Fish Oil For Dogs – How Effective Is It?

Most of the owners see fish oil as a health supplement for their dogs . Some of the dog owners even include fish oil as a regular part of their dog’s diet. Yes, fish oil has some benefits but we need to know why we need to feed them to our dogs. Is it safe or does it have some side effects are some of the doubt that arises in the mind of every pet owners before they think about using fish oil ? I here intended to give the dog owners an honest insight regarding the benefits and shortcomings of fish oil.


Why Fish Oil??

Fish oil contains omega 3 fats and is used to compensate the Omega 6 fats in your dog’s body. Dog’s body consists of three types of dietary fats namely saturated, monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Both omega 6 and omega 3 fats are polyunsaturated fats.

These omega fats are used by the dog’s body to manufacture hormones. Hormones manufactured from these two fats have opposite effects. Hormones of omega 6 fatty acids increase the inflammation. They help in blood clotting, cell proliferation, etc. The function of hormones from omega 3 fatty acids is completely opposite as it decreases the inflammation.

So it’s important for these two omega fats to be in a balance for the optimal health of your dog. Dogs can only obtain the above two fats by food as they can’t be metabolized by the body. Omega 6 fats can be extracted from seeds and nuts whereas Omega 3 fats are not that easy to get. The main source of omega 3 fats is water fish.

The reason to give fish oil is to compensate the high concentration of omega 6 fatty acid in dogs. The main reason for this steep increase in the concentration of omega 6 fat in dogs is due to the change in their diet. The cereal grains have been added to dog’s diet recently and become a vital part of their diet. Cereal grains are very high in omega 6 fats. The higher concentration of omega 6 fats increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity in dogs.

It’s not only the cereal grains, we also started to feed refined vegetable oils such as soy oil. The introduction of such type of oils has higher concentration of omega 6 fats.

Another worrying factor is the change in the concentration of omega 6 in cattle meat. Similar to our dog’s diet we can see a similar change in diet for feed animals. Nowadays they are given omega 6 rich grains instead of grasses and plants.

Due to above factors, we can see a greater imbalance in concentration between the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.

When the concentration of omega 6 fatty acids increases most of us will try a quick fix. Omega 3 rich fish oils will be fed to the dog and thus the ratio of both omega fats will be evened out. It should be a short fix and we need to understand the reason why omega 6 fat concentration is high.

Just ask yourself how this much amount of omega 6 fats gets into your dog’s body. Just go through your dog’s diet and check whether you are feeding foods which are high in omega 6 concentration.

Most of the fats may be from dog’s processed foods and if they are high in omega 6 oils replace them. Instead blindly feeding your dog fish oil it will be a good idea to tweak your diet and reduce the concentration of omega 6 fats. Too much fish oils can also be a problem for your dogs.

If given incorrect amount fish oil can have greater heath benefits in dogs. Dogs can’t manufacture their own omega 3 fatty acids and need to gain them from their diets. Mostly omega 3 fats are found on fish, squid, and krill. Always giving fresh fish is a better option than fish oil.

Fish oil

Fish oil supplements consist of two essential fatty acids namely EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

Fish Oil Benefits

EPA acts an anti-inflammatory and will help reduce inflammatory metabolites in dog’s body. It will prevent the inflammatory bowel diseases. Reducing inflammation will prevent conditions such as arthritis in dogs. EPA is helpful in reducing the chances of inflammation of the heart, kidneys, skin, and joints.

DHA is considered as the building block of the brain and is most essential for the development of central nervous system and vision. Various researchers have shown that DHA is vital for the development of brain and vision in puppies. So it’s really essential to feed fish oils to pregnant dogs and also for puppies. For the older dogs, it will improve the cognitive functions and will prevent cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

Fish oils can reduce protein molecules which causes inflammatory responses (pain, swelling, etc) and will decrease the chances of anxiety in dogs. It will help calm the dogs with allergies or autoimmune diseases.

High pressure is really dangerous and can cause stroke and heart attacks. Fish oil will lower the blood pressure in dogs. Thus the chances of heart attacks and strokes will be very less.

Fish oil supports dogs with kidney diseases as it will slow down the progression of a disease. The elevated blood pressure, undesired protein loss through urine, production of inflammatory substances that aggravate kidneys will be prevented to a certain extent.

Fish oil lowers the blood triglyceride levels in dogs suffering from heart disease, pancreatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. It also reduces the cholesterol in dogs.

