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Oils & Omega 3

By: Mia Lund

Fish Oil, Krill Oil, Squid Oil and Other Oils,
Fish oil, Krill and Squid Oil are some of the very few supplements we would recommend to include in the feeding plan for pets with no specific health problems. These oils may be also be helpful for treating conditions with an excessive inflammatory response like allergies and skin problems associated with them. Please note though, that a necessary level of inflammatory response must be maintained to protect the body and excessive amounts of EPA and DHA may interfere with that process.

Fish Oil:
In general fish body oil or other Omega 3 supplements would be needed when the meat you feed is mainly from animals that are grain fed and grain finished as that means you need to balance with more Omega 3 versus 6. Dogs and cats that are eating mostly wild caught meat as well as some fish/seafood wouldn’t really need it. If you feed truly grass-fed/pastured and grass-finished, or wild caught part of the time, then you could choose to only give oils when you are feeding commercially raised meats. Cattle fed primarily grass, significantly increase the omega-3 content of the meat and also produce a more favorable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio than grain-fed beef. Grass fed beef for example is also higher in precursors for Vitamin A and E and some cancer fighting antioxidants. Numerous studies have shown that cattle finished on pasture produce higher levels of α-tocopherol (Vit E) in the final meat product than cattle fed high concentrate diets like in feedlots.

Fish oil doesn’t need converting in the body from ALA (C18:3n-3, αLA, α-linolenic Acid) to EPA/DHA like plant oils do. Dogs’ conversion rate is virtually none as they lack the metabolic pathways for such conversion.. (Humans’ conversion rate is not very high either, in general less than 5%.)
The recommended ratio for Omegas 6/3 is believed to be around 4:1. Dogs cannot make their own Omega 3 fatty acids. This is why dogs have a dietary need for Omega 3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (C20:5n-3,EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (C22:6n-3,DHA).

Human grade oils are preferred to feed because in general, pet products are not held to the same stringent production and disclosure standards as human grade products. However a draw back with human grade oils is that they often have additives, like plants, flavorings or soy in them. Best look for an oil that has just the oil and the gel cap. So avoid vitamin E (which is usually soy) and tocopherols or mixed tocopherols (which are almost always soy). Tocopherols are fat soluble antioxidants (Vit E) which used to be mainly from wheat germ oil but now are mostly soy. Also please check that the products are purified to remove contaminants like mercury for example and that steps have been taken to prevent the oil going rancid.

Measure the dose to give by the size of the dog/cat. A suggested maintenance dose (to bring Omega 3:Omega 6 ratios into balance) is around 100mg combined EPA/DHA per 5kg (10lb) of dog. For cats, halve that amount to 50mg. So a 50kg (100lb) dog would get 1000mg EPA/DHA total, daily. A typical gel cap will contain 300mg combined EPA/DHA. Check the back of the bottle, for the combined EPA/DHA and go by the gel cap, not the serving. So please note: the total amount of oil is not what we go by, but the amount of combined EPA/DHA in the oil. Be wary of supplements that list only “Omega-3s” instead of specifying “EPA+DHA”. Some may also have Omega 6 in them which you totally don’t want more of.

Some concern with fish oils is the oil being rancid. Oils from spray bottles may go rancid quite quickly so look for caps, and store in your fridge... Rancid oil smells off, throw out if that is the case.
If you feed a bigger dose of fish body oil for a longer period of time, you might need to supplement with Vit E, but best not derived from soy but other oils.

Krill Oil:
Krill oil is also a good alternative for dogs and cats ( but it gets quite expensive to feed in bigger doses). For Krill Oil, you also go by the combined EPA/DHA on the bottle. However, since Krill Oil is a Phospholipid and not a Triglyceride (Triglycerides are soluble in fat only) and therefore more bio-available than fish oil, it’s said that you need less of the EPA/DHA combination.

Krill oil is soluble in water (and fat) and doesn’t require bile to break it down, and because the oil mixes easily with stomach contents, it reduces any reflux or nausea that can be experienced with fish oils and anyone with digestive issues or liver or gallbladder problems may utilize it better. Some pets tolerate krill oil better than fish oils and with others it may be the opposite. Also if you see remnants of capsules in stools, pierce the capsules instead and squeeze the oil out on food, try another brand or look for bottled oil instead.

It is said that fatty acids from krill oil are absorbed by the brain, heart and liver more efficiently than fatty acids from triglycerides (fish oil). This explains why you may require less krill oil than fish oil to achieve the same result even though the combined EPA/DHA amount may be significantly less than for fish oil. A guess is that you can give 1/3rd or so of the dose you would give for fish oil. For 1/3rd it would be around 33mg/5 kg (11lbs) dog. (66mg for 10 kg (22lbs) dog and 198 mg for a 30 kg (66lbs) dog.

