Is Salmon Oil Good For Dogs?

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We see our dogs as a part of our family and want them to have the best lives possible. Because of this, many pet parents are looking for supplements in hopes of bettering their dog’s health. Other than multivitamins, there is a wide range of supplements on the market catering to different canine health issues, such as glucosamine for joints and cartilage, probiotics for gut health, and even muscle formulas. Do these supplements truly benefit our pups? Do dogs need supplements on top of their nutritionally balanced and complete foods? 

While commercial dog foods are formulated to meet all the nutrient requirements for dogs, certain supplements can still give your dog a boost in the area they need. Fish oil is a particularly popular supplement, and its efficacy is supported by many scientific studies. Containing omega-3 fatty acids, it supports canine heart health, calms skin allergies in dogs, and alleviates joint pain.1 How does regular fish oil for dogs typically made of anchovy, herring, sardines, and mackerel compare to other forms of fish oil made of salmon and cod liver? Is salmon oil good for dogs?

Salmon oil is good for dogs and contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids compared to other fish oils.2 However, before you begin adding salmon oil to your dog’s diet, it’s always a good idea to consult a veterinarian. While they may recommend salmon oil in some cases, they might not recommend it for other dogs. Knowing how to choose the best salmon for your dog, how to feed your dog salmon oil, and how much to feed them is equally important. Keep reading to find out.

Which Fatty Acids Are Found In Salmon Oil?

Salmon oil is typically extracted from salmon by wet pressing and then refined to make it acceptable for human and animal consumption. It has great nutritional value due to its high content of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).3 Long chain omega-3s that come from marine sources are more necessary in canine diets when compared to short chain omega-3 that are typically derived from plant sources.4 DHA and EPA are used to manage a range of diseases in veterinary medicine, especially those that deal with inflammation.5 

Benefits Of Salmon Oil For Dogs

Benefits of salmon oil for dogs

Different types of fish have varying levels of omega-3 content. Compared to fish with lower fat content such as tilapia and cod, cold-water fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and herring contain much higher amounts of long chain omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon in particular has high levels of DHA and EPA. In 3 ounces of cooked Atlantic salmon, there are 1.22 grams of DHA and 0.35 grams of EPA, while in 3 ounces of cooked sea bass, there are only 0.47 grams of DHA and 0.18 grams of EPA.2 Some areas in which salmon oil and omega-3 supplementation can benefits dogs include:

  • Enhance regular development: After weaning, fortifying the diet with fish oil may improve cognitive, memory, psychomotor, retinal, and immunologic functions in growing dogs. In a study of 48 beagle puppies, the group that assigned to a high DHA diet performed better in tasks such as visual contrast discrimination and obstacle maze navigation.6
  • Reduce inflammation: For dogs with chronic inflammatory diseases, adding fish oil with high levels of DHA and EPA to their diets can act as an anti-inflammatory treatment.7
  • Skin and coat: Salmon oil can reduce itchy and flaky skin and leave your dog’s coat shiny and smooth. Studies have also shown fish oil to have a therapeutic effect on canine allergic dermatitis, like hot spots, haircoat disorder, and keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eyes).8 
  • Bone and joint: If your dog has arthritis and finds it difficult to move and stretch, salmon oil can help assuage the pain and swelling they are experiencing. Fish oil can have a therapeutic effect on dogs with canine osteoarthritis.8
  • Heart health: Another effect of its anti-inflammatory properties, salmon oil can support your pup’s heart health. Inflammation is a leading cause for heart disease and heart failure in dogs. While more studies are needed, dogs diagnosed with chronic heart failure seem to benefit from omega-3 supplementation.8
  • Cognitive functioning: The DHA abundant in salmon oil may also better the cognitive functioning of senior dogs, especially those dealing with cognitive dysfunction.1
  • Slow the growth of cancer: Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil may suppress the growth and spread of breast cancer cells in both mice and humans.9 It may even help fight cancer, with omega-3 for dogs seemingly benefitting canine lymphoma.8 

Despite all of these benefits, it is important to check with your veterinarian first to see if you should add salmon oil or any other type of fish oil to your dog’s diet.

