You’ve heard that fish oils are good for our pets. But WHY? You’d probably have to live under a rock to not have heard that fish oils and omega fatty acids are good for us and our pets, but do you really know why? Which omega fatty acids do we want? There are so many brands and options available it could make your head spin.

I personally take an omega fatty acid supplement, but today I’m going to discuss how omega 3 fatty acids help 2 very common pet ailments: arthritis and allergic dermatitis.

There is evidence in both human and veterinary studies that the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have anti-inflammatory effects. This is particularly relevant to our aging pets! So many of the senior dogs I see in practice have arthritis. I feel like I am often warning clients of the potential renal, hepatic and GI side effects of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that we commonly use to treat arthritis. I do my best to impress upon clients with arthritic patients how we can minimize these potentially harsh side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs with a multi-modal approach. If the pet is overweight, we strive for proper body weight. I utilize alternative analgesic medications such as tramadol. I encourage regular controlled exercise, particularly swimming if available. And I start these pets on glucosamine and omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids help to resolve inflammation. They are inexpensive and much safer than NSAIDs, and they can improve comfort levels of an arthritic pet such that we may be able to decrease the amount of NSAIDs given.

Omega 3 fatty acids have also been shown to help decrease skin inflammation in pets with various causes of allergic dermatitis. Whether atopy (aka hay fever) or food allergies, the addition of omega 3 fatty acids can decrease the use of immunosuppressive drugs that we give pets to maintain their quality of life and comfort. I am particularly pleased when an owner of a pet with allergies tells me they are on a fish based diet such as salmon and rice or white fish and potato. Cold water fish contain a high level of omega 3 fatty acids, so fish-based diets are often good choices for pets with allergies. It is otherwise difficult to obtain adequate omega 3s for therapeutic effects without supplementation.

Omega 3 fatty acids come in capsules or in liquid form that is applied to the pet’s food. Many dogs and cats find fish oils to be extremely palatable. The addition of omega 3 fatty acids can improve a pet’s quality of life and potentially decrease the need for medications.

NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.