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  • Yvonne

Keep Your Fish Oil Fresh: Omega-3 Tips

There's a good chance you've heard about the health benefits of omega-3s for people - but did you know that omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important for dogs.

Omega-3 fatty acids have an extensive range of scientifically proven health benefits and anti-inflammatory properties.

And remember - since inflammation is the root of many chronic and autoimmune health conditions, we are wise to be proactive and supply our dogs with foods that are proven to reduce inflammation.  

Omega-3s are important for joint, coat, skin, eye, and heart health, they improve circulation, promote brain health (and for this reason are critical for puppies and senior dogs), they help regulate mood, and have cancer fighting properties. Omega-3s work to balance the omega-6 levels in the diet; a very important job, since many canine diets contain too many omega-6s, and an imbalance of these fats can create inflammation in the body.

(Marine sources of omega-3s (EPA and DHA) are far better for your dog than plant based sources of omega-3 (ALA), however, if your dog cannot tolerate fish, or fish body oil, you will have to use a plant based source of omega-3.)

I prefer to feed whole fatty fish (sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel, and salmon) rather than fish oil to my dogs. Whole fish provides excellent levels of marine sourced omega-3s, as well as important trace elements such as iodine, selenium, zinc, and a good amount of the amino acid taurine; these are nutrients that are not available in fish oil. Whole fatty fish is also a good natural source of Vitamins D3 and E. 

If you cannot feed whole fatty fish to your dogs, or can't feed enough fatty fish to supply your puppy or dog with the amount of omega-3 his body requires, you will need to supplement with fish oil.  

The downside of fish oil is that fish oils are fragile, and react negatively to heat, freezing, light, air, long term or poor storage - and as a result, can easily become rancid. We definitely want to avoid feeding rancid fats to our dogs - or we may end up contributing to some of the health issues we are trying to guard against. Poor quality fish oils can be contaminated with toxins and impurities, so it's important to do your research and choose a top quality product.

By feeding whole fish I avoid many concerns about feeding impure or rancid fish oils, while still providing my dogs with excellent whole food sources of omega-3 fatty acids. As my dogs age, however, I may need to increase their omega-3 amounts and will need to add fish oil into their diets.

It's true, fish body oils are divas - extremely powerful and potent, with incredible abilities, but they must be treated with respect and with the utmost care for their surroundings.

There are a number of things you can do to protect your fish oil as much as possible.

My top tips for feeding fish oil to your dogs

  • Choose a top quality, pure, fish oil. Scandinavian fish oil has a reputation for being the most pure. Look for third party product analysis. Human-grade fish oil is often preferred.

  • Avoid plastic containers. Choose fish oil that is stored in a glass bottle. Plastic is not enough of a barrier to stop the transmission of light and air into the bottle, and can cause the fish oil to oxidize more quickly. As well, the plastic and fish oil can react chemically to promote oxidation of the oil (which means it can become rancid).

  • Do not store the bottle of fish oil in a bright, warm location. 

  • Do not freeze fish oil. Add the fish oil to your dog's food just as you are ready to serve it.

  • Store fish oil in a cool, dark location. Check the label to see if your brand of fish oil should be stored in the fridge.

  • Keep the lid on the bottle of fish oil. Use opened bottles of fish oil within 3 - 4 months ... no more giant sized bottles of fish oil from you-know-where!

  • Bottles of fish oil usually contain vitamin E (which is used as a preservative to prevent oxidation) however, you may still need to add extra vitamin E to your dog's diet.

  • Fish oil in capsules may remain fresh longer than liquid fish oil in bottles.

  • Look for the amount of EPA and DHA contained in a serving size of fish oil. For example, a 500 mg capsule of salmon oil doesn't necessarily contain 500 mg of EPA and DHA - it may have only 80 mg of EPA and DHA combined.

  • Many veterinarians recommend stopping fish oil supplements 10 days or so before surgery, and for 1 week post surgery, since fish oil can decrease platelet stickiness. *This is something you should discuss with your vet if needed.

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