With so many supplements on the market today for humans and our furry companions, you may be wondering, is fish oil for dogs necessary or not?
Personally, I’m not a major advocate of adding a variety of supplements to my dog’s diet. Because here at the Dog Care Guide, we stress the importance of providing your dog with optimal nutrition through their diet. And there is very little need to supplement an already optimally balanced diet.
However, some dogs may require dietary supplementation due to health issues. And in general, there are some essential vitamins and nutrients that cannot be synthesized by your dog’s body. They can only be obtained through their diet. And there are vital components of fish oil that fall into this category.
So read on as we discuss what’s the most advantageous benefit of providing your dog with fish oil, what to look for when purchasing a fish oil supplement, safety precautions to consider, and how to determine the appropriate dosage for your dog.
Before we begin, I must first advise that you should always consult your veterinarian before making any significant changes to your dog’s diet. This includes supplements. Because while many manufacturers of supplements make boastful claims, dietary supplements in general, for humans and animals, are not regulated by the FDA.
Therefore, it’s up to you as the consumer to do your research. And if you’re reading this post, you’re on the right track. As again, I will advise you on the key benefits of fish oil for dogs, including what to look for before you settle on a particular brand. This way, you can partner with your vet and make an informed decision together. So now, let’s jump right in.
If you’ve read any article related to fish oil for dogs, they’ll advise that fish oil can benefit your dog in a myriad of ways. These include:
While that all sounds great, there aren’t many studies that can confirm the validity of these claims. It doesn’t mean that they’re not true. It just means that it’s very difficult to relegate your dog’s fantastic health and aesthetics down to a daily vitamin.
That’s why we emphasize a balanced nutrient-dense diet accompanied by daily exercise to help your dog achieve optimal health. The goal is to take a holistic approach to your dog’s overall health and care. Doing so covers all of the bases, resulting in a dog that is emotionally and physically healthy.
If you need help in the department of exercise and diet, you can check out this article here that I wrote on exercise. And this article here will detail one of the healthiest AAFCO certified commercial dog food diets on the market today.
But in general, the most crucial benefit observed in fish oil for dogs is in the aid and natural treatment of Osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a significant cause of chronic pain in dogs, with 20% of dogs in the USA suffering from osteoarthritis. The most common forms of osteoarthritis in dogs are:
Osteoarthritis in dogs is typically treated by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can have severe side effects. And fish oil’s anti-inflammatory properties have proven to be a useful alternative in providing dogs relief from these painful symptoms.
Further, According to, Veterinarian and Author, Gary Ritcher,
It is not that uncommon in veterinary medicine to euthanize large dogs because of intractable arthritis pain and an inability to move. These pets with arthritis often benefit from glucosamine and chondroitin supplements to support their damaged cartilage. Taking it one step further and controlling the pain and inflammation by adding Boswellia, turmeric, fish oil, gotu kola, etc.,can often decrease a pet’s need for prescription pain medications.” Richter, Gary. The Ultimate Pet Health Guide. Hay House.
One wouldn’t think that osteoarthritis would result in euthanasia. As you can see, it’s a severe condition. Therefore, it’s vital to be proactive in providing your dog’s care. Taking the time to add a daily fish oil supplement to your dog’s diet can help to improve their overall health and aid in the prevention of disease or serious health issues like osteoarthritis.
According to a study conducted by The American Veterinarian have shown that there have been some improvements in relief from pain after taking a daily fish oil supplement.
This study, in particular, noted significant improvements in arthritis in dogs after using fish oil in a double-blind clinical trial. But it’s important to know what kind of fish oil was successful in the treatment of arthritis, which leads me to my next point.
Fish oil consists of essential fatty acids (EFAs.) These essential fatty acids are coined “essential” because dogs and humans are not able to synthesize them naturally within our bodies. They can only be obtained through the diet.
Therefore, by consuming EFAs, you and your dog will receive the “essential” vital nutrients required to obtain a healthy balanced diet. And while we’ll explore the general importance of dietary fats for dogs in another post, for now, it’s necessary to understand they are vital to your dog’s overall health. EFAs are the “good fats” that your dog needs to maintain optimal health and vitality.
Two of the most commonly known EFAs are Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in a wide variety of foods, including commercial pet foods. Because of this, Omega 6 fatty acids generally do not require dietary supplementation.
ALA is also universal in most diets. It can be found in nut and vegetable fats like flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils. However, EPA and DHA are primarily found in marine sources such as fish oil, krill oil, and mussel oil. But they are initially synthesized by microalgae. Therefore when fish eat phytoplankton that consumes microalgae, the fish will absorb the omega-3s in their tissues.
So, if you’re familiar with people who take algal oil as opposed to fish oil, it’s because it’s packed with Omega 3 fatty acids. As previously described, it’s a way to bypass the middleman (the marine fish source) and go directly to the supplier.
Also, if you have concerns about “fish quality” due to the pollutants in the ocean that can harm the health of the fish that live in the sea, then algal oil is another way to derive the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet.
More importantly, it’s an excellent alternative for dogs who are allergic to fish protein. You can learn more about algal oil, and its benefits here.
Otherwise, if you’re not hugely concerned about “fish quality,” because you occasionally feed your dog fish, then your standard fish oil supplement should suffice. Because unless you’re a Pescatarian, it’s uncommon to have a diet that will provide you with your essential Omega 3 fatty acids. Fish oil supplements are a practical solution to achieve a balanced diet for you and your dog.
