What is Fish Oil All About?
Fish oil is extracted from the skins of albacore tuna, anchovies, black cod, herring, mackerel, salmon, and sardines. It contains the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that are known to provide health benefits to people and animals. Dogs don't naturally synthesize much omega-3 so supplements are given.
Some of the benefits are:
- Anti-inflammatory/ joint health: Fish oil reduces inflammation caused by arthritis. It lubricates joints, helping ease pain. These benefits may decrease use of pain medications.
- Cognitive functions are improved through the lowering of triglycerides and increase of anti-oxidants.
- Allergy relief, reduced shedding, and better skin health reduce itching, dandruff, and "hot spots".
- Improved vision due to the omega-3s.
- Kidney and heart health due to less inflammation and fewer triglycerides.
- Immune system support to ensure less auto-immune disease.
- Preliminary tests show that Fish oil supplements may slow the growth of cancer.
When given to pregnant and nursing mothers, fish oil has been shown to improve the growth of brain and nerve cells in puppies. These pups also develop better vision and cognitive functions as they grow.
Fishy Facts to Keep in Mind
Omega-3s are fragile fatty acids that oxidize readily, compromising their benefit. The oils should be protected from heat, light, and air by storing them in dark glass bottles in a cool place, and used within a month or two.
The dosage is important. Colorado State University has set guidelines for dosing dogs and cats safely. It will take at least three weeks for the effect to become evident. If not, the dosage may be increased. There is no "toxic" level, but too much can cause fish breath, diarrhea or gastrointestinal upset. Just back off the dosage and things should be fine in a day or two.
Fish oil can slow down clotting, so don't supplement if your dog is on blood thinners. Cod liver oil is not the same as fish oil, and should not be administered. Be sure to check with your vet before making any changes.