What Are Essential Fatty Acids for dogs And Why Do I Need To Supplement My Dog With Them?

There’s a lot of confusion out there about essential fatty acids (EFAs) and how they can benefit dogs. In this article, we’ll clear up some of the most common misconceptions about EFAs and help you understand why you need to supplement your dog with them. We’ll also provide a list of the best essential fatty acids for dogs and explain why they’re so important. So don’t wait any longer – read on to learn everything you need to know about essential fatty acids for dogs!

You have read about them, seen advertisements about them and maybe even have taken some yourself; but what do you really know about FATTY ACIDS and nutrition?   What happens if too much is ingested… or too little?   Did you know that over 70 have been discovered in nature?   You have heard them be called “essential” Fatty Acids and that is exactly what they are… essential for you and your pets to consume in the diet in order to achieve good health.   Let’s pretend we know nothing about these fats… on this page we’ll give the subject a good study to find out why we need to be aware of the significant role Fatty Aids play in our zofamily’s health.   (Pronounced like “So Family”,  a zofamily is the term used for any human family that considers its pets to be a part of the real family.)

Pets and humans eat to live.  It also just happens to be enjoyable.  Humans and dogs are Omnivores, that is we and dogs  can utilize either plant or animal sources exclusively and still survive.  Cats are true Carnivores because they HAVE to consume meat to survive and will not live long on plant-only sources of food.  One of the necessary elements of a health promoting diet for us humans, for dogs, and for cats is fats.  There are all kinds of biologically active fats and each one plays a role in the biochemical pathways within us that keep us (the zofamily) alive.  Some fats can be digested and split up into smaller fat items and those smaller fat items contribute their fair share in the health of the individual.  Without Fatty Acids in proper ratios, we’re all in trouble!

What are Essential Fatty Acids for dogs?

Fatty Acids (there are over 70 of them!) are important for a wide array of cell structure components and for many chemical reactions in the body including hormonal and energy activities.  Fatty Acids play a vital role in establishing a healthy lipid barrier in the skin to block irritants and infections.  In an animal’s body (and ours) the liver and other tissues can make many of the fatty acids that are required for the body’s chemical factory to operate.   In dogs, though, there is one that they cannot make… Linoleic Acid (also called Omega6 Fatty Acid).  So THAT is called an ESSENTIAL FATTY ACID because the dog needs to consume it from dietary sources.  With adequate Omega6 in the dog’s diet the other fatty acids needed for metabolism can be created internally.  In cats there are two ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS, Linoleic and Arachidonic Acids.  And since Arachidonic Acid is only present in animal tissues, cats must consume meat as a source for this chemical.   See an interesting article on cat nutrient requirements and how they are different from a canine’s.

Fatty Acids have a long Carbon atom backbone to which are attached Hydrogen atoms and few Oxygen atoms.
Let’s take a look at the structure of the two most important Fatty Acids that the zofamily needs, Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids:  The word Omega is a chemistry term indicating where the unsaturated (missing a Hydrogen atom) double bond is on the long chain of carbon atoms making up the backbone of the Fatty Acid molecule.  Omega 3 means the unsaturated double bond is three carbon atoms from the end of the long molecule and Omega 6 means the double bond is 6 carbon atoms from the end of the Fatty Acid molecule.  What seems to us to be an insignificant difference between structures of a chemical can really make a huge difference in the chemical’s activity…  just like changing one single letter’s placement in a sentence can change the entire meaning of the sentance.

Can they be overused?

Yes, because Fatty Acids do have specific effects on the body; consuming too much and in an incorrect ratio may lead to clotting problems and relative deficiencies of Vitamin E and other vitamins.  It has been determined that Omega Fatty Acids need to be consumed by dogs and humans (and presumably by cats) in an optimum ratio for the ideal health benefits to be active.  Too much of one, not enough of another, and the zofamily will pay the price with less than optimum health.  The Iams Company has pioneered Fatty Acid research in animals and they have found that supplementing a diet with large amounts of Omega3 fatty acids (for example, a diet with nearly equal amounts of Omega6 to Omega3 fatty acids) may lead to health problems in dogs and cats.   They have determined that a higher amount of Omega6 than Omega3, in a ratio of from between 5:1 to 10:1, has the optimum observable health effects. 

How do I know when a deficiency occurs?

    If enough Linoleic Acid (Omega6) is present in the dog’s diet, the other fatty acids can be synthesized within the dog.  The simplest way to assess the possibility a deficiency is to take a close look at your pet… really up-close!  If the skin is dry and flaky and the coat actually feels greasy and dull and has a coarse texture, there’s an excellent chance the pet is not getting high quality fats in the diet.   Remember, the coat may actually feel oily or greasy and have a rancid odor and yet  dog may have a fat intake deficit.  This effect is common in dogs on cheap “reducing” diets because the first thing a manufacturer does in formulating a “reduced calorie diet” is to cut the total fat content of the diet to reduce total calories.  The dog or cat may not even loose weight but the potential for a Fatty Acid deficiency is quite probable.
    This photo on the left is typical of a dog that has a Fatty Acid deficiency in its diet.  It has been fed a generic, cheap, corn-based food for a long time and the dog did not look good, the coat was dull and coarse and the poor dog was always itching and scratching.  You can easily guess how it must have felt, too.  Within two weeks on a high quality diet (meat is the first ingredient listed) this dog will look entirely different! Supplemental Omega Fatty Acids can speed recovery from these deficient states.   PetFoodDirect.com can ship meat-based diets directly to your home or office.

