There has been lots of talk when it comes to essential fatty acids and our pets. Many pet people talk about “omegas” as being an important part of a dog or cat’s diet and many companies claim their products contain these “omegas”. But what are “omegas”, what do they do, and why are they important? When we hear people talk about “omegas”, they are generally referring to Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids. Omega 9s are also important for your pet’s health, but are categorized as non-essential fatty acids, meaning your pet’s body produces these, and does not need to consume them as part of their diet.
Omega 3 and 6 fatty acidswork together to help your pet’s body perform certain tasks, including assisting in metabolic processes and proper cellular function, as well as promoting healthy brain activity.Both Omega 3s and Omega 6s are groupsof fatty acids, and not single fats, and each fatty acid within these groups performs functions that are varied and complex, both in their interactions with each other, and the rest of your pet’s body. The trouble is that our pets’ modern diet has become very high in the readily available fatty acids found in the Omega 6 group, which generally produces inflammatory effects. These effects are needed to promote growth and cell repair, but in high amounts can cause unhealthy inflammation, which can cause problems such as arthritis and heart disease.
The Omega 3 fatty acids, and their anti-inflammatory effects, have become more difficult to come by in many pet foods, given that a large number of the oils used for fat in these foods, are ones full of Omega 6s, but not enough Omega 3s. However, this isn’t the only area in which we find unbalanced ratios of fatty acids. Many of the meats we choose to feed our pets are also too high in Omega 6s and too low in Omega 3s. Some of this is how the animals have been raised and fed. For example, a grass fed, free roaming cow will have a better balance of fatty acids in its tissues, than a confined, grain-fed cow. Some of this is also simply the type of meat, as chicken has been known to have a higher ratio of Omega 6s to Omega 3s than other proteins.
So what can you do to ensure your pets are getting proper ratios of each? Given that it won’t be difficult for them to get enough Omega 6s from their food, it becomes about how to ensure they are getting enough Omega 3s. A great first step is to switch your pet onto a fresh, raw diet, or to a high quality, limited ingredient dry food diet. The staff at Rascals will be able to help you examine your pet’s current food, as well as assist in making a switch if need be. You can also supplement your pet’s diet with fish oils, and other products high in Omega 3s, especially if you are feeding chicken or other proteins that may not have balanced fatty acid profiles.