Omega-3 for Pets: A Healthy Choice for a Happy Life

A golden retriever puppy eating kibble with Barlean's flaxseed oil in it.

Before we start detailing the features and benefits of Omega-3 for pets, here’s something important to remember about cats and dogs: They don’t know what a placebo effect is.

Now just in case you’re not sure what a placebo effect is, it’s when a drug works just because you think it will, (a powerful reminder of how important your thoughts are when it comes to healing).

 

A placebo is actually a dummy pill—an inert substance with no active ingredients, but that can “improve” your symptoms anyway, just because you believe it will. Scientists have convincingly demonstrated that placebos can have real effects on people, especially when those people have a strong faith in the value of the drug and the doctor who is prescribing it.

Dogs, however, don’t have any belief system about the medicines they take. Give an arthritic dog an arthritis medicine and he either stops limping or he doesn’t.

And here’s something to know about the doctors who treat those dogs and cats we love so much: They’re a lot more open-minded than the doctors who treat human patients. As a rule, dog and cat doctors are not nearly as plugged into the medical-pharmaceutical establishment as are doctors who treat humans. Vets look to see what works and then they use it. It’s a far more practical approach to health. 

Which brings us to Omega-3 for pets.

I’ve happily lived with multiple dogs for almost 30 years, so I’ve had a fair amount of experience with both animals and their doctors. I recently did an informal survey of a half-dozen vets in my neighborhood, all of whom have very busy practices with very positive Yelp reviews. I asked each of them what non-pharmaceutical supplements they routinely recommend for their animal patients. Every one of them mentioned Omega-3 for dogs and cats  as one of their top recommendations. The others that were mentioned frequently were glucosamine/chondroitin for joints, probiotics for the gut, and CBD for just about everything!

Now, granted, my informal survey is hardly a scientific study. And the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with dog and cat lovers over the past 30 years don’t constitute a scientific study either. But that doesn’t mean the information you pick up isn’t valuable. Consider the following.

California, where I live, is a very dog-friendly state. Dog owners talk to each other, gather in dog parks, and generally share information freely and frequently. One of the biggest concerns I hear among dog people is arthritis and pain. Whether in a small breed like a French bulldog or in a larger breed like a Golden retriever, joint pain—as evidenced by limping, wincing, or a difficulty moving—is one of the most frequent concerns dog people have. And one of the substances that seems to help the most is—not surprisingly—Omega-3 fatty acids for dogs.

The reason for this is surprisingly simple and has to do with inflammation, one of the cornerstones of practically every degenerative disease that plagues humans or animals. While inflammation isn’t technically a disease, it can accompany, promote or intensify almost any disease you can name. A healthy inflammatory response is a vital aspect of good health, for both two-legged and four-legged animals alike. Here’s more on why that is. 

We have in our bodies interesting little hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids (also known as prostaglandins). Some of these are inflammatory (i.e. series 1 and 3) and some are anti-inflammatory (series 2). People are often surprised to learn that we need both, but we do.

The inflammatory response is part of healing. When you puncture your skin, the area often gets red and swollen. That’s inflammation. White blood cells surround the puncture area trying to knock out any microbe that could get in and cause an infection. This is exactly what you want to happen. It’s a demonstration of how inflammation can be a useful part of the body’s defenses as well as its healing response.

But here’s the problem: We need our anti-inflammatory and inflammatory “armies” to be balanced, but all too often they’re not.

Omega-6 fats are what’s known as “pro-inflammatory,” meaning they are more likely to stimulate the pathways that lead to the release of inflammatory eicosanoids. Omega-3s, on the other hand, are “anti-inflammatory,” meaning they are more likely to stimulate the pathways that lead to the release of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. The modern diet—both for humans and animals—is wildly imbalanced in favor of omega-6. Research shows that we consume at least 16 times more omega-6 than omega-3 in our diet, which is partly a function of the fact that omega-6s are used in just about every processed food on the planet. And yes, this includes dog food.

And Omega-6s aren’t the only culprit. Medicines, artificial ingredients in the food supply, polluted air/water, and even stress can all contribute mightily to inflammation. Combine all these factors with the general wear and tear on joints that happens over the life of an animal, and it’s easy to see why the anti-inflammatory army is so easily overwhelmed.

That’s precisely why Omega-3s are so critical for the health of your pet.

Omega-3s “feed” the anti-inflammatory pathways in your body, helping to balance all the factors that promote a healthy—rather than unbalanced—inflammatory response.

And if that were not enough reason to add Omega-3 supplements (like Barlean’s Flax Oil for Animals) to your pet’s food, here’s another: hair, skin and nails. Omega-3 for pets have been shown in research to protect against sun damage (1), guard against red, dry or itchy skin, and improve coat (2,3). 

I’ve been personally adding Barlean’s Flax Oil for Animals to the diet of all my animal family members for at least 20 of the past 30 years. They eat a diet of mainly raw meat supplemented with high-quality kibble, a good squirt or two of Barlean’s Flax Oil for Animals, and a sprinkling of probiotics.

Thanks, in part, to using an Omega-3 supplement for dogs, they’re healthy, they’re happy, and their coats are beautiful. And they move around perfectly, with no signs of pain or stiffness.

 

cooper with bow

Like I said, that may not be an objective scientific survey about the benefits of Omega 3 for pets—but it’s all I’ve got, and it’s good enough for me. And, apparently, for my dogs!

Your pets deserve the best. Help them lead happy, healthy lives with our Omega-3 fatty acids for dogs and cats.

 

REFERENCES

1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21569104

2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21088453

3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3133503/

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