Fish oils is a prevention against cancer and recent studies found out that they can prevent the growth of some tumors. Omega 6 fats, on the other hand, stimulates the cancer cell growth so it’s no brainer.

Fish oils have a greater effect on mitochondrion which is the powerhouse of the cells in dogs. The mitochondrion is responsible for generating body’s heat and energy from digested food materials. Thus we can use fish oils to promote weight loss in obese dogs.

Fatty acids slow down the growth of Malassezia pachydermatous, a type of yeast infection in dogs. Yeast mostly feeds on carbohydrates and it is better to feed your dog grain-free diet.

Fish oil will improve the skin health. The fatty acid will promote healthy skin cells. They will make the skin moist and resistant to damage. It helps to reduce inflammation that can occur with dry skin.

Fish oil consists of Vitamin D and it promotes skin growth and metabolism. The fish oils will improve skin and coat quality so the dog gains a naturally shinier coat.

Side Effects

Vitamin E deficiency is one of the major fall back of using too much fish oil. Vitamin E supports your pet’s immune system and prevents common canine health problems. Deficiency will result in muscle weakness and paralysis so you should make sure the dosage of fish oil is correct. Although we can use vitamin E supplements to compensate diet but it’s still gonna hurt your dog.

Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-coagulant effects and will prevent the clotting of blood. For dogs having bleeding disorders, you should contact the veterinarian before giving them fish oils.

Inflammation of pancreas is another side effect that may occur if you feed your dogs overdoses of fish oil. This will result in abdominal pain, loose stools, vomiting and may lead to dehydration.

If your dog has a history of gastrointestinal problems, you should slowly introduce fish oil to his diet. If not your dog may suffer from diarrhea.

One of the most common side effects is the fishy breath your dog may develop. There will be a fishy odor to the breath and skin and most of the owners may not be comfortable with it.

Another side effect is the oily skin and it may lead to yellow flakes. Make sure your dog is not allergic to fish.


The quantity of fish oil is crucial as the overdose can cause a lot of problems to our beloved dog as we mentioned above. The National Research Institute has established a dose between 29 to 55mg of fish oil per pound of body weight of dog as a safe upper limit. In some cases, if your dog has some serious illness (stress, chronic disease, stress) veterinarians may recommend a higher dose. If you are feeding fish oil as a supplement never breach the safe limit mentioned above.

I recommend giving 20mg per pound of weight of fish oil and you should introduce a more healthy grain-based diet.

One thing you needs to consider is the Vitamin E deficiency that may arise. Supplement your dog with Vitamin E, preferably from a whole food source. Giving him Vitamin E capsules is not recommended.

Diet is really important and you should make sure your dog is intaking enough fats to increase the absorption of the fish oil. Introduce fresh fish to his diet and reduce foods that are high in Omega 6 fats.

Things to consider before buying Fish oils

Fish oils are manufactured from different variants of fish and it’s better you select those which are manufactured from smaller fishes. Larger fishes have a higher chance of containing mercury and other toxins and it is better to avoid them.

You should select fish oils that are high in Omega 3. Some of them may not contain the desired level of Omega 3.

EFA EFA and DHA should be listed on the label. Avoid products that contain filler oils.

In the label look for antioxidants like Vitamin E, rosemary extract or astaxanthin. They slow down the oxidative process of fish oils. These type of fish oils can last longer than others.

Never buy fish oils that are in clear plastic bottle, the reason being that light goes right through them and it will be UV damaged.


The Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are unsaturated fats and will oxidize in the presence of heat, light or oxygen. Storage of fish oil is so important and we should prevent the exposure to oxygen.

Fish oil should be kept in an airtight containers and exposure to light should be minimum.

Although manufacturers recommend using fish oil within 3 months you should buy in smaller bottles to prevent oxidative damage.

Evaluate the current packing of the fish oil and make sure it is air tight. If the oil looks dark and has a bad rotten smell it should be avoided at any cost.

How do you know fish oil has gone bad?

Oxidized fish oils will have a pungent odor, off-flavor and possibly gel capsule discoloration.

Giving fish oil to dogs

Fish oil is either available as the capsule or in liquid form. In the case of liquid oil just add it to your dog’s food.

You can give fish oil capsule directly if your dog is willing to eat it. If not you can puncture the capsule and squeeze the contents into your dog’s food. Also, you can hide the capsule in your dog’s favorite foods.

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