Omega 3. Its a big buzzword in nutrition, both for us and our companion animals. Lately, it has been getting a lot of attention, and for good reason.
Omega 3 fatty acids are a vital part of our diet, important for our metabolism. They are known to have natural anti-inflamatory properties, as well as improvements in skin and coat in many pets. They have also been linked to improved brain function, to the point where some pet food companies have marketed “Smart Puppy” food, citing the inclusion of omega 3’s.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding omega 3’s. There are three main types of omega 3. ALA is mainly from plant (flax, canola, chia, camolina) sources. DHA and EPA are found in animal based source (usually fish, like herring, mackerel, salmon).
While both types of omega 3 are important for healthy pets, the primary health benefits come from EPA/DHA. Giving plant based omegas to pets is a very inefficient way to supplement, as the conversion rate from ALA to EPA/DHA is very poor (5% in humans). So, many companies advertise “Healthy Omegas” but only have omega 6’s, and don’t supplement omega 3’s at all, and others tout “Added Omega 3” but only add plant based ALA’s. So, while the advertising is truthful, it does nothing for the health of your pet.
A good food will list the EPA/DHA content of the food separately from omega 3, as well as the omega 6’s. While the latest research is suggesting a 1:1 omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is optimal, ratio’s of 4:1 to 6:1 are generally accepted as being healthy. Calculating these ratios is very easy of the food lists them on the package, alternately, you can contact the manufacturer for this information.
If your food is lacking in DHA/EPA, there are plenty of ways to supplement. Salmon oil is the most popular way. It is very easy to measure the exact amount you are supplementing when you use oils. pollock oil is not as expensive, but also not as concentrated a form of EPA/DHA. On the other hand, krill oil is more expensive, but much more concentrated.
Adding salmon to the diet can naturally add in the good omegas, and many people use whole herring as treats, which are a great source of omegas and are an awesome recreational chew when offered frozen. Even the use of canned sardines can be a benefit, just be wary of the sodium content, and any spices that might be added,
Many chicken based foods, including raw foods, are now getting looked at more closely in regards to omega balance. Chicken can have as much as a 19:1 omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. While this is alarming, most foods do not consist only of chicken, and will contain organ meats and other proteins that help to balance that omega ratio.
Providing a healthy diet for your pet isn’t difficult. Sure it can take a little work, but once you have it figured out, it will lead to a lifetime of healthy eating for your pets, and a warm feeling in your heart knowing you are doing the very best for your furry companions.