The Basics of Essential Fatty Acids & Four Tips For Your Pets

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  • By Dr. Jill Tack
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The Basics of Essential Fatty Acids & Four Tips For Your Pets

Despite the media hype, fats are good for the body. They provide energy, food for the brain as well as other nutritional components. They are also essential for maintenance and growth of many of the body’s tissues. Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are building blocks that the body can’t produce for itself and must be obtained exclusively from the diet. Every cell, organ and tissue requires a daily supply of EFA’s.

What are essential fatty acids and why are they important to our pets health?

Despite the media hype, fats are good for the body. They provide energy, food for the brain as well as other nutritional components. They are also essential for maintenance and growth of many of the body’s tissues. Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are building blocks that the body can’t produce for itself and must be obtained exclusively from the diet. Every cell, organ and tissue requires a daily supply of EFA’s.

We often hear of EFA’s referred to by omega 3, 6 or 9. We must provide our pets with adequate quantities to avoid health problems or deficiencies.

Lack of EFA's pet health ailments could include:

  • skin eruptions
  • loss of hair
  • skin that won’t heal from wounds
  • liver and kidney degeneration
  • diabetes
  • aging
  • viral infections
  • cancer
  • second-hand smoke sickness
  • increased susceptibility to infections
  • heart and circulatory problems
  • weakness and retarded growth
  • spontaneous miscarriages
  • sterility,
  • impairment of vision
  • loss of ability to learn
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • symptoms similar to arthritis
  • and much more.

Other less common symptoms in our pets include dull, dry coat, excessive hair loss, greasy skin, itching and scratching, skin infections such as ringworm, and inflammatory conditions.

EFA’s are typically found in many dry foods in the form of canola, sunflower, olive or salmon oils. Many times our dry foods either do not provide enough EFA’s or they are not a stable source. Oils become rancid quickly without the extra preservatives added to the foods because they are only shelf stable for a short amount of time.

Omega-3 or alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut and herring as well as flaxseed oil. Omega-3 oils promotes brain and eye development, arthritis, helps to prevent abnormal heart rhythms, improves immune function, controls viral infections, improves psoriasis, improve function of the glandular system and reduces blood clotting. Besides fish and flax, omega-3 is also found in dark green leafy vegetables. Flaxseed oil has the highest content of omega-3 and about twice the amount of fish oils. Flaxseed oil is also helpful for controlling and eliminating diabetes, dull coat, dry skin, paw licking, and heart problems. While salmon oil helps to maintain a healthy skin and coat, promote strong immune, cardiovascular, and nervous systems as well as provide essential amino acids.

Some safe sources of Omega-6 or Linoleic acid comes from sunflower oil, evening primrose oil and borage oils. It is also found in poultry and pork fat. Arachidonic acid, also an Omega-6, which is a requirement for cats can be found in cod liver oil, pork fat and poultry fat and has an important role in the control of blood clotting, pain, inflammation and intestinal muscles.

It is important to choose non-GMO (no corn, soy or canola genetically modified organism) oil sources as well as finding cold or expeller-pressed oils that are not heated during production. You should also be sure to add essential fatty acids in a liquid form for the most absorption and use for your pet. Besides using liquid oil, you should also consider quality over quantity. Yes, you can go to a wholesale store and purchase a ridiculous amount of fish oil capsules but are they actually going to be fresh and useful by the time you finish the 500 capsules? In most cases the answer is no. Not to forget, most of “bulk” oils/capsules are synthetically produced by pharmaceutical companies.

 Quick tips for your pet’s EFA’s:

  1. If you empty your dog food into a container, the container should be washed between each bag of food. The oils build up a residue in the container and become rancid. The rancidity can contaminate a new batch of food or even become toxic. If you don’t have the time to wash out the container with hot, soapy water each time, just place the entire bag with one end open in your sealed container and toss the bag when you are through.
  2. Better to use liquid or gel caps over capsules
  3. Many EFA’s should be fed as follows: 1 tsp/30 pounds, unless specified differently (ie: cod liver oil is ½ tsp/30 pounds)
  4. You should rotate with different EFA’s every time you purchase them to maximize their different benefits.

Following are some brands we carry for pets and are 10% off until 2/15:

  • Organic Coconut Oil (Jarrow)
  • Flaxseed Oil (Wholistic Pet & Holistic Blend)
  • Salmon Oil (Bravo, Oma’s Pride, Wholistic Pet)
  • Ocean Omega (Animal Essentials)
  • Krill Oil (NWC Naturals)
  • Sardine Oil (Nature’s Logic)
  • Cod Liver Oil (Nordic Naturals)
  • Mix of Plant based Oils (The Flying Basset)
  • Plant based Soft Gels (Dr. Harvey’s Health and Shine Capsules) squeeze out of capsule onto food

Stop by and visit us to pick up an EFA for your dog or cat before 2/15 to get 10% off these brands.

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