Too little, too much or just right?
One way to figure out whether your dog is getting enough omega fatty acids is to take a close look at his coat. If it appears dull, then there is a chance that your canine friend is lacking some omega fatty acids. But that's not the only potential problem when a dog's diet doesn't have sufficient omega fatty acids.
According to Benson -- who says it is fairly rare for dogs on normal commercial diets to receive an insufficient amount of omega-6 fatty acids -- negative issues that can arise are an increase in skin infections, muscle weakness, a decrease in reproductive capabilities and a lack of coordination. Age is also a factor when it comes to the impact of an omega fatty acid deficiency. "If they don't get enough when they're a puppy, then nerves and the brain may not develop," says Jones, the Atlanta veterinarian. "If it's later [in life], then they may have cellular dysfunction."
By and large, dogs routinely do get enough omega-6 fatty acids, so the problem is more a lack of omega-3s. Supplementing a dog's diet with omega-3 fatty acids is possible and fairly easy because adding fish oil to their regular food is simple. As a basic rule of thumb, many vets suggest that the ideal ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is about 5 to 1. If a supplement is deemed necessary, expect it to be in the range of between 40 and 100 mg per day, with senior dogs more likely to need it than puppies.
But going the route of supplementation also can have some drawbacks, especially in trying to maintain your pet's ideal weight. "Excess supplementation results in the consumption of too much fat and oil, which may lead to obesity and pancreatitis," Benson says.
For more information on the benefits of omega fatty acids and your dog's diet, click to the next page.
- Benson, Jules. Vice president of veterinary services at Petplan pet insurance company and longtime practicing vet. Personal correspondence. Oct. 13, 2011.
- Jones, Duffy. Veterinarian at Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital. Personal correspondence. Oct. 14, 2011.
- Krestel-Rickert, Deena. Pet food consultant at Pettec, LLC. Personal correspondence. Oct. 14, 2011.
- Schrage, Andrew. Editor of MoneyCrashers.com. Personal correspondence. Oct. 13, 2011.
- Thixton, Susan. Author of book, "Buyer Beware: The crimes, lies and truth about pet food." Personal correspondence. Oct. 11, 2011.