Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements for Your Pet

One of our fine pharmacy students wrote this article this month
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements for Your Pet

Jamie Strunk
Pharm D. Candidate
Nova Southeastern University

Omega 3 fatty acids are important for your pet’s health and include: ALA (alpha linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).  Cats are not able to convert ALA to EPA and DHA.  Dogs are able to convert ALA to EPA and DHA but their ability to do this decreases and becomes inefficient with age. Therefore, all cats and older or sick dogs can benefit from EPA and DHA supplementation supplied directly from fish oils.
To determine how much Omege-3 fatty acids your pet need it is important to look at the ration of Omege-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.  Current recommendations are for a ratio of 5:1 to 10:1.  Most pet foods contain much more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3 fatty acids because Omega-6 fatty acids, from corn, safflower, sunflower, canola, olive oil, are usually cheaper and more readily available than Omega 3 fatty acids from flax, fish, hemp, and walnuts. Without Omega-3 supplementation most pet diets will have a ratio of about 20:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3.
Indications for the use of Omega-3 fatty acids include arthritis, skin conditions, allergies, autoimmune conditions, cancer, heart problems, inflammatory diseases (colitis, inflammatory bowel disease), preventing atopy (allergies to inhaled substances such as molds and pollens), eye development, brain development, and to decrease cholesterol.  Some of the benefits of Omega-3 supplementation are control of inflammation, easing arthritis, benefit to the heart and kidney, and improving mood and trainability.
Your pet can benefit quickly from Omega-3 supplementation; however it may take about 3-4 months for you to notice a difference.  This is because the pet’s body will change from the inside out.
There are few side effects associated with fatty acid supplementation.  The most common side effect is diarrhea which can often be prevented by starting at a low dose and gradually increasing the dose.  A rare but serious side effect is pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, pain, and dehydration.  Other possible side effects include weight gain since fatty acids do contain calories and “fishy” breath since most fatty acid supplements contain fish oils.

1.  Accessed on March 24, 2007.
2.  Accessed on March 24, 2007.


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