Fish oil has been recognized for its health benefits for humans for centuries. Did you know that your pets can benefit from it too? But there is a down side. Here’s what you need to know to decide if you should give fish oil to your dogs and cats.
What makes fish oil good?
It has omega-3 fatty acids, essential to building cells, providing energy and decreasing inflammation. Cats, dogs and humans need to eat foods with these fatty acids because their bodies don’t produce enough of them. They’re found mostly in cold water fish like salmon and tuna, so giving these supplements provides Omega-3s to the body.
Fish oil has two types of omega-3s; eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) a fatty acid that signals the body to decrease inflammation, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a fatty acid that helps build neurons; good for brains and eyes. Both of these fatty acids can help your pet.
What kinds of conditions does fish oil help with?
The anti-inflammatory properties of this supplement decrease issues such as:
- Skin allergies. Omega-3s can decrease the irritation from allergies and itchy skin, as well as those annoying hot spots.
- Arthritis. The anti-inflammatory properties can work in a similar way as NSAIDS, medicines given for pain, easing the discomfort of arthritic joints.
- Heart health. Fish oil has been found to help with abnormal heart rhythms and decreasing triglyceride levels.
- Cancer. It may inhibit tumor growth by keeping the cells from reproducing and the tumor from growing.
In addition to decreasing inflammation, the DHA in fish oil is important to developing the brain of puppies and kittens. In older animals, it can decrease the effects of cognitive dysfunction as well.
What are the things to watch out for?
Your pet may get a fishy odor on their breath or have flaky skin; possibly annoying but not harmful. They may also have gastric issues like upset stomach or diarrhea. More serious conditions are also possible, such as:
Decreased clotting. Fish oil, especially at higher doses, can keep clots from forming so your pet could be more likely to bleed when injured or undergoing surgery.
Slowed wound healing. Since fish oil decreases inflammation, it slows down the activities of white blood cells and their function in wound healing, especially in the first few days of healing.
Slowed response to infection. Inflammation helps the body fight off infection. Decreased response caused by fish oil can slow that response.
Overdosing. It is possible to give too much of this supplement to your pet, so be sure to check with your veterinarian for dosing information and to make sure the possible side effects are worth it.
How should you give fish oil to your pet?
Supplements in the form of capsules or liquids are readily available online and in stores. You’ll want to check doses and quality of the type you choose since supplements are not well regulated.
You can feed fresh fish to get the benefits, as well. However the amount of omega-3s can be really difficult to measure from fresh fish so if your pet has specific needs, it may be hard to get a consistent effect this way.
Some commercial foods have fish/fish oil listed as an ingredient. The preservatives necessary for dry food make the quality and effectiveness much less dependable and can even make it harmful. Feeding commercial foods with fish oil is not likely to be helpful.
I’ve just touched the surface of what fish oil with its Omega-3s can do for your pets. For more information, please read these articles.
Should you give fish oil supplements to your pet?
These supplements are easy to come by and not terribly expensive. They have quite a few benefits for helping your pet be more healthy and happy. But there is a down side. You’ll want to consider carefully to see if you would like to try it out on your pets.