As with us humans, changes in the fields of diet and medicine are allowing dogs to live longer than ever. As dogs grow old, they begin to experience age-related diseases that can impair their quality of life. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are the fundamental in maintaining good overall health, but can Omega 3 supplementation provide any additional benefits to your dog?
One of the most common and earliest issues dogs experience as they age is joint pain, also known as arthritis. Joint pain can impair a dog’s ability to move around as they once did, so owners see a decline in activity and play as the dog ages. Omega 3 fatty acid supplements can reduce joint pain, and people often see their pets pick up the pace again after just a few weeks of being on supplements.
Another benefit of Omega 3 fatty acid supplements is an improvement of coat health and reduction of skin inflammation. Aging can take a big toll on a dog’s kidney health, contributing to renal disease. Omega 3 fatty acid supplements are often used to reduce the effects of renal disease, which can increase the lifespan of dogs afflicted with it.
Heart health is another issue that can be life threatening for dogs as they age (and sometimes before that). Omega 3 fatty acid supplements can replace eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) deficiency related to heart failure, as well as improve appetite and prevent muscle loss. Finally, Omega 3 fatty acid supplements are used frequently to address cognitive health, especially recognition of known people and other animals. It may also help reduce pattern behaviors (excessive licking, pacing, etc.) dogs develop as their cognitive abilities diminish.
However, in a recent veterinary study, researchers found there were some potential negative effects of Omega 3 fatty acid supplement use for dogs. The major cause of these negative effects was incorrect dosage. Research confirms Omega 3 fatty acid supplements can cause gastrointestinal adverse effects like diarrhea and vomiting. A high-fat diet at any age can create these issues, which is why such effects are present in a diet inclusive of Omega 3 fatty acid supplements. Along this same line, dogs on a supplement diet can be at risk for weight gain if they are taking large amounts of Omega 3 fatty acid supplements as required for treatment on top of a high-fat diet.
More research needs to be done to determine if there is any interference with the immune system or glycemic control and insulin sensitivity. Current studies are conflicting. There is also a potential of Vitamin E deficiency but again the research available at this time is insufficient to conclude this is a side effect of Omega 3 fatty acid supplement usage.
While it has become popular for pet foods to market themselves as having joint or skin benefits, they often contain far less omega 3 nutrition included than is necessary to treat these conditions. They are also made as a one size fits all diet, so the supplement amount may or may not address your dog’s needs correctly.
The best way to introduce Omega 3 fatty acid supplements into your dog’s diet is to call your veterinarian. It’s always important to discuss any supplement usages with your veterinarian, especially if your dog is already being treated for disease or is considered part of an at risk population. Your veterinarian will be able to prevent dosage inaccuracies, nutrient-drug interference, and misdiagnoses. Beyond that, your veterinarian will be able to recommend supplements that accurately address your dog’s needs with minimal risk to your dog’s health.