Since krill oil contains Astaxanthin which is a natural antioxidant, you don’t need to worry about vitamin E while giving it. The real benefit of the Astaxanthin in krill oil is to provide antioxidant protection to the oil itself, keeping it fresh much longer than vitamin E could.

Squid Oil:
Squid oil has a good balance of EPA and DHA with low toxin levels and the population of squid is rising steadily. Squid live only about one to two years and their short lifespan makes them very adaptable to changing ocean conditions. Squid is a rich source of EPA and DHA, and, because it lacks bones and is low on the food chain, tests have shown squid to be free of any detectable levels of toxins. So Calamari oil (squid oil) is said to be a good and pure source for Omega 3 and is sustainable as well!

Algae Oil:
Algal oil is an oil made from certain marine algae and is a sustainable alternative to fish oil. Like fish oil, algal oil is used as a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Algae are naturally high in DHA content, however algal oil contains only a small amount of anti-inflammatory EPA Check it’s non GMO before buying.

Phytoplankton is rich in minerals and omega fats, but mainly EPA. Another drawback with phytoplankton is that it’s expensive … and supplies only a minuscule amount of the fats needed.

Green Lipped Mussel Oil:
Green lipped mussels are sustainably farmed in New Zealand. Green lipped mussels eat phytoplankton, which can also be sustainably grown on land in clean water.

The green lipped mussel is unique among all oils. It’s e rich in ETA, which isn’t found in significant amounts in other oils. ETA is a powerful anti-inflammatory fat that’s starting to get a lot of attention from researchers. GLM Oil is also more bioavailable than fish oil, so a smaller amount will get the same results. Green lipped mussel oil is also rich in magnesium and zinc, which are co-factors for the conversion of omega-3 fats.

Other Oils:
Cod Liver oil We do not recommend, as it's high in Vitamin A and D which are only fat soluble so there may be a risk of Vit A toxicity as this vitamin is not excreted in the urine. Giving a high enough dosages of cod liver oil to supplement EPA & DHA on a regular basis could be risky for that reason. The safe upper limit for vitamins D and A for a 10 kg dog is 14.6lg cholecal-ciferol (584 international units) and 11,804 retinol equivalents of vitamin A.

Coconut oil is not a good alternative to fish body oil in spite of it being touted as the “miracle cure” for everything. Here are the reasons why:

#1. It’s a plant oil and therefore not species appropriate for dogs or cats. The fatty acids in plant based oils are in the form of ALA, alpha-linolenic acid, which needs to be converted to DHA and EPA to be of nutritional benefit. Dogs don't have the metabolic pathways to do that. (The same goes for flax oil and other plant oils)

#2. It has no Omega 3 but only Omega 6 ( linoleic acid), which is not beneficial since Omega 6 is abundant in most foods, and when too much Omega 6 is ingested it can create inflammation, pain, and increase illnesses. We always endeavor to balance this with giving Omega 3 like in fish body oil or by being mindful, if possible, of reducing the amount of meats that are high in Omega 6.

#3. It’s very high in saturated fat, in fact it’s over 80% saturated fat and may put unwanted weight on your pet: 1 tbsp.(13.6g) coconut oil = 12g saturated fat.

#4. Coconut Oil is inflammatory and may cause leaky gut, stomach upset and diarrhea.
Lauric acid (which makes up about half of coconut oil) is worse for inflammation than any other saturated fatty acid. Palmitic acid (also found in coconut oil) has a similar effect.

Coconut oil will however have it’s uses for topical application due to it’s lauric acid which provides a good antimicrobial/preservation and you can use it as a moisturizer and carrier oil.

Flax oil is not appropriate either as it is of course also a plant oil and not readily bio-available for cats/dogs.

The most common signs of fatty acid deficiency are:

• Dry skin and dandruff.
• Coat issues, lots of shedding and thin or greasy hair.
• Allergy symptoms, itching and eczema.
• Slow wound healing.
• Ear infections
• Inflammations

Consult with your vet before giving fish oils to a diabetic pet. Also it’s advised to discontinue any oils before surgery of any kind because of the blood thinning effect of these oils. Fish oil can prolong the time it takes blood to clot, so if your pet is going to have surgery, it’s best to stop the oil for at least five days before and five days after the operation. (Check with your vet).

The National Research Council has established a safe upper limit of EPA and DHA for dogs. It has yet to establish one for cats. Translating the data suggests that a dose between 20-55mg combined EPA and DHA per pound of body weight is safe for dogs.

Sources and links for your own research (but best to be critical of the ones promoting their own brands)
A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain- fed beef

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