From most accounts, fish oil (FO) for dogs is a good thing. It is in fact generally believed to be a very good thing. FO can be used in the treatment of a number of medical conditions and can help to prevent others. In general, it provides many benefits toward maintaining a dog’s good health and well-being. As an added bonus, dogs can generally eat the same FO supplements a human can, although the opposite may not necessarily be true.
For many supplements, taking an overdose can sometimes be of a concern. If you give your pooch too little of a certain health-enhancing substance, it may not make any noticeable difference in your pet’s well-being, but more is not always better and an overdose can at times prove to be harmful. This does not appear to be the case with oils derived from fish, although, as you will see later, there are some limits. An accidental overdose of fish-derived oil does not appear to have any toxic effects on your pet although excessive overdosing over an extended period can have some negative effects on its health. In most cases, the size of your pocketbook may dictate as much as anything else how much fish-derived oil you may want to give to your dog. It’s always best to first check with your veterinarian however, especially if your dog is recovering from a disease or is under medication. For the most part, “extra strength” FO products could be expected to be quite safe.
The Many Benefits of Fish Oil for Dogs
You may already be aware of the fact that one of the primary benefits of FO for canines is a healthier skin and a shinier coat. That is in fact probably the number one reason people purchase FO supplements for their pets as it’s good for cats as well. Another reason for purchasing FO, especially in liquid form, is that it tends to encourage finicky eaters finish their meals since almost any dog enjoys the taste that FO can add to its canned food or kibbles.
FO also has anti-inflammatory properties. It strengthens both muscle tissue and the immune system. It also gives your pet greater stamina while at the same time making it less susceptible to disease or infections. For most breeds, a daily dose of FO will reduce the amount of shedding if the excessive shedding is due to a skin problem. A breed that naturally sheds a lot and constantly won’t however stop shedding once it is on a diet that contains FO, and in fact, any reduction in shedding may be barely noticeable at all since the amount of shedding tends to be breed-specific, but if the shedding is due to dry skin or some other abnormality, FO will sometimes help to minimize it.
Benefits of the Fatty Acids Found in Fish Oil
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are known to provide a number of benefits to humans and are believed to provide similar benefits to dogs. FO contains these fatty acids. Just which benefits your canine buddy might receive and how significant those benefits might be have yet to be proven, but it would still be worthwhile to list them here since one or more of them could quite likely be applicable to your pet.
The potential benefits of omega-3 and omega-6 in FO include:
- Protection against autoimmune diseases
- Keeping blood triglycerides within proper levels
- Reducing the frequency and severity of dry and itching skin
- Promoting a shinier coat
- Providing the dog with an additional source of energy
- Reducing the likelihood of joint problems and joint discomfort
- Enhanced autoimmune activity
While dogs are seldom known to have heart attacks or stroke, omega-3 and omega-6 are known to provide a measure of protection from those disorders as well.
The Importance of EPA
When you shop for FO for canines and read the labels, some will spell out omega-3, some will spell out both omega-3 and omega-6, and perhaps some other types as well, and some labels will simply say “Essential Fatty Acids” or “EFA.” The key here is that it is mainly important that any FO supplement you purchase contains omega-3. Omega-6 fatty acids already exist in sufficient quantities in most dog foods and any addition that is provided by FO would likely be excessive, although not necessarily harmful. In other words, if the supplement you purchase emphasizes the amount of omega-6 it contains, it’s mostly hype.
Omega-3 contains two substances of relative importance, and one or both are apt to appear on a product label together with or instead of omega-3. One of these substances is eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The other is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Being aware of these two substances, especially EPA, is important since target dosages are sometimes calculated in terms of your dog’s weight and are expressed in milligrams of EPA. You need not worry too much about DHA as it will be there too, but knowing the EPA dosage can ensure one’s dog is getting enough of these fatty acids to make a difference. As a rule of thumb, the proper dosage for a dog is approximately 20 milligrams of EPA for each pound of weight.
If you don’t want to do the math or the labels on the products you are looking at aren’t very helpful, your veterinarian should be able to advise you as to the proper dosages. One of the main reasons for getting the dosages right is that it can take up to a month before you might begin to notice any difference in your canine pal such as improved health, a reduction in skin problems, or a shinier coat. If the dosages are too small, you may not see any improvement at all, or at least not until some later time.
If you take FO supplements yourself and notice that the recommended canine dosages are significantly higher, it is because they are supposed to be. A lot of pet owners believe that the dosage given for any supplement that both dogs and humans can profit from should always be lower for dogs because of the difference in body weights; when it comes to FO for dogs, that is simply not true.
Can a Dog Really Get Too Much Fish Oil?
Up to this point, the emphasis has been on making certain your pet gets enough FO, plus the fact that many pet owners simply don’t give their dogs high enough dosages of this important supplement. Giving any canine a dosage that is somewhat but not drastically above what is generally recommended will most likely do no harm, but the old adage that too much of anything tends to be not good for you can still apply here.
In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, both EPA and DHA are chemicals that can alter the function of blood platelets, which aid in the formation of blood clots. This could lead to your pooch experiencing more than the usual amount of bleeding in the event of an injury. Excessive amounts of EPA and DHA can also slow wound healing. EPA and DHA can also interfere with the inflammatory response of the immune system. EPA and DHA can however play a very positive role in responding to allergies, but too much of either substance can lower the inflammatory response functioning of the immune system to less than desirable effective levels.
The maximum recommended dosage of EPA for dogs has been determined to be slightly more than twice the recommended dosage. A dosage of 55 milligrams of EPA per pound of body weight is considered safe.