Further, many of the Omega 3 supplements’ ingredients also consist of “small fish” like sardines or anchovies. This is great because smaller fish are not as adversely affected by ocean pollutants like your more massive omega 3 fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. Because while smaller fish like sardines, for example, have teeth, they are at the bottom of the food chain. They primarily eat plants like plankton as opposed to eating other contaminated fish.
Yes, fish oil, in general, is one of your more universally safe supplements. Dogs across the board, regardless of age or breed, can take fish oil supplements with limited side effects. For that reason, it’s one of the few supplements that you’ll find recommended on this blog. We also provide our dog, Mina, with a daily fish oil supplement. And Mina’s dad and I take the same daily fish oil supplement as well. She’s 11 years old, healthy and continues to grow old gracefully.
However, if your dog is allergic to fish protein, or has oily skin, then it’s best to avoid supplementing their diet with fish oil. Continued use could exacerbate the problem. And if you’re concerned about adding fish oil to your dog’s diet because he or she is currently on medications, then it’s best to consult your veterinarian.
However, if your dog is on medications and you occasionally feed him or her salmon, for example, then your dog is essentially receiving dietary fish oil, along with their prescribed medications.
I’m sharing this example just to help you perceive how natural fish oil is. And your dog can gain to benefit when they consume it in appropriate dosages which we’ll cover as you continue reading.
Yes, human fish oil is safe for dogs. In general, there is no distinction between the two except for manufacturers that market them specifically to pet stores and may fortify their “fish oil for dogs” with additional ingredients.
Otherwise, fish oil is simply fish oil. It comes from fish, and both humans and dogs eat fish. Again, a dog’s natural diet has always been real foods found in nature, the same foods that you and I eat as humans.
Since the FDA does not regulate the supplement industry, it’s up to you to do your due diligence. Below are a few best practices to look for when deciding on an adequate fish oil supplement for your dog.
If possible, your local apothecary like GNC or The Vitamin Shoppe is a great place to start because they specialize in supplements as opposed to a general convenience store. Apothecaries typically take care to source their inventory from reputable companies. And they’re more knowledgeable than a store attendant would be at your general grocery store. This way, if you have specific questions, there is usually someone there that is very well versed in dietary supplements, and they can offer you an excellent recommendation.
Another best practice is to avoid fish oils from genetically modified organisms (GMOs.) The easiest way to do this is by looking for the Non-GMO label on the bottle. You want to obtain your fish oil from natural “unmodified” marine sources. Especially since fish are exposed to pollutants in the ocean, it’s best to limit any further exposure to chemicals. This way, you can ensure you’re using a quality brand, and you eliminate exposing your dog to any chemically produced toxins as well.
If you choose to purchase your fish oil supplement from a pet food supplier, then look for the National Animal Supplement Council’s label (NACS.) This label guarantees that your fish oil is produced from a reputable supplier.
While “farm-raised” fish has a nice ring to it, fish are not naturally raised on farms. Further, farm-raised fish are fed grains so that they can grow faster and larger to get to the markets quicker. And it’s quite apparent that fish do not naturally eat grains. These changes in diet and habitat alter the quality of the fish and the quality of the omega 3 fatty acids. Therefore it’s best to aim for wild-caught fish oil sources instead.
Omega 3 Fatty Acid fish oil supplements’ ingredients should consist of fish high in EPA and DHA. And again, if you can find one that contains smaller fish ingredients like sardines and anchovies, all the better. Again, this minimizes any exposure to ocean contaminants.
Finally, if you find a brand of interest, it’s best to review their website. There you can verify all of the suggestions mentioned above. And you can also see if they conduct independent testing for heavy metals and other contaminants.
We use Kirkland’s Fish Oil Supplements for Mina and ourselves. For us, it checks all of the boxes. In general, the goal is to source your supplements from a safe and reputable company. It just takes a little research on your end. Here is a link to an article that provides a list of trustworthy supplement manufacturers based on customer satisfaction.
In general, it’s best to consult your vet for how much fish oil is appropriate for your dog. Because it can vary based on your dog’s diet, plus factors like their size, weight, and age, and if you’re trying to treat a health condition like osteoarthritis, it may require a higher dose than typically recommended.
But a general guideline is to give dogs 300 mg of EPA/DHA combined per 22 pounds of body weight. This is specifically for EPA and DHA components only, not the total milligram weight of the full dose of fish oil. You will have to read the “Supplement Facts” on the back of the label to identify how much EPA and DHA is in your fish oil product per serving size.
For example, our Kirkland Fish Oil gel tablets contain 1000 mg of fish oil per capsule. And each capsule provides 300 milligrams of Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
But if you recall, Omega 3s are broken down into three categories: ALA, EPA, and DHA. But we’re not concerned with the ALA, because they’re in a variety of foods. We just want to look for the EPA and DHA breakdown. And Kirkland supplements provide 250 mg of EPA + DHA.
This means since Mina weighs approximately 60 pounds, based on these general guidelines, we can give her two fish oil tablets per day. However, we only give her one per day. Because we partner with our vet to determine what’s the appropriate dosage. And based on Mina’s standard diet and lifestyle, 250 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids is adequate.
In conclusion, I hope that you have enjoyed this post and can perceive the benefits that your dog can gain from taking a daily fish oil supplement. It’s never too late to start, but the earlier, the better. Doing so can help prevent or delay arthritis from occurring later in your dog’s life.
Your dog’s health is in your hands, and making their nutrition a priority will provide them with optimal health for many years to come. As in the famous words of Thomas Edison,
The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.
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Richter, Gary. The Ultimate Pet Health Guide. Hay House.