Which Fish Oil Is Best For Your Dog?
In a sea of fish oil supplements — pardon our pun — it can get tricky figuring out which one is best for your dog. From your regular fish oil to the latest craze over wild-caught Alaskan salmon oil, while all fish oil products set out to deliver the same goods (omega-3 fatty acids), some do it much better than others while also including some bonus beneficial compounds.
Omega fatty acids can help fight against many diseases and they are often the first supplement people start with, so let’s find out which one is right for you and your pupper.
Benefits of Fish Oil and Omega Fatty Acid Supplements
Unlike most supplements, fish oils and omega fatty acid supplementation, in general, have a lot of research backing their touted benefits. While it is common to use the terms interchangeably, it is important to note that when we talk about the benefits of fish oil, we are largely talking about the omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in other seafood for dog supplements.
Skin and Coat
Excessive inflammation is often the culprit behind poor coats and skin issues, and with anti-inflammatory relief being one of the omega-3 fatty acids’ most potent benefits, they’ve become quite popular for treating skin and coat issues seen in both dogs and cats.
This is why, more often than not, you often see them included in pet skin and coat supplements.
Where the omega-3, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), is big on reducing inflammation, the other main omega-3, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is incredible for brain health. One reason is due to its help with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) — commonly seen in aging dogs. CDS causes lower levels of DHA in the body, but research is finding that supplementation of DHA can help reverse that, helping with the symptoms of CDS.
Along with their anti-inflammatory benefits, the other most notable benefit of omega-3s are their benefits to heart health. Research has found that omega-3s can help reduce fat in blood, lower the risk of arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), safely lower blood pressure, and ease the rate of plaque buildup in the arteries.
Fish oils help reduce excessive inflammation thanks to the omega-3s found in them, in particular, EPA. While extremely beneficial and essential to the body, omega-6s found in meats like beef and other land animals, have a drawback due to them containing arachidonic acid (ARA), which can cause inflammation in high amounts, but enough omega-3s erases that issue.
What to Look For and What to Avoid
When it comes to what you want to see in your fish oil or omega fatty acid supplement, you’ll want to look for a supplement that contains just 1-2 ingredients, has a high DHA & EPA omega-3 content, is made with minimal processing, and is created in a reputable facility.
Things to avoid include fish oils created with farmed fish as they tend to lack the antioxidant astaxanthin due to their diet lacking smaller fish and krill. At the same time, you want to make sure it wasn’t created using unsustainable fishing practices which can happen with wild caught fish oils.
Then, you’ll want to avoid fish oils created with a range of fish species because they can contain filler fish, and while they might be naturally caught, they won’t contain the high levels of astaxanthin that we want due to these fish being filter feeders and not predatory fish.
Along with helping against spoilage (oxidation), astaxanthin has anti-inflammatory benefits similar to omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 Supplement Guide: What to Buy and Why
When we talk about fish oil for dogs, we really should broaden our words and just say seafood supplements for dogs. This is because you don’t have to stick to fish when creating an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of different fish oils, along with some other common omega fatty acid supplement oils.
Wild Alaskan Salmon
Typically considered the top dog, wild-caught Alaskan salmon fish oils check off pretty much everything we want to see in a great omega-3 supplement. A freshwater fish, Alaskan salmon are praised for their high EPA and DHA content, along with having notable amounts of astaxanthin. As well, they are considered a very safe fish for processing into fish oil thanks to their low toxicity and mercury levels.
It may seem odd, but studies find farmed salmon are more often than not higher in contaminants than wild salmon. In Alaska, it’s illegal to farm salmon, so if your fish oil is appropriately labeled containing salmon from Alaska, you can guarantee they were caught in the wild.
Processed Fish Oil
Processed fish oils are the most common fish oil you’ll see and are most popular with consumers due to their low costs. These low-cost fish oils are purified with ethanol to clean them of contaminants, such as mercury and PCBs. Unfortunately, both our and our dogs’ bodies don’t absorb these omega fatty acids as well anymore due to this process that breaks them down on a molecular level.
Called fish oil in ethyl esters form, these fish oils are also more prone to oxidation.
While crustaceans and not fish, krill oil has become very popular lately thanks to its unique type of omega-3 fatty acids and high astaxanthin content. Where fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids in the form of triglycerides, krill oil’s omega fatty acids also some in the form of phospholipids. And this appears to help the body better absorb the omega fatty acids from krill oil vs. fish oil.
Where krill oil falls flat is its higher cost along with overfishing concerns.
Green-lipped Mussel Oil
Green-lipped mussel oils are quickly making a name for themselves thanks to them containing trace amounts of eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA), an omega-3 fatty acid that may have great anti-inflammatory benefits. They are also environmentally friendly, making them our second choice after Wild Alaska Salmon Fish Oil.