Extensive research and veterinary patient studies continue to show evidence that the high intake of marine sourced omega-3 essential fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) can help improve your dog’s overall health.
Fish oil provides EPA and DHA Omega-3s, the long-chain most biologically active forms, and the many known benefits provided by these essential fatty acids to the overall health and wellbeing of dogs in all life stages such as:
Dogs actually require two very different kinds of essential fatty acids for normal development and good health maintenance, Omega-3 and Omega-6. The omega-6 fatty acids are overly excessive in a dog’s diet as they are very commonly found in almost everything that they eat. The fish oil marine type long-chain omega-3s EPA and DHA however are not commonly found in appreciable amounts in today’s dog foods and diets.
The ideal total omega 3 to omega-6 dietary intake ratio is something like 1:1 or 1:3 which is similar to the diet of paleo hunter-gatherers, the time over 10,000 years ago when mankind and dogs formed a bond of mutual benefit, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 has been estimated at 2:1 or 3:1.This is in contrast to the very inflammatory modern dog diet (much like the standard human Western diet).which has been estimated at 1part omega-3 to 10 parts of omega-6, or even 1 to 25. Interesting in the early 1900s the omega 3:omega-6 intake ratio in the United States human diet was estimated to be 1:5. Today, largely due to the 1,000 times increase of soybean and vegetable oils use in our diets over the last several decades, the dietary omega 3:omega-6 intake ratio is now 1:10 to 1:25.
What are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and what do they do?
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two different forms of essential fatty acids that have very important roles in cell membrane structure, fluidity and hormonal cell signaling. The designation 3 or 6 is related to their chemical structure. The most common and abundant dietary essential fatty acids in the dog’s diet are the short-chain omega-3 alpha linolenic acid (ALA) found in flax seeds and chia seeds. The short-chain omega-6 linoleic acid (LA) is found in high amounts in soy, canola and sunflower vegetable oils.
The long-chain omega-3 essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, commonly referred to as marine fatty acids, are most biologically active and provide many health benefits are easily obtained from fatty cold water fish such as salmon, herring, anchovies, menhaden and sardines. DHA omega-3 is now also available from specially selected marine sourced algae. The long-chain omega-6 fatty acid AA (arachidonic acid) is found in eggs, poultry, and meat.
Unless a dog directly eats the long-chain omega-3s EPA and DHA, and long-chain omega-6 AA the dog’s body will make them utilizing specific enzymes. The enzymes, desaturases and elongases, will convert the short-chain omega-3 ALA found in plant seeds and oils like flax seed and chia seed to the more biologically active and health protecting long-chain omega-3s EPA and DHA. In the same way these enzymes, desaturases and elongases, will make long chain omega-6 AA from the short-chain omega-6 LA. The same enzymes are involved in making long-chain omega-3s and long-chain omega-6 from commonly available short-chain versions.
Given that the modern dog diet has 15 – 25 times more short-chain omega-6 LA (vegetable oil sources as they are a low cost energy (calories) source) in it than it should have the enzymes are force driven to make excessive amounts of the pro-inflammatory pain causing, immune suppressing long-chain omega-6 AA. Excessive amounts of omega-6 LA suppresses the amounts of anti-inflammatory and health beneficial long-chain omega-3s EPA and DHA produced by the body.
How to make omega-3 and omega-6 balance?
Although the omega-3 and omega-6 imbalance is due to excessive omega-6 consumption brought about by a high level of vegetable oil consumption the most practical, easy remedy is simply to increase the amount of fish oil sourced marine long-chain omega-3s EPA and DHA in the diet. This is far easier than trying to greatly reduce the amount of omega-6 in the dog’s food and diet.
The plant sourced (flax or chia seed) short-chain omega-3 ALA can be very helpful to help balance the omega-3 to omega-6 ratios however it does not deliver the same biological effects of long-chain omega-3s EPA and DHA as rapidly and as assuredly.
Watch For Our Next Blog: What to look for when buying pet supplement fish oils?