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Natural Awakenings National

Fatty Acids Help Keep Dogs Healthy: An Important Supplement for Your Canine

Feb 01, 2008 03:00AM ● By Shawn Messonnier

Just like with humans, good fatty acids are necessary nutrients for dogs’ bodies too. They’re part of cell walls and help pets have a healthy coat and skin. Thus they’re important supplements for healthy dogs. In large amounts, they also contribute to natural treatment for a variety of medical conditions.

There are two major types of fatty acids: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. These names refer to the nutrient’s chemical structure. In general, omega-3 fatty acids combat inflammation, whereas omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation. Inflammation contributes to many illnesses, including allergies and arthritis. So the goal is to add omega-3 fatty acids to a dog’s diet and minimize omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids come from several plants, such as flax and hemp, and some coldwater fish, such as salmon and menhaden. However, the kind most veterinarians recommend comes from fish. This is because the fatty acids contained in flaxseed oil may not be efficiently converted to the active forms needed by sick animals. Flaxseed oil is fine, though, for healthy dogs that are just taking fatty acids for healthy skin and coats.

Because the nutrients reduce inflammation, veterinarians often prescribe fatty acids for many conditions that commonly occur in older dogs, including arthritis, kidney disease, heart disease, skin diseases and allergies. Recently, omega-3 fatty acids also have been shown to increase longevity in dogs with some types of cancer. This may be because omega-3 fatty acids can promote weight gain. They also may work to improve a dog’s immunity, metabolism and general health. And they seem to keep tumors from forming and spreading. Finally, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce radiation damage to a dog’s skin when the dog is receiving radiation treatments for cancer.

The catch with fatty acids is that it takes a high dose to help dogs with illnesses. That’s why many doctors recommend giving dogs two to four times the dose on the label to treat disorders such as allergies and arthritis. If giving a dog fatty acids simply for overall health, rather than to treat a specific disease, the dose on the label is probably enough.

My favorite fatty acid supplement is called Ultra EFA by Rx Vitamins for Pets. Its combination of hemp oil and fish oil makes it pleasant tasting for most pets and only a small amount is needed when compared with similar products.

Source: Excerpt from 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog by Shawn Messonnier, doctor of veterinary medicine and author of the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats. Visit

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