FISH OIL SUPPLEMENTS (also known as OMEGA-3s or FATTY ACIDS)
Side effects are rarely seen.
Fish oils can be given along with other supplements and medications.
Fish oils have to be given daily, including past the time when symptoms resolve, to be effective. They will not work if used "as needed".
It requires up to 3 months to see the effects of fish oil supplementation.
The product you use matters; fish oil supplements vary tremendously in quality.
You can give your pet the same fish oil supplement that you take. See our article Fish Oil Doses for help figuring out the correct dose; please ask us if you need more help. Also, please remember, these products vary significantly in quality. We strongly recommend using one of the products listed above.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION:
INDICATIONS FOR GIVING A FISH OIL SUPPLEMENT TO A PET:
FISH OIL SUPPLEMENTS ARE NOT ALL CREATED EQUAL
THE SOURCE OF THE FISH OIL If the type of fish used for the supplement is not specified on the label or easily available from the manufacturer's product information, then there is a good chance it is a poor quality supplement.
Salmon oil is a popular version of fish oil supplement sold for human use, and acceptable for use in dogs and cats. But wild salmon have been overfished and farmed salmon may have poor quality oil due to lack of a wild diet and potentially increased PCBs and other chemicals.
Krill oil has the concern of impacting whale forage.
Wild-caught and easily renewable small fish such as anchovies and sardines are ideal.
Flax oil is metabolized by the pet or person into fatty acids, but it takes two to three times as much flax oil as fish oil to get the same effect.
QUALITY CONTROL Fish oil should be purified by molecular distillation and screened for contaminants, including PCBs, heavy metals and dioxins. Standards have been set by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), World Health Organization (WHO), and International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS).
In the US the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) works with the FDA to establish and monitor safety and quality control standards for pet supplements, including fatty acids. Products bearing the NASC seal are subjected to quality audits every two years, follow FDA guidelines, and participate in adverse event reporting and random finished product testing.
Some companies (for example Nutramax, producers of Welactin fish oil supplement for pets and Omegamints for people) reliably use independent third party quality testing in addition to following all Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines.
LABELLING Poor quality products often are labelled in a confusing, incomplete way. If the exact amounts of the EPA and DHA fatty acids are not stated on the label the product should not be used. Ideally, the label should also state the fish source, purification process, and quality control.
DOSE FORMS Fish oil is prone to oxidation and loss of activity, especially in non-encapsulated forms such as diets, soft chews, and bottles of liquid. It is particularly important that excellent quality control is part of the manufacturing process for these products.
PET DIETS WITH FISH OIL / FATTY ACIDS This is a particularly complicated area of fish oil supplementation, made confusing by many important variables. Some of the concerns and considerations:
Triglycerides are the most common and least costly chemical form of fish oil. They have good absorption from the digestive tract and good bioavailability. About 30% of the total fish oil content of these supplements consists of EPA and DHA. There are a number of good products; we prefer Welactin, manufactured by Nutramax.
Free fatty acids are fatty acids that have been stripped from their triglyceride backbone and left free. The resulting product has a significantly higher concentration of EPA and DHA compared to the triglyceride form, so a lower volume of the oil is needed to provide the same fatty acid level. This may be a particularly important consideration when a larger pet is recieving high-dose fish oil therapy. There are a few good veterinary products; we prefer Derma-3 Twist Caps, manufactured by Sogeval.
DOSE OF FISH OIL FOR A PET
There are three different doses of fish oils for dogs:
THE NON-ARTHRITIS ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DOSE Approximately 4 times the NRC dose, this is the most appropriate dose for chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, skin disease, heart disease, gastrointestinal disease, and other non-arthritis inflammatory problems.
THE ARTHRITIS DOSE Approximately 10 times the NRC dose, this is the most appropriate dose for arthritis.
Less is known about appropriate dosing for cats and other pets. For cats, there is general agreement on a minimum dose and an anti-inflammatory dose.
For doses please see our article Fish Oil Doses.
We have seen pets benefit from the NRC dose, and we have seen them benefit more from the higher doses. Pets that are on the NRC dose or the anti-inflammatory dose can have their doses increased, and it is likely that greater benefits will be seen. Increasing above the arthritis dose is less likely to produce greater benefits.
Fish oils must be given daily, even when the pet has no symptoms, to be effective.
It requires up to three months after starting to supplement daily with fish oils, or after increasing the dose of fish oils, to see the benefits.
Yarmouth Veterinary Center