Benefits of DHA for Your Growing Puppy

By Kim Boatman

Benefits of DHA for Your Growing Puppy

While proper training is important in teaching your dog good manners, diet also plays a critical role in your puppy’s development. If you want a smart and healthy puppy, the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is an essential component of your dog’s diet.

DHA’s Essential Role
DHA is a major structural component in the brains of all mammals, explains Dr. Amy Dicke, a technical services veterinarian with Iams. “Healthy brains are about 60 percent structural fat, and 30 percent of the fat in gray matter is DHA, the most abundant fatty acid in the brain,” says Dicke.

Just like a human baby, your puppy’s brain develops after birth. “Puppies have acquired only 70 percent of their adult brain mass by 6 weeks of age, and 90 percent by 12 weeks,” notes Dicke.

Pregnant dogs pass DHA to their unborn pups, aiding in their development. Dr. Tracy Dewhirst -- a Knoxville, Tenn., veterinarian -- recommends feeding puppy food that contains DHA to the mother during the last two weeks of gestation and then until the puppies are weaned.

Research shows that puppies fed high levels of DHA are easier to train than puppies with low levels of DHA. The research highlighted a significant statistical difference, notes Dr. Katy Nelson, a veterinarian. “The puppies were given the same amount of training, the same interaction each day and were of the same breed and line,” adds Nelson.

Benefits of feeding your puppy a commercial food containing DHA include:

  • Better socialization. Your pup is likely to adjust better to your home environment and your family.
  • Quicker understanding. You’re more likely to be able to quickly teach your furry friend new concepts and obedience challenges.
  • Less destructive behavior. Your pup is less likely to engage in the sorts of behavior that cause stress for you and your household.

Other Benefits of DHA
Your puppy needs DHA for proper development in other areas as well. For instance, the omega-3 fatty acid is essential in the development of your dog’s central nervous system and eyes.

“Omega-3s are also potent anti-inflammatory agents within the body,” says Nelson. “They help with inflammation in joints, gums, skin, the GI tract and more. A dog fed a diet high in DHA is very likely to have a shiny coat, healthy teeth and gums, as well as normal stools.”

The Source of DHA
In commercial dog food, fish, fishmeal and fish oil are sources of DHA. It’s difficult for dog owners to provide appropriate levels of DHA and the right combination of essential fatty acids through homemade diets or the use of supplements. “Homemade diets have proved to be nutritionally deficient in most cases,” explains Dewhirst, “unless formulated by a veterinary nutritionist -- especially for the percentage of protein, vitamins and essentially fatty acids.”

Kim Boatman is a journalist based in Northern California. She is also the managing editor of ExceptionalCanine.com. Boatman's work has appeared in The Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifelong lover of animals, and a frequent contributor to The Dog Daily

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