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Are omega fatty acids important in dog food?

Where do dogs get omega fatty acids?

With the exception of some omega-6 fatty acids, dogs and other mammals do not produce all that they need by themselves [source: Benson]. Fortunately, these essential fatty acids can be obtained by doing something most dogs love to do: chow down. Figuring out whether or not the food your dog eats has the sorts of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids they need can sometimes be difficult. The more premium brands of dog food tend to have them, and they also display that fact prominently on the packaging as a marketing tool [source: Schrage].

But that's not always the case. "[Omega fatty acids] may or may not be listed," says Duffy Jones, a veterinarian at Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital in Atlanta. "Since they are derived from protein, they may not be listed, but the protein source will be listed." When scanning the ingredients list of a dog food package, look for poultry like chicken, turkey or duck, as well as soy, canola oil and corn as providers of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s, on the other hand, come from fish, fish oil, flaxseed and walnut oil. When these ingredients aren't listed, look out for a specific listing of the fatty acid itself, which can be DHA, for docosahexaenoic acid, or EPA, for eicosapentaenoic acid [source: Benson].

According to Benson of Petplan, essential fatty acids are absorbed into a dog's bloodstream through a fairly routine process, one dictated by the fact that many are found in fats and oils. "After leaving the stomach, the fats ingested in foods are emulsified in the duodenum and small intestine by bile and then broken down by pancreatic enzymes into fatty acids and glycerol," he says. "Once split into these component parts, fatty acids can cross the intestinal barrier to enter the bloodstream."

So how much omega-3 and omega-6 should your pups be getting? Keep reading to find out.