Omega's For Dogs: The Benefits and Common Mistakes

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Almost all of us judge our pup’s health by a shiny coat. So, it’s no surprise that skin and coat concerns are the most common reasons for vet visits. Pet parents are often told to add a supplement containing omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids to their dog’s daily diet when skin or coat problems occur.

Fatty acids, both omega-6 and omega-3, help preserve healthy skin, encourage a strong immune system, regulate inflammation, assist in vitamin absorption, and help process hormones. The typical symptoms of deficiency like flaky, dry skin, dull coat, hair loss, and dermatitis may appear if a dog is not getting enough of these essential fatty acids.

Fish body oil, a.k.a. fish oil is filled with essential fatty acids (EFAs). This oil is usually known as omega-3 and omega-6 fats and they are among the fastest-growing dog supplements for a healthy coat. While dogs need a balance of both for good health, omega-3s walk away with the cake in terms of the essential health benefits they provide.

Omegas for Dogs

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as omega-3 and omega-6 are fats that need to be included in the dog's diet because the body cannot naturally produce them. They are required for average growth and the functioning of cells, muscles, organs, and prostaglandin development. Nevertheless, EFA deficiencies can be related to several health issues.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Dogs

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory powers. The three vital omega-3 acids for dogs are:

1. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

2. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

3. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

ALA is derived from plants, such as grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. In fact, this form of omega is a precursor to the other forms of omega-3s, meaning that ALA is converted into EPA and DHA by the body. Dog bodies do not transform ALA to the other two forms effectively, so ALA is not the perfect omega-3 fatty acid for dogs.

For dogs, the EPA and DHA are much better choices. These omega-3 types are primarily derived from marine organisms such as fish and algae.

Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, being anti-inflammatory, support dogs throughout their lives. The various beneficial effects of these fatty acids include:

  • Safeguards from abnormal cardiac rhythms (arrhythmia)

  • Limiting the body’s inflammation levels.

  • Boosts the functioning of the brain.

  • Treats arthritis, enhances mobility, helps heart disease and kidney illness.

  • Decelerates behavioral and cognitive canine disorder in older dogs.

  • Reduces the extremity of future joint problems and is beneficial for ongoing joint issues.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids for Dogs

There are two types of Omega-6 for dogs, namely:

1. Arachidonic acid

2. Linoleic acid

Effective sources of arachidonic acid include natural foods such as some fish oils, egg yolks, and lean meat. Linoleic acid leads to a healthy coat and skin. Poultry, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil are popular sources of linoleic acid that can be integrated into a dog's diet.

Benefits of Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-6 fatty acids activate the inflammatory response in dogs. This inflammatory retort is important when witnessing redness, heat, pain, swelling, or loss of function. The inflammatory response will let the body know when to 'stimulate' the necessary immunization processes, such as bringing in white blood cells to combat infections caused by microbes.

In many other ways Omega-6 fatty acids help dogs, including:

  • Triggers dog’s skin and fur growth

  • Provides good health for bones

  • Regulates the metabolism

  • Enhances the capacity of the body to promote and restore skeletal and muscular tissue

The deficiency of omega-6 hinders skin repair capabilities, thereby resulting in skin troubles. Among other complications, reduced omega-6 concentrations in your dog's body can give rise to reproductive problems.

Balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial, but the dietary proportion of omega-3s to omega-6s is most important. Commercial pet diets are high in omega-6s, and supplementing with extra omega-6 via these vegetable oils, may possibly lead to an excess level resulting in health issues. Too often, due to the type of food served to dogs, the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 is disposed of, as they consume very little omega-3 and surpass the regular omega-6 intake.

What Causes The Imbalance of Omegas For Dogs

Omega-3 and omega-6 intake must be balanced appropriately to have optimal health effects. Many dog foods do not contain sufficient omega-3 to counteract their omega-6 content. Omega-6 fats are associated with the immune response system and are labeled as pro-inflammatory, which is why additional omega 6 supplements for pets with skin inflammation may not be appropriate.

Furthermore, processed dog food cuts away the essential fatty acids in the kibbling process due to excessive heat. In effect, the dog food manufacturers, at the final stage, add synthesized vitamins and minerals to rebalance the food. Substandard ingredients used in processed foods are responsible for excessive omega-6 levels that cause the immune system to go chaotic, activating skin repercussions and disease outbreaks.

