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Pet Health Facts: Omega Fatty Acids

By the Drs4pets Team

Fat is the primary source of energy for your pet. The fats in food are made up of omega fatty acids, important nutrients in your pet’s diet. Not only are certain fatty acids essential for life, they also play critical roles in optimal health and vitality.

All foods contain omega-6 fatty acids. Linoleic acid is one of the omega-6 fatty acids, and is considered an essential nutrient. One of the key roles this fatty acid plays is to maintain the proper moisture balance in the skin’s surface. This is critical for maintaining a barrier between the outside world and the inner workings of the body.

Omega-3 fatty acids come from ingredients such as marine sources (fish oil or fish meal) and also from vegetable or plant sources (flaxseed or algae). While alpha-linolenic acid is the only omega-3 fatty acid that is truly considered to be an essential nutrient, it is likely that others in this important group will make the list soon. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), have been found to be critical for good health. DHA is important for the proper development of cognitive function and vision in young animals, and EPA has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Omega-3 fatty acids can diminish inflammation in the joints, skin and digestive system and may even help fight or prevent cancer.

It is important to feed a pet food that contains a blend of omega fatty acids to support optimal skin and coat condition, proper immune function and to control inflammation throughout the body. Looking at the label for sources of these critical nutrients, as well as checking the Guaranteed Analysis for the guaranteed levels, will help ensure that your pet’s diet contains omega fatty acids for optimal health.

 Question: How can I tell if my pet’s food has omega fatty acids?

Answer: Reputable brands will guarantee the levels of omega fatty acids in the guaranteed analysis. Look for words such as omega-6 fatty acids, linoleic acid, omega-3 fatty acids or alpha-linolenic acid in the list of nutrient guarantees. This will prove that not only is it in the food, it is guaranteed to be there at a specific amount.

Question: Should I give my dog a fish oil supplement for his dry skin?

Answer: It would be a good idea to check with your veterinarian first. If the food that you are feeding has a balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, a supplement may not be beneficial. There may be another explanation for the dry skin. Sometimes, additional supplements can lead to loose stools.

Question: My cat loves tuna fish. Can I feed this to her for the fatty acids?

Answer: It is important to feed a balanced diet to your cat. An occasional treat is ok, but be cautious. Cats can be finicky and may choose treats over their regular food, leading to dietary imbalances and deficiencies.

Photo by Tony

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