Are There Any Side Effects To Using Salmon Oil?

Side effects of salmon oil for dogs

Salmon oil is completely safe and non-toxic; it is able to boost the health of your dog in many ways. However, it should still be used with caution. Not all dogs need omega-3 supplementation as their food should already contain all of the nutrients they need. Therefore, it is crucial that you check with a trusted veterinarian before you give your dog salmon oil in any form. Some side effects of using salmon oil for dogs, especially at a high dosage, could include:

  • Fishiness: Feeding your dog too much salmon oil can result in their skin and breath having a fishy smell.
  • Gastrointestinal issues: Like with any new food you introduce to your dog’s diet, salmon oil has the potential to upset your dog’s stomach. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may occur as a result of taking salmon oil supplements. Monitor your dog after giving them salmon oil and look for signs of discomfort or illness. Your dog may also be sensitive to fish oil.
  • Skin problems: Sometimes, rather than improving the skin and coat health of your pup, salmon oil will escalate skin itchiness, produce an oily coat, and increase skin flakes instead. 
  • Weight gain: Feeding your dog too much salmon oil can cause weight gain. One teaspoon of salmon oil can contain around 40 calories, which can be a large chunk of your dog’s daily caloric intake depending on their breed and size. Canine obesity can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, so it is important to speak with a vet about the correct dosage of salmon oil for your dog. 
  • Delayed wound healing: The anti-inflammatory function of DHA and EPA in salmon oil can alter the function of platelets, which contribute to the normal clotting of blood. In turn, this affects wound healing.5 Dogs fed a large amount of fish oil can suffer excessive blood loss when injured or after surgery.

While these are the more common side effects of fish oil and salmon oil for dogs, issues like lipid peroxidation, altered immune function, and insulin sensitivity can also potentially arise. If your dog is pregnant, nursing, diabetic, or if they have a history of pancreatitis, it is crucial to exercise caution when it comes to salmon oil. Speak with a veterinarian to make sure your dog can benefit from salmon oil.

How To Pick Good Salmon Oil For Your Dog

After confirming that your dog can use fish oil with a veterinarian, you should know how to pick out high-quality oil from the array of products available on the market. 

First, it is important to find a product that is pet safe. Non-veterinary-formulated products can contain ingredients that are harmful to your dog.  

Next, there are three important factors to consider. They are:

  1. Type of fish: As previously mentioned, fish oil for dogs can be made from a variety of fish, from fish lower in fat content like cod to cold-water fatty fish like salmon. Salmon is especially high in DHA and EPA, so salmon oil can be a good choice. 
  2. Format: You want a product that is easy to feed to your dog, whether you want to add it to their food or feed it as a treat. Salmon oil comes in many formats, such as pump dispensers, chews, and capsules. It is crucial to find one your dog approves of. 
  3. Quality of fish oil: This is the most important factor to consider when purchasing salmon oil. Make sure the oil comes from a reputable source. Fish from poor or unregulated sources can result in heavy metal toxicity. A high-quality product will also list its DHA and EPA amounts on the label and perform tests for purity and freshness. If a manufacturing company has completed these tests, it should be able to provide a certificate of analysis upon request.10

How To Give Salmon Oil To Your Dog 

Salmon oil comes in many different formats, such as liquid salmon oil in a pump dispenser, salmon oil capsules, salmon oil chews, and even unscented varieties for dogs that dislike the fishy smell. How you give your dog salmon oil will depend on what type of product you have.

You can drizzle liquid salmon oil on your dog’s regular food, whether they are eating kibble or wet food. Capsules are a good choice for pups who do not mind taking pills, and chews can be given to dogs as a treat. When you are finished giving your dog salmon oil, remember to store the product in the fridge or in another cool spot without direct sunlight. Fish oil can easily go bad when in contact with heat, light, or even oxygen. 

How Much Salmon Oil Can Dogs Have?

