What do itchy, dry skin, sore, inflamed joints and hairballs on your carpet all have in common? Quite possibly, there is a pet in your home who is deficient in omega-3 fats.
Scratching, redness and a burning sensation on the skin or in the joints are evidence of inflammation. Many sources attest that omega-3 fatty acids are critical to the body’s anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
Not all omega-3 fats are the same. Some come from plants such as flax. These are primarily ALA which must be converted to EPA and DHA by an enzyme to be useful. Cats do not have this converting enzyme and for dogs this conversion is inefficient. Thus, a better source of omega-3 fats for carnivores would be an animal tissue. Think about what would occur in nature. Would a cat catch a fish or gather flax?
According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition,” EPA and DHA are more biologically potent than ALA." Fish (salmon, anchovy, sardine, cod liver) and krill oil are the most commonly used sources of these naturally anti-inflammatory nutrients.
Consider adding one of these sources to your pet’s food every day to prevent or decrease inflammation. A proper oil balance contributes to healthy skin and coat and decreases shedding. If your cat ingests less hair when grooming he is less likely to vomit hairballs. Also, a combination of healthy oil and pumpkin helps hair to pass. This is much preferable to hairball remedies which coat the intestines with petroleum jelly and prevent absorption of nutrients.
Do all pet diets require the addition of omega-3 fatty acids?
Unfortunately most American dogs and cats consume primarily processed food devoid of healthy EPA and DHA. Even those lucky pets who consume a balanced, prey-concept raw diet eat primarily common meats such as chicken or beef and not fish.
Dry kibble and canned fish diets and those which add omega-3s are heat processed and sit on warehouse shelves for lengthy periods which is damaging to fatty acids.
It is possible to cause more harm than good if you choose and utilize these oils improperly. Fish oil can become rancid easily and become a source of trans fats which have been linked to the development of cancer. Healthy fish oil should not smell fishy. Some manufacturers do not distill their oil properly and it is rancid when you first open it. An open bottle of fish oil should be refrigerated and tossed if not gone within three months.
Consider the environmental impact on your omega-3 source choice. Many salmon are factory-farmed and susceptible to contamination with mercury, PCB’s, or toxic metals such as lead or arsenic. Check to see that your choice has been tested by an independent laboratory. Anchovies and sardines are “bottom-feeders." There is less accumulation of toxins in these smaller fish.
The oil from the body of the fish is higher in omega-3s than the oil from the liver of the cod. However, cod liver oil can be a good source of vitamin A and D, if the natural vitamins have been preserved during the distillation process. Some manufacturers actually replace the lost vitamins with synthetic versions. Excessive synthetic vitamin A can be toxic. This is why cod liver oil users are often cautioned to not use it daily.
So, know your cod liver oil. You could choose cod liver oil in the winter in Wisconsin to bump up your reserves of Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin). This oil may be a good choice for cancer patients due to the Vitamin A and D content.
Perhaps the best choice for your dog or cat is the same omega-3 source that nourishes our great whales. Krill are a type of plankton, billions of which fill our oceans. They are considered a more sustainable source of omega-3s than fish. The phospholipids in krill oil improve the absorption of EPA and DHA making it more potent than fish oil. It contains Vitamins A, D and E. An added bonus is that krill oil is high in astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant that prevents oxidation of the oil and is healthy for those consuming it.
Proper use of omega-3 fats may prevent or decrease the need for steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which are heavily used to treat allergies, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and other chronic disorders in our pets. It’s an easy choice to combat inflammation with a healthy, natural food rather than a drug which has potential serious side effects.
Use these suggestions to obtain a healthy omega-3 supplement to mix into your pet’s food bowl every day!