Sources of Omega 6 Fatty Acid…

Plants are an excellent source of Linoleic Acid.  Because of the first double bond occurring at the 6th carbon atom, Linoleic Acid  is sometimes referred to as Omega6 Fatty Acid. Omega6 is found in safflower, sunflower, corn and evening primrose oils and Borage oil.It is also present in poultry fat and pork fat but very little is present in beef or butter fat.  Found in common pet food ingredients such as corn and chicken fat, it is a required nutritional component of the canine and feline diet.  It cannot be synthesized within a dog or cat’s body so it must be consumed in some form of food so that other fatty acids can then be synthesized internally.  It is essential for normal skin and coat health, for growth, cell membrane integrity and fat-soluble vitamin interactions. 

Sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids…

essential fatty acids for dogs-Sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids…

Because of the first double bond occurs at the 3rd carbon atom, Linolenic Acid  is sometimes referred to as Omega3 Fatty Acid.  It’s exact role in canine and feline nutrition is still not completely understood. It is very unstable unless kept cool and away from light and oxygen.  Fish oils, especially cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, and herring, and in animals that feed on these fish, are the primary dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in oils from some plants (canola and flax).  Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3FAs. Walnuts and soybeans also contain significant amounts as well as freshly ground wheat germ.

Sources of  both Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids

Dried beans, such as great northern, kidney, navy and soybeans are inexpensive sources of both Omega6 and Omega3 Essential Fatty Acids. Certain fish are very rich in EFAs. The body can convert EFAs from fish more easily than from other sources.

Sources of Arachidonic Acid

This essential fatty acid for felines is present in some fish oils, pork fat and poultry fat.

To help understand all this Fatty Acid dialogue, here are some definitions to which you can refer when a precise meaning is required:
Linolenic Acid has 18 carbon atoms and is called Omega3 Fatty Acid.
Linoleic Acid has 18 carbon atoms and is called Omega6 Fatty Acid.
Arachidonic Acid is has 20 carbon atoms and is present only in animal fats.
An OIL is a lipid substance that is liquid at 25° C which is 77° Fahrenheit.   Oils are liquid at room temperature and usually are polyunsaturated.
A FAT is a lipid substance that is solid at 25° C which is 77° Fahrenheit.   Fats are solids at room temperature and are usually saturated.
EFA stands for Essential Fatty Acids.
An  Essential Fatty Acid is one that an individual must ingest in order to survive.
Saturated Fatty Acids are those that have no chemical bonds left unattended, that is, they have no “double bonds” between their carbon backbone waiting to trap such atoms as hydrogen.
Unsaturated Fatty Acids are those that have chemical spaces that will attract more hydrogen atoms and do have “double bonds” along their carbon backbones.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids have only one place where there is a “double bond” along the carbon backbone.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids have more than one place where there is a “double bond” along the carbon backbone.   All the essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated.
GLA is gamma linoleic acid which is the active form of Linoleic Acid.

Linoleic Acid (Omega6) maintains skin and coat condition in dogs and cats. Without enough linoleic acid dogs and cats may experience dull, dry coat, hair loss, greasy skin and increased susceptibility to skin inflammation. When the skin is already irritated due to insufficient high quality fat sources in the diet,  any additional irritant such as pollen, dust, bacteria or dampness can trigger intense itching.  That’s why supplements that contain Fatty Acids can often have very noticeable beneficial effects in alleviating itching in pets. Cats also require another fatty acid, Arachidonic Acid, for normal skin and coat health.  Therefore, in cats Arachidonic Acid is an Essential Fatty Acid; as mentioned earlier, dogs can make their own Arachidonic Acid from Omega3 Fatty Acid.

Linolenic Acid (Omega3) also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent by stimulating the production of certain hormone-like substances called prostaglandins.  Omega3s are found in fatty tissues of all wild animals but appear to be somewhat deficient in domestic livestock such as beef cattle.

Over 2,000 studies have been done on Omega3 Fatty Acids and their effect on human and animal health. It appears that sufficient amounts of Omega3 can lower blood pressure, reduce the clotting of blood platelets and therefore reduce blood clots, and reduce abnormal heart beating (arrhythmia).  Proper ratios of Fatty Acids in the diet appear to be important in optimal health of the individual.

Looking for a good supplement for your dog? Essential fatty acids for dogs can be a great way to provide them with the nutrients they need to stay healthy and active. They are also essential for dog skin and coat health, cognitive function, and preventing diseases. In this blog post, we’ll outline the benefits of essential fatty acids for dogs and explain how you can add them to their diet. So what are you waiting for? Supplement your dog today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is essential fatty acids for dogs?

Because dogs and cats cannot synthesise omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids on their own, they require them in their diet.

What are essential fatty acids for dogs and their functions?

Fatty acids that the body cannot create on its own are known as essential fatty acids. They are important for heart health, cancer prevention, cognitive function, skin health, and obesity prevention, among other biological functions.

What are the 3 essential fatty acids?

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the three primary omega-3 fatty acids (DHA). Plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils are high in ALA. Fish and other seafood include DHA and EPA.

Is essential fatty acid good for dogs?

Linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, is required for the survival of ALL mammals. Lack of linoleic acid can cause a variety of health problems in animals, including poor skin and haircoat, irregular growth in young animals, and reduced immune systems.

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