-oil-for-dogs/

  4. Bauer, John E. "The Essential Nature of Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Dogs." AVMA, American Veterinary Medical Association, 1 Dec. 2016, https://avmajournals.avma.org/view/journals/javma/249/11/javma.249.11.1267.xml

  5. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for Dogs and Cats with Heart Disease. https://heartsmart.vet.tufts.edu/wp-content/uploads/fish-oil-supplement-brands-for-heartsmart-sept-2022.pdf

  6. Kittleson, Mark D. "Heart Failure in Dogs - Dog Owners." Merck Veterinary Manual, 31 Jan. 2023, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/heart-and-blood-vessel-disorders-of-dogs/heart-failure-in-dogs?query=omega+3+fatty+acids+for+dogs

  7. "Fish Oil for Dogs." Canine Arthritis Resources and Education, 3 Feb. 2023, https://caninearthritis.org/article/overview-of-omega-3-fatty-acids-for-oa/.

  8. Fritsch, Dale A, et al. "A Multicenter Study of the Effect of Dietary Supplementation with Fish Oil Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Carprofen Dosage in Dogs with Osteoarthritis." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20187817/.

  9. Lenox, C E, and J E Bauer. "Potential Adverse Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Dogs and Cats." Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23323770/

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $7/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.