Dietary Supplements

Omega-3 & Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Over the years I have done quite a bit of reading and research, looking for that certain “something” to help keep my goldens healthier, happier, and more vibrant and active as they age.  One (or two) of those “somethings” that I keep coming back to and which I keep finding more and more information on is the “Omega 3 & Omega 6 fatty acids” and the important role they play in canine health.  Sometimes referred to as “Mother Nature’s formula for total fitness”, the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are said to aid in the prevention of many common health ailments both human and canine. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fats.  They are one of four basic types of fat that animals and humans derive from food.  A few of the others (and the not so good ones) are cholesterol, saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat. 

I think we all know by now that eating too many foods rich in saturated fat is associated with the development of degenerative diseases.  In humans, these degenerative diseases include heart disease and even cancer.  On the flip side, we are being told that polyunsaturated fatty acids are healthy for humans and for our “animals”.   It is advertised and documented that Omega-3 fatty acids improve heart health in dogs and humans.  They play a part in keeping cholesterol levels low, stabilizing irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) and reducing blood pressure. I have read that Omega 3 fatty acids also reduce joint stiffness, swelling, tenderness and overall fatigue. In numerous human studies, it is reported that participants with inflammatory diseases who ingest Omega-3s are more successful in combating arthritis.  (American Academy of Family Physicians)

Omega-3 fatty acids, found primarily in cold-water fish, fall into the GOOD “fatty acid” category.   The Omega-3 fatty acids are natural blood thinners, reducing the "stickiness" of blood cells (called platelet aggregation), which can lead to such complications as blood clots and stroke. (American Heart Association)  The “Omegas” are essential building blocks for our dogs’ healthy hearts and strong immune systems.  Adding cold-water fish to your dog’s diet such as salmon, tuna and mackerel is one way to supplement with the key Omega 3 fatty acid.  These three types of fish contain the best source of EPA (eicosapentaenoic) and DHA (docosahexanoic) acid.  The Omega-6 fatty acid, another GOOD “fatty acid” is found in grains, most plant-based oils, poultry and eggs. 

A third Omega fatty acid, called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is found primarily in dark green leafy vegetables.  It is also contained in flaxseed oil and certain vegetable oils. ALA is not readily accessible to animals, which must use several enzymatic steps in their metabolism to convert it into a useful configuration like EPA. Thus, scientists estimate that only a small fraction of ALA benefits the dog, especially if high amounts of metabolically "competitive" Omega-6 fatty acids are present.

Studies have shown the ratio of Omega - 6 to Omega - 3 to be very important. A ratio of about 4 to 1 (Omega - 6 to Omega - 3) is considered optimum.  There are many products on the market that advertise a correctly formulated ratio.  However, before starting your dog on any “dietary supplement program”, please consult with your veterinarian and do your own research! 

As always, the above information is based on my personal research and first hand experience with my golden retrievers.  I can be reached at boomer@trianglenet.net

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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