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Omegas. We've all heard about them. And how important they are to our and our pets' health. But what are omegas? Why are they so good for our dogs? And, what's the difference between omega-3, 6 and 9?
At the most basic level, omegas are a type of fatty acid (also simply called fats) that we and our dogs (all mammals, really) need to have in our diet to support the healthy function of our bodies.
There are several types of fatty acids, but the most important are commonly referred to as "the three omegas": omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9.
We dare you to pronounce those last two full names! But, seriously, all you really need to know is that these are the three most important types of omega-3s your dog needs to be healthy.
Each has its own role in the body and is often discussed separately, but for the purposes of giving you an overview of omegas for dogs, we're rounding them up into just omega-3s.
In the natural world, sources of omega-3, in particular, include plant-based oils like flax seeds, soybeans and walnuts, as well as animal foods, primarily fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines. Algae is another excellent source of omega-3s.
Sources of omega-6 include soybeans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds and cashews.
Omegas for dogs are purported to have a number of health benefits ranging from keeping your dog from getting depressed to being good for arthritis and preventing heart disease. We turned to the research to see what's been proven.
A 2010 study of 127 dogs with osteoarthritis in one or more joints found that giving dogs food that was precisely formulated with a controlled omega-3-to-6 ratio that included an increase of omega-3s and a decrease in the omega-6-to-3 ratio boosted the dogs' quality of life. Dogs fed the test food had a significantly improved ability to rise from a resting position and play at 6 weeks. And, they had improved ability to walk at 12 and 24 weeks, compared to the dogs given the commercial food.
A second study, in 2016, in which fish-based omega-3s (specifically EPA and DHA) was given to 78 dogs with osteoarthritis, demonstrated relief of discomfort, lameness and joint severity after 84 days.
You'll find a blend of omega fatty acids in Veterinary Formula Clinical Care's Ultimate Joint Health supplement, which is formulated specifically to keep your dog's joints flexible and healthy.
In a study of 24 Boxers (dogs, not guys punching each other) with a type of heart disease called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), fish-based omega-3 fatty acids reduced the arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) of dogs that received it for 6 weeks.
The robust mix of omega-3s and omega-6s in Veterinary Formula Clinical Care's Immune Defense supplement supports your dog's immune response and helps prevent future illnesses.
In a 2016 study conducted by a researcher with Nestle Purina, 24 anxious Labradors were given increased levels of fish oil for 12 weeks. At the end of the time period, 87% of the dogs showed lowered heart rates and reduced cortisol (a stress hormone) in situations designed to cause anxiety in the dogs. Specifically, these dogs jumped, paced, spun and barked by about 40 to 50% less than when exposed to stressful situations in the same time period (12 weeks) before receiving the supplement.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association determined that giving Beagle puppies diets supplemented with higher levels of DHA in their first year tested higher when in came to various performance tasks than puppies that were fed diets with low or moderate levels of DHA. Researchers concluded that DHA supplements helped with improved cognitive, memory, psychomotor, immunologic and retinal functions in growing dogs.
A 2011 pilot study that looked at the use of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in dogs with atopic dermatitis (eczema) found that the overall lipid content in the dogs given the supplements increased – a good thing. The researchers concluded the two omegas have potential as a long-term supplemental treatment for dogs with atopic dermatitis.
Veterinary Formula's Clinical Care Skin Health & Itch Relief supplements contain several sources of omegas to help keep your dog's skin healthy.
In particular, a 2015 study found that feeding mice diets high in omega-9 (referred to as monounsaturated fat in the study) improved their insulin sensitivity. The study also found decreased inflammation in the mice, further proof that omegas can help the treatment and prevention of inflammatory-related diseases.