Dog Food Ingredients for Good Health
While all fats are not created equal, certain fatty acids are crucial for your pup’s good health.
“Fatty acids are the building blocks of fats,” explains Dr. Amy Dicke, a technical services veterinarian with Iams. “Certain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential for your dog and must be supplied through the diet. These omega-6s and omega-3s are keys for maintaining healthy cell growth.”
Health Benefits of Fatty Acids
Your dog needs linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that your dog can convert to a range of other omega-6 fatty acids, says Dr. Denise Elliott, a board-certified nutritionist for Banfield, The Pet Hospital. Alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, can also be converted into other useful fatty acids.
These acids offer a multitude of benefits for your dog’s good health, including:
- Healthy skin and coat. The mentioned fatty acids help make your dog’s coat glossy and soft. You should also see less dandruff and dry skin. Additionally, several studies have clearly shown the benefit of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA/DHA in alleviating the redness and itching and improving the overall condition of the skin and coat, says Elliott.
- Neurological development. Just as human babies need fat in their diet for brain development, DHA is important in the healthy development of neurologic and optic tissue. A commercial pet food containing omega-3 fatty acids will have a positive effect on the learning ability of puppies, says Dicke.
- Healing. Omega-3 acids can help your dog heal faster, reducing inflammation.
- Intestinal health. The anti-inflammatory qualities of omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for dogs suffering from irritable bowel disease, says Dr. Katy Nelson, a veterinarian who is a member of the Iams Pet Wellness Council.
- Joint health. Is your dog getting a little creaky when it comes to climbing up and down stairs or simply joining you on a walk around the block? A diet with a well-balanced combination of fatty acids may help. Again, it’s the reduction in inflammation that is key.
Finding the Right IngredientsYour dog’s food should contain a balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids alone can actually be inflammatory agents, notes Nelson. A high-quality dog food should have a ratio of five or 10 omega-6 fatty acids to one omega-3 fatty acid. “Not all diets supply the level of omega-3 fatty acids to achieve the benefits,” says Dicke. “The increased omega-3 supplementation is found primarily in the premium diets. Owners can look for a guarantee of omega-3 fatty acids in the guaranteed analysis section of the package.”
Vegetable oils and animal fats, such as chicken fat, are common sources of omega-6 fatty acids in pet food. Fish meals, fish oils and flax are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
It’s a good idea to discuss your dog’s diet and your interest in fatty acids with your veterinarian. “Fatty acids are a complex field,” says Elliott. While many supplements are available on the market, these supplements aren’t regulated and they may have unintended side effects. For example, cod liver oil has concentrations of vitamin A and vitamin D that can have adverse effects at high doses.
Adding fat through supplements to your dog’s diet also may lead to weight gain if not carefully monitored. If your dog receives the needed fatty acids through a commercial food, then you can control caloric intake.
Consider these omega fatty acids a part of your overall health plan for your dog -- not a miracle cure. If your dog is overweight or inactive, you’ll need to find a way to get it moving. “You have to do your part in order to allow the omega acids to be useful,” says Nelson.