Every dog needs key minerals and nutrients in order to be healthy, the American Kennel Club reports. Some of the biggest essentials for a healthy puppy include vitamins A, C, D, E, K, amino acids and digestive enzymes. The market features dozens of products based on these and other important nutrients or microelements.
Fish oil supplements have become quite popular but are they a good choice for your dog? Are they safe? The answer depends on a number of important considerations.
Fish Oil for Dogs: General Safety Considerations
The benefits of fish oil for humans have been studied extensively. It is a source of Omega-3 fatty acids that play a vital role in a number of physiological processes. As far as our canine companions are concerned, however, things happen to be a little bit different.
In humans, a good Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio is vital to maintaining cardiovascular health. Cats and dogs don’t have problems with atherosclerosis, which is why fish oil can’t be considered particularly beneficial for them this way. Still, the fatty acid should be a part of a balanced diet and it could also be utilized to provide relief from some canine medical conditions.
There is some evidence that the supplement could be beneficial for the treatment of skin allergies and arthritis. The benefits are somewhat limited but still, the market features an array of fish oil supplements for pups.
As far as safety goes, the dosage is key. While the right amount of fish oil could provide nutritional benefits (especially in dogs on a diet that consists of high grain foods), too much of the substance could contribute to side effects.
High Dosage and Side Effects
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. Whenever a dog receives too much of the supplement, however, platelet function will be altered.
Platelets are blood cells produced in the bone marrow. They play a role in the normal clotting function. Excessive fish oil supplementation will decrease platelet function and the ability of the body to form clots. When injured, such dogs will suffer more blood loss that could potentially become life-threatening.
Apart from slowing down the clotting process, excessive amounts of fish oil could also contribute to slower wound healing.
Inflammation at a wound site is important because it promotes the migration of white blood cells. White blood cells are a part of the immune system and they also trigger the healing process. In the absence of an inflammatory response, this mechanism isn’t going to get activated. Wound healing will be prolonged and the effect will be especially pronounced in the first five days after the injury.
The threat of infection is also going to be increased because white blood cells combat pathogens and prevent them from replicating in the body or at a wound site.
Other Problems Related to Fish Oil Supplementation in Dogs
Apart from the inherent dosage dangers, there could be other risks stemming from fish oil supplementation. The quality of the supplement itself and its origin could be jeopardizing your dog.
The fat of fish is where toxins get stored. Fish oil could be contaminated with heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, and lead. Mercury is also found in fish fat quite often. All of these contaminants are a result of pollution. Even if you opt for high-quality fish oil derived from ocean fish, there’s still some risk of exposing your four-legged pal to an array of dangerous contaminants.
Contemporary reality could be making fish oil dangerous in other ways.
The problems at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan didn’t leave the ocean unaffected. The power plant was hit by a tsunami in 2011. At the time, a nuclear reactor meltdown had occurred. Radioactive water seeped into the Pacific Ocean, affecting many of its inhabitants.
Some of the ocean-derived supplements available on the market today could be contaminated because marine life was heavily affected in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. While supplement manufacturers carry out extensive safety tests and the quantity of radiation is potentially going to be small, it’s still a good idea to be cautious.
All of this doesn’t mean you should avoid all supplements. Carrying out thorough research and knowing where your dog’s fish oil is coming from will be essential for maintaining good health and the happiness of your pet.
What Is the Best Way to Give Your Dog Safe Fish Oil?
A balanced diet is a great choice when it comes to making sure your dog is getting all of the nutrients it needs.
A meat-based diet that’s free of grains still ranks as a top choice as far as balanced nutrition goes. You should also avoid vegetable oils because they’re rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids promote an inflammatory response and they shouldn’t be included in the natural diet of a dog.
Grass-fed meat is the best option for your pup because it features an optimal Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio.
If you want to choose a good supplement for your dog, here’s an alternative to the traditional fish oil products – phytoplankton.
Phytoplankton – A Better Supplementation Option
Phytoplankton comes from the ocean but it’s derived from clusters of algae and bacteria. It features much higher quantities of Omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil.
The molecules of phytoplankton are small enough to ensure absorption in dogs. Very often, fish oil supplements aren’t designed in a way to ensure optimal absorption, meaning you’ll be throwing your money out the window.
What’s even more important is the fact that phytoplankton doesn’t have to come from the ocean. It can be “grown” in filtered water, allowing producers to reduce the risk of contamination.
To sum it up, fish oil can be safe for dogs in small quantities but you have to be careful about the origin of the supplement. Ensuring your diet is eating a balanced diet is a much better way to make sure that they’re getting sufficient quantities of Omega-3. If you are keen on supplementation, a phytoplankton product could be a much better choice than fish oil.