Fish oil is a type of supplement that is derived from different types of coldwater fish, such as salmon. This type of supplement is rich in two important types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. EPA and DHA acids act as anti-inflammatory agents in both people and animals and are often used for several inflammatory diseases.
These include kidney disease, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, dermatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, epilepsy, and even certain types of cancer. Fish oil is often given to animals as a supplement, particularly dogs, cats, and horses. It can help support their joints, skin, hearts, and coats. The supplement is also great for their immune system.
A dietary supplement is a substance that is given to supplement the diet of a person or animal. While fish oil and other supplements are typically sold over-the-counter, you should always check with your veterinarian before giving fish oil to your dog.
Since supplements are not regulated by the FDA in the United States, many brands make claims without having scientific data to back them up. Your vet can help you understand how much you should give your dog and for how long. Check out what canine nutrition experts of The Pampered Pup have to say also on the best-loved fish oil products in the market right now.
Is Fish Oil Effective?
Fish oil is an excellent supplement that can be added to your dog’s meals. Your vet can help you decide whether you should add fish oil to their diet as a temporary dietary boost or for the long-term. Most veterinarians do advise supplementing their dog food with a quality fish oil supplement. Fish oil is great for promoting a silky coat and reducing any itching or dry skin your dog may be dealing with. It can help relieve any allergies they suffer from as well as the fight against joint pain. Fish oil also works by fighting against heart problems, canine cancer, and by strengthening their immune system.
So what exactly are omega-3 fatty acids? You may think anything with the word “fatty” in the phrase wouldn’t be good. However, omega-3 fatty acids are known as the “good” type of fat, which is what fish oil is rich in. Humans often need fish oil supplements because we don’t produce this fatty acid on our own. Dogs are the same way, and the benefits greatly outweigh any downfalls of the supplement.
Friend or Foe?
While fish oils are typically a very safe supplement for dogs, there will be some possible side effects to look out for. Typically, these side effects are only seen at very high doses, so it is important to give your dog the right amount when you decide to use this supplement. Side effects may include vomiting, diarrhea, sleepiness, delayed wound healing, oily coat, skin flakes, and itchiness. You may also notice that your dog’s breath and skin have a fishy odor.
While rare, some serious side effects have been reported by the use of fish oil. These include inflammation of the pancreas, incoordination, appetite loss, seizures, persistent stomach upset, and abnormal bruising or bleeding. Fish oil should not be given to your dog if you know they are sensitive to it. You should also use it cautiously if your dog has diabetes, a history of pancreatitis, or if they are taking anticoagulant medications. Fish oil should also be used cautiously in pregnant or nursing dogs.
In most cases, discontinuing the supplement will resolve any of the side effects listed above. Again, talk to your vet before giving your dog fish oil supplements to make sure you know the correct dosage.
Giving Your Dog Fish Oil
You can easily give your dog a fish oil supplement by mouth. Most brands come in either liquid or capsule form and can be swallowed by your dog. You may want to give it to your dog when they are eating as some dogs experience an upset stomach if they take fish oil on an empty stomach. If the fish oil supplement is in liquid form, you can mix it in with wet food for easier consumption. Just make sure you carefully measure liquid fish oil to avoid giving your dog too much. If you forget to give your dog their daily dose, only give it to them if it isn’t too close to their next dose. You don’t want to give your dog two doses at the same time. It’s okay to skip a dose if you have to.
Remember, fish oil supplements may take a couple of weeks before any full effects are noticed. In some dogs, gradual improvements are noticeable within a few days of the first dose.
Watching for Drug Interactions
If your dog already takes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, doxorubicin, or anticoagulants, talk to your vet about the risks associated with fish oil. Other supplements and vitamins run the risk of interacting with one another, as do over-the-counter medications and prescription medications. Always be open about all medications your dog is taking, even herbal supplements, when you talk to your vet. While you won’t need to specifically monitor your dog while they are taking fish oil, you’ll want to make sure they don’t have any adverse side effects. Your vet may want to schedule an appointment in the future to check on their progress.
Storing Fish Oil Supplements
Most fish oil supplements should be stored in a cool, dry area in your home, away from heat and direct sunlight. Some brands may need to be refrigerated after they are opened, especially liquid brands. Fish oil is susceptible to oxidation and can become rancid easily. Make sure to carefully follow the storage recommendations you find on the label. If you think it has an odd or strange odor, throw it out and get a new bottle.
Choosing Fish Oil
You’ll find that there are three main types of fish oil you can purchase: natural triglyceride oil, ethyl ester oil, and synthetic triglyceride oil. Let’s look at all three.
Natural triglyceride oil- This type of fish oil is the most natural and will be the easiest for your dog to absorb. However, it may contain contaminants because it is not purified.
Ethyl ester oil- This type of fish oil is distilled and concentrated, which removes any impurities. It has high levels of DHA and EPA and is semi-natural.
Synthetic triglyceride oil- This type of fish oil is synthetic and does not absorb as well as the first two.
Remember, it is important to speak with your veterinarian about what kind of fish oil is best for your specific breed. The dosage will depend on their age, size, and weight. Only purchase supplements from a reliable source, and make sure you read the instructions carefully. When used correctly, the addition of fish oil supplements can greatly benefit the health of your dog.