What’s All the Hype about Fish Oil?
EPA (or eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (or docosahexaenoic acid) are omega-3, polyunsaturated fatty acids. EPA and DHA provide structure and function to all cell membranes. DHA is structurally important for brain and nerve cells, the retinal cells of the eye and skin cells.
EPA and DHA are important in moderating the inflammatory response of the immune system. This “anti-inflammatory” activity helps decrease the severity of symptoms associated with allergic or auto-immune conditions like allergic skin and ear infections and arthritic joint disease in dogs. EPA also blocks fat inflammatory hormones that promote Type 2 diabetes.1 EPA and DHA also provide “anti-obesity effects.”2 Yet only a few of commercial dog foods contain significant amounts of EPA and DHA.
Many dog owners already know the value of these fatty acids and supplement their own diets with EPA and DHA. Veterinarians are more commonly recommending EPA and DHA supplementation for cats and dogs to improve coat quality and treat inflammatory skin, joint and intestinal conditions.
Fish oil is the richest source of preformed EPA and DHA. Sea alga contains very high amounts of DHA but do not contain EPA. Flaxseed and canola oil contain omega-3 fatty acids that can be converted to EPA and DHA. Unfortunately, dogs do not convert EPA or DHA from these sources very efficiently and require large amounts of omega-3’s to produce adequate anti-inflammatory levels of EPA. Dogs do not convert seed oils to DHA but to DHP. The DHP is converted to DHA in the retina and other nerve tissues. The efficiency of that conversion is unknown. Experiments in dogs comparing fish oil to seed oils have documented the superior effect of fish oil.
Fish body oil is preferred to fish liver oil as a source of EPA and DHA. Cod and other fish liver oils contain excessive levels of vitamin D that can cause serious bone and organ tissue disorders in dogs. Fish body oils that contain generous doses of vitamin E are the preferred supplement. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation and dose.
~Dr Ken Tudor
THE DOG DIETITIAN