Omega 3s are essential to our dog’s health. A supplement can be beneficial but choosing a good one is key.
Doubts about the purity, potency, and stability of Omega 3 supplements have led to some people choosing not to consume or feed them at all. However, for us, the potential benefits of Omega 3 supplements are worth the effort of learning to choose one wisely.
Omega-3s are important components of our cell membrane and help to ensure that our bodies function well. They are essential fats, which means that our bodies don’t produce enough, if at all, of them. Getting them from food is the best approach but sadly, they tend to be lacking in most of our diets today.
That’s where supplements come in. In our household, both humans and dog consume omega 3 supplements. But we choose them carefully, knowing that contamination and rancidity are valid concerns.
If you are able to maintain a healthy diet that’s rich in fatty acids for you and your dog, more power to you! But if you need a little boost, here are the things you need to know and consider before you make a purchase.
There are three main types of Omega 3s – Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), and Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA).
What we care about are the first two Omega 3s, DHA and EPA (mostly from marine sources like fish, shellfish and algae) as our bodies can use them directly.
ALA (mostly from oils of plants like flaxseed and chia seeds) is mainly a source of energy, and while our bodies can convert it to EPA, the conversion is not known to be efficient.
Forms of Omega 3
The battle between the different forms of Omega 3 essentially comes down to their bioavailability. But so far, no study can conclusively determine which is more superior.
There are also other factors to consider, such as price and the DHA and EPA concentration. Hence, we personally don’t place too much emphasis on this when we are making our choice.
Ethyl Ester – A cheaper, processed form of Omega 3. Some short-term studies suggest that it’s less bioavailable than triglyceride form, while longer-term studies indicate that it’s equally well absorbed. There are also questions about its stability and the fact that it’s bonded with ethanol. To be safe, this form of Omega 3 is not in our consideration.
Triglycerides – When we eat fish, this is the primary form of Omega 3 we get. It is also the most common form of Omega 3 in conventional fish oils.
Phospholipids – Some people believe this to be more bioavailable than triglycerides. Krill oil is rich in Phospholipids, making it the preferred choice for some but there are other factors to keep in mind (keep reading!).
Sources of DHA & EPA
|Source||Main Form(s)||Type||Why consider it?||Which product has this?|
|Fish Oil (salmon, hoki, sardine, anchovies, herring etc.)||Triglyceride||DHA, EPA||Most common and affordable. Generally high EPA and DHA||Fera Pet Organics Fish Oil|
Dom & Cleo Wild Fish Oil
Dom & Cleo Cod Liver Fish Oil
NUTREATS Fish Oil
|Krill Oil||Phospholipid, Triglyceride||DHA, EPA||On average, lower EPA and DHA than fish oils but contains potent Astaxanthin, an antioxidant that helps preserve the oil and provide additional health benefits||Dr Mercola Krill Oil|
|Green-lipped Mussel Oil (GLM)||Phospholipid, Triglyceride||ETA, DHA, EPA||On average, lower EPA and DHA than fish oils but it also contains more types of fatty acids like ETA. Plus, it has other anti-inflammatory nutrients that are especially good for joints. It is also advertised to be more sustainable than fish||Four Leaf Rover Safe Sea|
NUTREATS Fish Oil
|Algae Oil||Triglyceride||DHA, EPA||If grown on land, it is a sustainable source of Omega 3, free of heavy metals. A good option for dogs that are allergic to fish/shellfish||Adored Beast Potent-Sea Omega-3 Algae Oil|
While krill oil and GLM oils are rich in Phospholipids, they contain on average, less EPA and DHA, and tend to be significantly more expensive than fish oil.
You may also want to take note that some products are mixed with other plant or fish oils to increase DHA and EPA concentration and/or to make the product more affordable. So, read the labels to know what you are really getting.
Algae oil is now all the rage as it’s a safe and sustainable form of Omega 3. Algae is where fish gets their Omega 3! Plus, it’s great for dogs that are allergic to fish or shellfish. It is certainly a source of Omega 3 that’s worth considering. Just be sure to check the product’s EPA and DHA concentration.
4 things to look out for when choosing an Omega 3 supplement
How much EPA and DHA are you getting per 1,000mg? This can vary a lot from product to product. Of course, the higher the concentration, the better.
Any product that can provide a certificate of analysis to show its minimum amount of EPA and DHA gets extra points.
2. Heavy Metals
When we are dealing with fish, one big concern is heavy metals. You want a product that’s molecularly distilled and third-party tested to be free from heavy metals and other contaminants. If the product label does not mention it, ask the manufacturer or keep looking.
Choose products using marine animals that are responsibly sourced. Short-lived fish, algae, and krill are all considered to be more sustainable but you still have to do your homework to ensure that the company you are buying from is doing the right thing.
4. Packaging and storage
Oxidation is another concern when it comes to Omega 3 oils. Oxidised products are harmful instead of healthful. So, the stability of the oil, the packaging it comes in, and how you store it matter.
While most products have added antioxidants/preservatives like Vitamin E, always finish the product as soon as you can. Basically, we want as little exposure to heat, oxygen, and light as possible.
Lastly, here are some tips to ensure product freshness:
- always buy from reputable and responsible brands
- purchase a smaller size product, especially if your dog is small
- oils protected in gel capsules are great but can be bothersome to feed
- dark glass bottles are preferred for liquids
- refrigerate liquid products
- Always ensure your bottles are properly screwed back on after opening
Every Omega 3 supplement claims to have multiple health benefits and a high concentration of fatty acids but that’s not always the case. It’s your job to ensure that the product you plan to purchase is as good as it claims to be. Also, you should consult a trusted veterinarian if your dog has pre-existing health conditions before introducing a new supplement.