Fixing the Imbalance of Omega Fatty Acids

Introducing omega-3 rich, fresh produce such as sardines, mackerel, anchovies, marine phytoplankton supplements, and wild-caught salmon to the dog's diet every day will help to bring back much-needed balance. The anti-inflammatory hormones released by omega-3 fatty acids work in unison with omega-6 fatty acids to combat inflammation in dogs.

Wild Alaskan salmon is another complete supplier of omega-3 fatty acids since they predate on a natural, nutrient-rich diet all their lives. The subsequent oil contains a healthy mix of essential omega-3 fatty acids, intrinsic antioxidants, and vitamin residues that naturally exist in salmon without conflicting with the dog's vitamin intake from other sources.

BetterPup incorporates Alaskan salmon oil as an active ingredient while developing their products. Their supplement BetterSkin is loaded with omega-3’s from salmon oil, as well as other superfoods and antioxidants, to help relieve skin-related symptoms and issues. The omega fatty acids present in salmon oil used in BetterPup products promote silky coat, reduces itchy skin, and alleviate allergies.

Proven Benefits of EPA and DHA in Dogs

Studies have shown that the EPA and DHA are the most effective for dogs' health benefits. Here comes some of them:

  • Helps in the proper development of the visual cortex and retina

  • Blood-clotting activity regulation

  • Relieving the detrimental effects of allergies and other disorders arising from an over-reactive behavior of the immune system

  • Hindering the development of common yeast infections

  • Narrowing the emergence and proliferation of some cancer types

  • Enhances reversal learning tasks, early psychomotor performance, and visual contrast discrimination.

  • Relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression.

  • Better rabies antibody titers and increased capacity to see in dim and low-light conditions.

  • Significantly reduces the production of inflammatory cytokines and lessens the loss of muscles.

Numerous clinical studies have shown that omega-3s effectively prevent and treat different disorders affecting the dog's cardiovascular system, neurological wellbeing, inflammatory skin conditions, and degenerative arthritis. DHA supports the proper development and function of the brain and the central nervous tissues.

Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Most dog foods are processed and manufactured at very extreme temperatures, particularly kibble. This is ruinous to the omega-3 fatty acids as they are temperature sensitive. Even if a dog is given an all natural kibble diet, there is a high possibility of losing out on omega-3 fatty acids if the pet owner does not deliberately add fish or marine oils to their pet's food.

DHA is present in fish oils in large concentrations. Fish oils containing DHA and EPA (another omega-3 fatty acid) are more effective than flaxseed oils or nut because they include higher tissue levels of EFAs than oils from other sources.

Another rich source of Omega-3 is krill oil. Krill is very well-absorbed, so it only requires a small amount of dose compared to daily fish oil to reap the same benefits. It contains a more significant amount of EPA than fish oil and directly introduces its plentiful EPA and DHA into the cells of dogs in the form of phospholipids. Krill offers natural antioxidant protection, including vitamins E and A, along with canthaxanthin and astaxanthin. Krill can be sustainably sourced and does not accumulate any heavy metals and other toxic material.

Phytoplankton is another healthy source of omega-3 acid. It is extracted from single-celled, microscopic plants that drift near the surface of the ocean. Phytoplankton can also be cultivated in aquacultures and are the only recommended and appropriate plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) source of omega-3 fatty acids rich in EPA and DHA.

Cod liver oil and other fish liver oils provide some omega-3 fatty acids. However, they may also be rich in vitamins A and D. Since pets consuming commercial diets are still getting sufficient quantities of these fat-soluble vitamins, excess amounts of these can result in noxious or abnormal levels of phosphorus and calcium that can cause vital organs, tissues as well as urinary stones, to be mineralized and calcified. That's why fish oils devoid of vitamin D are preferred and recommended for dogs.

Sources of Omega 6 Fatty Acids

In several cases, omega-6 supplementation for dogs is not required because they get ample of it (more often, surplus) through dog food. Animals and plants are sources of omega-6 fatty acids but they are commonly found in commercial dog foods. They are an essential component of the cellular structure, and dogs need them to remain healthy.

  • Vegetable oils such as safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, and canola/rapeseed oils are abundant in Omega-6.

  • Animal fats and chicken are also a good source.


Omega-3 fatty acid sources that are rich in EPA and DHA are ideal for pups. It’s important to be mindful that a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is ideal, and that most commercial dog foods already provide a lot of the omega-6’s dogs need.

At BetterPup, we use the highest quality Wild Alaskan Salmon oil to give your dog the incredible benefits of EPA, DHA and more in all of our natural dog supplements.

*Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor.*