The popular trend in modern diets seems to be reduced fat this, lean meat that, with the occasional side of steamed vegetable goodness. While recent debates have been challenging the conventional wisdom of eliminating fats from human diets, the verdict has long since been in on the benefits, even necessity, of ensuring your canine companions have adequate amounts of healthy oils included in their daily nutrition. As with all things, moderation is key and certain types of oils should be targeted and others avoided. Here we break down everything you need to know about fatty acids and their essential role in keeping man’s best friend happy and healthy.
The Need for Fat for Fido
Veterinarians agree, fatty acids are an essential part of your dog’s healthy diet. From issues such as demodectic mange to coat health and muscle condition, fatty acids such as omega-3 provide support for critical bodily functions. The benefits of proper amounts of essential fatty acids in your dog’s diet goes more than skin deep. It turns out that common systemic issues such as immune deficiency, diabetes, and intestinal problems can all be reduced, eliminated, or better managed through proper inclusion of the correct types of oils and fatty acids in your dog’s diet. Emerging research is even suggesting that growth of cancer tumors in dogs can be significantly slowed by the addition of omega-3’s and 6’s to your pooch’s food bowl.
Not All Fats Created Equal
Before you start spooning on the butter or serving up the bacon to an eager Fido, it’s important to note that only specific types of fats have been shown to yield benefits, while others can still be harmful when ingested in large quantities. Fatty acids are considered polyunsaturated fats and come in both omega-3 and omega-6 types classifications. While your dog’s own body produces some of the fatty acids it needs on a daily basis, some cannot be internally replicated and must instead be consumed through diet. These are considered the essential fatty acids. Neither omega-3’s and omega-6’s are fats unto themselves, rather they refer to a category of specific fatty acids that have similar molecular chains. The specific fatty acids in these groups include:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Omega-6 Fatty Acids:
Linolenic acid (LA)
Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA)
Arachidonic acid (AA)
Everything in Moderation
So now that we’ve espoused the benefits of essential fatty acids for Fido, just how do you go about ensuring man’s best friend has adequate amounts of these important dietary additions? While many commercial dog foods contain some amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 oils, the extruding, baking and dehydrating process can often reduce or eliminate their efficacy--and your dog’s ability to properly absorb these important oils.
Adding supplemental sources of fatty acids such as flaxseed oil and fish oil can help ensure your dog is getting adequate nutrition and a full supply of healthy nutrients. Both flaxseed and fish oil come in a variety of commercial and prescription supplements. Some dogs find oil-filled capsules at night (wrapped securely in a slice of cheese, of course) a welcome treat. Others will readily consume a small amount of oil added daily at meal times.
The trick is experimenting with brands and methods to find which works best for both you and your dog’s routine. Regardless of delivery method, adding essential fatty acids to your dog’s diet is a new trick worth learning and one that will see you enjoying many years of long, healthy and happy life with your favorite four-legged companion.