Recently, my dad mentioned a conversation with his doc about vitamins. The only one, according to his doctor, that really mattered? Fish oil.
I’m not convinced of that because I’m not convinced we all eat a well-rounded enough diet, especially with how depleted our soil is. I give everyone in my family–human and animal members–vitamins each morning, including a multi and a probiotic. Recently, though, after that conversation and another with our vet, I’ve added in fish oil.
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A quick disclaimer: I’m not a vet. I’m not a vet tech or a nutritionist or a dietitian or anything useful. I’m a writer. A researcher. A dog mom. Everything you read here is for information purposes only and is simply me sharing what I’ve found and our experiences, mk?
First, what is fish oil, really?
While researching this post, I realized most people conflate fish oil with omega-3 fatty acids. Yes, fish oil is a solid source of omega-3s, but it’s not the only source (flaxseeds and chia seeds are awesome veg-friendly options). AND there’s some question as to whether the heart-healthy benefits of fish oil come from the oil itself or from all the various components of a fish working in concert.
OK, so back to the question: What is fish oil? Well, it’s the oil from the tissue of oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and so on. If you eat those fish (the American Heart Association recommends fatty, cold water fish twice a week), you’re nailing it. If not, you can purchase fish oil supplements, though there’s no research that shows supplements are as effective as eating whole fish. That being said… since most of us don’t eat the recommended two servings of fatty, cold water fish twice a week, circling back around to my opening, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to make up that gap with a supplement.
There are a bunch of kinds of fish oil supplements on the market. Natural, which is basically just straight-up fish oil, and several processed varieties.
What are the benefits of omega-3s?
Here’s where the fish oil vs. omega-3 confusion becomes relevant. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that our bodies can’t produce. Therefore, we need to get them from food. Why do we need omega-3?
For one thing, it has heart-health superpowers, lowering blood pressure and reducing triglycerides, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke, and more.
Fish oil, then, should deliver on all that. There’s also evidence that fish oil reduces pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. It’s good stuff.
So, can dogs have fish oil?
OK, OK, at this point you’re probably thinking… this is a dog blog so who cares if fish oil is good for me! Can my dog have fish oil?!
It’s interesting to me because the veterinary community seems way more on board with fish oil supplements than the medical community. Our new vet recommended fish oil for Coop right out of the gate, and there’s a ton of info out there about fish oil for pets.
Here are some things fish oil might help in your dog:
- Joint disease
- Skin and coat health
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Immune support
Plus, according to the AKC: “Omega-3 also helps balance out omega-6 fatty acids, commonly found in processed foods and most grains. Since many dog food manufacturers use meat from corn-fed animals or refined oil (which are high in omega-6), dogs often have an overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids in their diet. Your dog ends up with too much omega-6 and not nearly enough omega-3 fatty acids. And although we need omega-6 fatty acids, our modern diet often has too many. The body needs both in balance, and the same is true for dogs.”
As long as you stick to dosing requirements specific to your dog’s size, there’s really no harm in adding a fish oil supplement to your dog’s diet and there might be gobs and gobs of benefits!
How to choose a fish oil for your dog
There are so many available. It can feel overwhelming.
We received two strong recommendations for this one from Nordic Naturals. I believe that’s a great product. However. Cooper will not eat a fish oil pill. Absolutely refuses. So, what ends up happening is that we have to cut the pill open to squirt it out, which is messy and then my fingers smell fishy all morning.
I’m switching to a pump, and I’m switching to a pump that has dosing for dogs AND cats because I believe it’s equally important for the cats to have fish oil, too! I have it down to two possibilities: this one and this one. I haven’t placed an order yet because I’m still researching. (Incidentally, if you love a great pump-bottle fish oil that provides dosing for dogs and cats–a tall order, I know–please, please let it in the comments!!)
Ultimately, when you choose the product, talk to your vet first, then pick the best one that’s in your budget.
Have I convinced you? 🙂
As I said, I believe in supplements. I just don’t think many of us eat a whole, perfectly-balanced diet. That’s OK. That’s just modern life. But I do believe that supplementing where possible makes a lot of sense. We’re extremely lucky and privileged to be able to close any nutrient gaps in our diets!
I’d love to hear your experience: Do you supplement your dog’s diet with fish oil? Have you noticed a difference? Or, if you don’t, have you considered it or started researching it? Let me know how I can help you and your efforts in the comments below!