Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world with around 63% of Australian households owning pets. With 4.8 million pet dogs and 3.9 million pet cats, there is no doubt that we are obsessed with our pets. And not without good reason as pets add joy to our lives, lift our spirits, and even contribute to our own physical well-being. Pet ownership is also associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, an important fact as it is leading cause of mortality worldwide. And pets can be legally recognised as service or support animals for people with certain health issues.

Of course, we all want our pets to live long, happy lives. And that’s why the food we feed our pets is so important. Unless you live on a farm and your dog or cat is “living off the land,” so to speak, your pet is dependent on you for 100% of its nutritional needs. Many of us use extra money to buy premium pet food brands that state that they use the highest quality ingredients. But the reality is that cooked or processed pet foods don’t always contain the full spectrum of nutrients your pet needs. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, for example, are essential nutrients that play an important role in maintaining overall cellular health. But these essential fats are easily compromised when exposed to high heat (used commonly in cooked dog food) and oxygen, which can diminish their nutritional value.

YOUR PET IS WHAT THEY EAT

Cats and dogs each require different levels and sources of the nutrients they need to maintain optimal health. So it’s important that your pet is eating food designed to meet its specific nutritional needs.

Just like humans, dogs and cats both have a fundamental dietary need for Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Alpha-Linolenic Acid is the plant-based Omega-3 that needs to be converted to EPA/DHA, which are the Omega 3’s found abundantly in fish. EPA/DHA are also the primary Omega 3’s that are vital to cellular health. Dogs have a limited ability to make the conversion from ALA to EPA/DHA and the ability to convert is further reduced in cats.

Dietary fats provide a concentrated source of energy for pets, although the need for fatty acids varies. For example, Arachidonic Acid (AA) is an Omega-6 fat that helps support the body’s inflammatory response and is necessary for proper blood-clotting, skin health, and reproductive and gastrointestinal function. But while dogs can make AA, cats cannot. So it’s much more important for cats to get this nutrient from their food.

Most pet owners probably think their pets are consuming enough essential fats in their diet, but the truth is they’re probably consuming way too many Omega-6 fats and not enough Omega-3’s. Both of these fats are necessary, but because they each help regulate immune system functions, they need to be in healthy balance.

Commercial pet foods are often overloaded with grains, vegetable oils, and meat products, and as a result, contain an overabundance of Omega-6 fats. Those commercial pet foods that do contain fish (usually a good source of Omega-3 fats) often contain farmed fish. And unfortunately, farmed fish—because of the grains, antibiotics, and animal byproducts these fish are typically fed—do not have the same nutritional value as wild-caught fish.

GIVE A DOG A FISH

Research consistently shows Omega-3 EPA and DHA positively affect our pets’ overall health at the cellular level, supporting:

  • Immune system health
  • Skin and coat
  • Joints
  • Heart and kidneys
  • Gastrointestinal health
  • Brain and eye function

When selecting an Omega-3 fish oil for your pet, look for a reputable company that maintains the highest quality standards, including using human-grade ingredients and manufacturing processes; one that uses third-party testing to guarantee purity, potency, and freshness for all its products. As a pet lover, you’ll probably also want to look for a company that values sustainability and uses sourcing methods that protect the environment. And, you’ll want to avoid products that include added ingredients that could be harmful to your pet.

Overall, supplementation of EPA/DHA provides the essential element to ensure a happy and healthy life for your pet.

References:

– Bauer JE. Fatty acid metabolism in domestic cats (Felis catus) and cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatas). Proc Nutr Soc 1997 Nov; 56(3):1013-24.)

– Bauer JE. Responses of dogs to dietary omega-3 fatty acids; J. Amer. Vet Med Association 2007; 11: 1657-1661.

– Corbee RJ, et al., The effect of dietary long-chain omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on owner’s perception of behavior and locomotion in cats with naturally occurring osteoarthritis, J Anim Physio Anim Nutr (Berl), 2013 Oct.

– Dunbar BL, Bauer JE., Conversion of essential fatty acids by Delta-6 desaturase in dog liver microsomes. J. Nutr 2002 Jun; 132(6 Suppl 2):1701s-3S;

– How many pets are there in Australia? – RSPCA Australia knowledgebase. 2018. How many pets are there in Australia? – RSPCA Australia knowledgebase. [ONLINE] Available at: http://kb.rspca.org.au/how-many-pets-are-there-in-australia_58.html. [Accessed 16 April 2018].

– Pet ownership statistics | Australian Veterinary Association. 2018. Pet ownership statistics | Australian Veterinary Association. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ava.com.au/news/media-centre/hot-topics-4. [Accessed 16 April 2018].

– Mubanga, M, Byberg, L, Nowak, C, Egenvall, A, Magnusson, P, Ingelsson, E & Fall, T 2017. Dog ownership and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death – a nationwide cohort study. Scientific Reports, [Online]. 7. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-16118-6 [Accessed 16 April 2018].

– Rivers JP, Sinclair AJ, CCrawford MA; Inability of the Cat to desaturate essential fatty acids. Nature 1975; 258: 171-173.

– Stephen J. Mehler, et al., A prospective, randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid on the clinical signs and erythrocyte membrane polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations in dogs with osteoarthritis; Elsevier ltd., Journ Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids.

– Vaughn D, Reinhart G, Swain S, et al., Evaluation of dietary n-6 to n-3 fatty acid ratios on leukotriene B Synthesis in dog skin and neutrophils, Vet Dermatol 1994, 5 (4): 163-173.

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