The safe upper limit of DHA and EPA established by the National Research Council for dogs is 20-55 mg of combined DHA and EPA per pound of body weight.11 However, this dose is much less than what is typically used to treat serious medical conditions where side effects are considered less detrimental when compared to the benefits of fish oil. Always consult your veterinarian to determine how much salmon oil you should give your dog.  

The safe upper limit is 20-55 mg of combined DHA and EPA per pound of body weight for dogs

Is Salmon Oil Good For Dogs: FAQs

Does salmon oil stop itching in dogs?

Fish oil is shown to benefit dogs with allergic dermatitis and haircoat disorders. Salmon oil can reduce skin itching and dandruff in dogs and improve dogs’ coat condition in general, leaving the coat smooth and shiny.  

Does salmon oil need to be refrigerated?

The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon oil can go bad when in contact with heat, light, and oxygen. It is best to store salmon oil in the fridge or in a cool area of the house without direct sunlight.

Can salmon oil cause pancreatitis in dogs?

Pancreatitis in dogs is most commonly caused by fatty foods. Acute pancreatitis can develop as soon as the next day after consuming a fatty food. Eating too much salmon oil can cause pancreatitis in dogs, and dogs that already have pancreatitis should refrain from salmon oil supplementation.

Dog being hand fed a salmon oil capsule

Final Notes

Salmon oil contains high levels of omega-3. It can benefit dogs in many ways, including reducing inflammation, alleviating joint pain, and improving skin and coat condition. However, not all dogs need salmon oil supplementation. Ask a Dutch vet to see if salmon oil is right for your dog.

If you have more questions about dog nutrition, common dog food allergies, or even peppermint oil for dogs, Dutch is here to help. Get started with Dutch and speak with a licensed U.S. veterinarian today.  

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References

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

  2. "Omega-3 Fatty Acids." National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/.

  3. Bonilla-Méndez, Jeimmy Rocío and Hoyos-Concha, José Luis. "Methods of extraction refining and concentration of fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids." Ciencia y Tecnología Agropecuaria, http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0122-87062018000300645

  4. Dominguez, Tonje E. et al. "Enhanced omega-3 index after long- versus short-chain omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in dogs." Veterinary Medicine and Science, 6 Oct. 2020, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/vms3.369

  5. Lenox, C E and Bauer J E. "Potential adverse effects of omega-3 Fatty acids in dogs and cats." Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 16 Jan. 2013, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jvim.12033

  6. Zicker, Steven C. et al. "Evaluation of cognitive learning, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions in healthy puppies fed foods fortified with docosahexaenoic acid–rich fish oil from 8 to 52 weeks of age." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 1 Sep. 2012, https://avmajournals.avma.org/view/journals/javma/241/5/javma.241.5.583.xml?rskey=oBXeE7&result=1

  7. LeBlanc, Casey J. et al. "Effects of dietary supplementation with fish oil on in vivo production of inflammatory mediators in clinically normal dogs." American Journal of Veterinary Research, 1 Apr. 2008, https://avmajournals.avma.org/view/journals/ajvr/69/4/ajvr.69.4.486.xml.

  8. Magalhaes, Tomas. et al. "Therapeutic Effect of EPA/DHA Supplementation in Neoplastic and Non-neoplastic Companion Animal Diseases: A Systematic Review." In Vivo, May 2021, https://iv.iiarjournals.org/content/35/3/1419

  9. O'Connor, Tom. "Diets rich in fish oil could slow spread and growth of breast cancer cells." University of Nebraska Medical Center, 9 Oct. 2018, https://www.unmc.edu/newsroom/2018/10/09/diets-rich-in-fish-oil-could-slow-spread-and-growth-of-breast-cancer-cells/.

  10. "Canine Fish Oil Dosing Chart." Colorado State University James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, https://vetmedbiosci.colostate.edu/vth/services/orthopedic-medicine/fish-oil-dosing/.

  11. Tudor, Ken. "Fish Oil: The Dangers of Too Much." PetMD, 8 Aug. 2013, https://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/ktudor/2013/aug/the-dangers-of-too-much-fish-oil-30731.

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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.

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