fish oil for dogs

A few years ago, I dumped out all of my dogs’ fish oil …

… and I think after you read this post, you will too.

I know that sounds crazy … millions of dog owners feed their dogs fish oil every day. And there’s good reason to add fish oil to our dog’s bowl every day – he needs the omega-3 fats it contains.

In a nutshell, most dogs get too much omega-6 fats in their diet – and when that happens, it turns on inflammation in the body. If that inflammation is excessive, it puts your dog at risk for allergy symptoms, joint pain and many other chronic health issues.

The reason we want to add omega-3 fats to our dog’s diet is to balance out those omega-6 fats and reduce the inflammation that causes chronic disease.

So the whole point of feeding fish oil is to reduce your dog’s risk of disease or disease symptoms, right? You don’t give your dog fish oil to add omega-3 fatty acids or DHA or EPA to his diet … you do it because you love your dog and you want to make him healthier, free from diseases caused by chronic inflammation and, hopefully, make him live longer.

If that’s your goal, then you probably need to start throwing out his fish oil.

(Phytoplankton makes a great alternative to fish oil. Read the full article here.)

While fish oil does indeed contain the omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, and they are a healthy addition to his diet, any health benefits are probably cancelled out by the significant downside of fish oils.

So in hopes of helping you make your dog healthier and less likely to suffer from inflammation-related diseases, here’s a list of the top 5 reasons why you don’t want to feed your dog fish oil (and don’t worry, I’ll tell you how to replace it).

1. Fish Oil Can Cause Disease And Premature Aging

Every time you open your dog’s bottle of fish oil, something bad happens …

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are extremely vulnerable to oxidative damage.

When these fat particles are exposed to oxygen (this is called oxidation), they break down into smaller compounds, like malondialdehyde (MDA), and they create oxygen-containing molecules called free radicals. Both MDA and free radicals cause premature aging and disease because they damage proteins, DNA, and other important cellular structures.

This damage is called oxidative stress and it leads to health problems, including gene mutations and cancer, and inflammatory conditions (which is ironic because you were giving your dog fish oil to fight against inflammation, not create inflammation)!

Most fish oil will be already oxidized before you even buy it. Oxygen leaks through the plastic container and even the gel caps, causing harmful oxidation. And even if your fish oil is in a glass container, every you time you open it to give some to your dog, oxidation occurs … and the risk of health issues goes up.

Research proves this. A study by Mata et al showed that oxidative damage increases as intake of omega-3 fat increases. And even eating fresh, non-oxidized DHA and EPA has been shown to increase markers of oxidative stress in rats.

2. Fish Oil Contains Toxins

Although the fats stored in fish are nicely loaded with omega-3s, fat is also where toxins are stored. And our oceans are becoming more and more polluted by the minute.

Heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury are a byproduct of our industrial lifestyle. They aren’t easily broken down, and they end up in the environment at low levels, especially in fish. And fish oil.

Heavy metals can cause nervous system dysfunction, blindness, certain cancers, irreversible liver and kidney damage and even death.

Along with heavy metals, there are other toxic compounds that accumulate in fish. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were banned in 1979 but they’re still found in the oceans and in fish. They can cause skin problems, muscle spasms, bronchitis and nervous system disorders.

Dioxins and furans have been linked to a number of adverse health effects including skin, liver and immune system problems, endocrine and reproductive disruptions and the development of certain cancers. This is especially a concern for young dogs.

Now almost any fish oil manufacturer will tell you their product is free of the above toxins … but independent lab analyses may say otherwise. So it’s essential to ask for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) from the manufacturer before you buy any fish oil. But a 2010 lawsuit found that even tested fish oils were still found to contain dangerous PCBs.

3. You Could Be Feeding Your Dog Radiation

In 2011, the Fukushima nuclear power plant was hit by a tsunami and its reactors melted down, causing radioactive water to seep into the Pacific ocean. Every day, 300 tons of this radioactive water still seeps into the ocean.

Today, the radiation has hit the west coast of North America and has contaminated most marine life. Fish on the west coast, including the salmon commonly used for fish oil, are testing positive for radioactive particles, such as Cesium-137 and Strontium-90. If your dog eats affected fish oil from Pacific fish, radioactive strontium and cesium can deposit in his bone marrow, where it can cause bone cancer and leukemia.

Fish oil manufacturers are testing their products for safety, but again, you’ll want a COA if you insist on feeding fish oil.

4. Your Dog’s Fish Oil Is Killing The Ocean

Nearly all fish oils are made from fish that are vacuumed up from the oceans. These fish are caught by nets and a by-product of fisheries is something called by-catch. This is the term given to sea creatures that are accidentally caught in the fishermen’s nets, such as whales, dolphins and sea turtles.

It’s estimated that fishery nets kills 300,000 whales, porpoises and dolphins each year – and from 1970 to 2012, their numbers have been split in half.

Menhaden fish is one of the most sought-after fish for omega-3 fats – and it’s commonly used for pet foods. The menhaden fish are important to the ocean because they eat algae blooms and this keeps the ocean waters clean and full of oxygen. An adult menhaden can filter 5,760 gallons of water in one day and this filtration allows sunlight to penetrate the water and allows aquatic plant life to grow and support the entire ocean.

But it’s estimated that half a billion menhaden are fished from our oceans every year and the oceans are now developing dead zones – which are areas with a lack of oxygen. The fertilizers that are used to make our foods run off into the oceans and create these algae blooms – and without the menhaden fish, theses algae blooms are killing our oceans.

And the new kid on the block, krill oil, is no better …

Krill are the whale’s main source of food – a single humpback whale can eat nearly 5 tones of krill a day. Scientists speculate that krill populations have fallen by 80% since the mid-1970s.

I hope you’re starting to see that your dog doesn’t need fish oil … but the oceans do!

5. There Are Better Alternatives To Fish Oil

So I hope I’ve convinced you that your dog doesn’t need fish oil. In fact, he’d be much better off without it!

But what about the omega-3 fatty acids he needs to control inflammation and reduce his risk of health issues? Does your dog still need those?

Yes he does! But the answer is not fish oil …

Fish aren’t born with high levels of omega-3. Just like your dog, they need to get omega-3 in their diet. 

And they get it from phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton is a tiny little bundles of algae and bacteria that sustain the entire ocean. Think of phytoplankton as the meadows and forests of the ocean. Tiny creatures called zooplankton eat the phytoplankton and then the fish eat the phytoplankton and the zooplankton. And the omega-3 is passed up the ocean food chain because phytoplankton are half omega-3 fats by weight – about double the amount found in fish.

And unlike plant sources of omega-3 fats, which your dog can’t really convert all that well, phytoplankton molecules are so small, they don’t even need to be digested. They travel right to your dog’s cells and nourish them directly.

And phytoplankton can be grown in filtered water in farms, so you don’t have to worry about heavy metals, radiation and toxins, or its impact on the oceans.

And phytoplankton does something fish oil could never do …

Phytoplankton contains a powerful antioxidant called Superoxide dismutase (SOD). This antioxidant is called the “king of antioxidants” and research shows that the creatures with the largest amounts of SOD live longer.

So all that free radical damage your fish oil has been causing in your dog can be cleaned up with phytoplankton … and phytoplankton offers other health benefits too.

The oceans need fish more than your dog does … and fish oil really causes more harm than good anyway.

(We have a great article that covers the many benefits to giving your dog Phytoplankton.)

Dogs Naturally is known for creating controversy and I hope this gets you thinking about what goes into your dog, instead of just jumping on the fish oil bandwagon. Together, we can make the world a safer, healthier place for dogs … and  we can also make the world better for all the other species that inhabit it.