When it comes to your dog’s diet, less fat isn’t necessarily better … and not all fats are the same.
There are several types of fats that should appear in your dog’s diet and they’re organized into three types:
1. Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs)
These fats aren’t usually found in food and they’re made by bacteria that live in your dog’s gut and are used mostly by the intestinal cells.
2. Long chain fatty acids (LCFAs)
These common fats are first turned into another fat called triglyceride so they can be either used for energy or stored. Long chain fatty acids are what we often think of when we think of fats and they’re found in most fats and oils, as well as nuts, fish and meats.
Each long chain fatty acid has different healthy effects on the body. Five of these long chain fatty acids oils are essential for the dogs, however they can’t usually produce enough of it and must get in their diet.
Linoleic Acid (LA)
LA is an Omega-6 fat, found in hempseed, soybean, safflower, sunflower and corn oils.
Lack of LA is linked to coat and skin issues and can make your dog sluggish.
Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA)
ALA is an Omega-3 fat found in flaxseed, chia seed, hempseed and walnut oils.
Dogs primarily use ALA to make EPA and DHA, which are essential for body, brain and eye health.
Arachidonic Acid (AA)
AA is an Omega-6 fat found in meat, poultry and eggs.
AA is a brain fat and lack of AA in a puppy’s diet can produce a “dumber” adult dog.
Eicosapetaenoic Acid (EPA)
EPA is an Omega-3 fat found in oily fish like salmon, herring and sardines.
Lack of EPA is linked to depression in mammals. EPA also considered the anti-inflammatory fatty acid.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
DHA is an Omega-3 fat, also found in oily fish.
DHA is essential for brain and eyes. Animals lacking DHA don’t think as quickly and don’t remember, see or hear as well.
Clearly, it’s a good idea to make sure your dog is getting a good balance and amount of long chain fatty acids. But researchers are looking into the health benefits of a third category of fats: the medium chain fatty acids.
3. Medium Chain Fatty Acids: The “Other” Fat
Whereas long chain fatty acids have more than 12 carbon chains and short chain fatty acids have less than 6, medium chain fatty acids (also called medium chain triglycerides, another term for fatty acids), fall right in between.
- Caproic Acid
- Caprylic Acid
- Capric Acid
- Lauric Acid
Medium chain fatty acids are easier to digest than long chain fatty acids.
They don’t need to be converted to triglycerides and travel straight to the liver where they will be burned as fuel and not stored as fat. Their molecules are smaller in size, so they penetrate cells easier, which makes these fats a more bioavailable fat source for some dogs.
But there are other benefits to MCFAs … and there are nearly 2,000 scientific studies just on the health benefits of lauric acid alone. (Coconut Oil is the perfect addition to your dog’s diet. Click here to find out more)
Let’s look at just the top 5 health benefits of MCFAs for your dog …
The Proven Benefits Of Medium Chain Fatty Acids
Here are some of the researched benefits of MCFAs:
Cancer Prevention And Treatment
MCFAs produce ketones when they’re digested – this is significant because cancer cells lack the ability to use fat as a fuel. This is the basis behind ketogenic cancer diets.
MDFAs (notably lauric acid) have also been shown to cause apoptosis, or cancer cell death. In vivo studies showed that coconut oil (which is very high in lauric acid) could kill 93% of colon cancer cells.
Fights Allergy Symptoms And Yeast Infections
Another interesting study showed that MCFAs were capable of killing not only bacteria and viruses, but Candida albicans, a yeast that’s commonly the cause of allergy symptoms.
Reduces Inflammation And Arthritis
Helps Treat UTI Infections And Protects The Liver
MCFAs are a natural antibiotic and have successfully been used to treat urinary and kidney infections. A recent study shows that coconut oil protects the liver against toxic damage.
Balances The Hormones
This is great news for owners of spayed and neutered dogs! MCFAs (especially auric acid) have been shown to naturally balance the hormones.
Food Sources Of MCFAs
There are two main sources of MCFAs. Caproic acid, caprylic acid and capric acid are all found in good amounts in milk (capra is latin for goat), and it contains a smaller amount of lauric acid. The milk must come from pastured animals to have a good supply of MCFAs. Goat milk is better digested than cow’s milk and it’s best if it’s raw and not pasteurized. Nutrients and minerals are also better digested in goat milk, and it’s less likely to cause inflammation than cow’s milk.
Coconut oil also contains good amounts of caproic, caprylic and capric acid but it’s also the richest natural source of lauric acid (coconut oil is about 50% lauric acid), following by human breastmilk (which is 20% lauric acid).
The health benefits of coconut oil has been proven through recent research – not just for its MCFAs, but also for its antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Lauric acid is the best researched and most beneficial of the MCFAs, so coconut oil is a slam dunk when it comes to getting more SCFAs into your dog.
Look for organic, extra-virgin coconut oil and stay away from overly processed or refined oils – these oils are chemically processed to extend their shelf life and the processing changes the chemical structure of the fats.[Related: Want a great recipe for coconut oil for dog skin problems? Find it here]
How Much MCFA Should You Give Your Dog?
Because the MCFAs come in food form, there’s no specific dose.
If you’re feeding raw, pastured goat milk, give your dog about 2 oz per 20 pounds.
If you’re using coconut oil as the source of your dog’s MCFAs, you’ll want to feed 1 tsp per 10 pounds or 1 tbsp per 30 pounds. Here’s a quick guide:
- Dogs under 10 lbs: 1 tsp
- Small dogs (20 lbs): 2 tsp
- Medium dogs (30 – 40 lbs): 1 tbsp
- Large dogs (over 100 lbs): 3 tbsp
Don’t just give your dog fish oil … MCFAs can have a very positive impact on his health and it’s a tasty treat that most dogs will eat right off the spoon. Whole food sources of MCFAs like goat milk and coconut oil are an inexpensive and easy addition to any dog’d diet!
[Related: What are all the benefits of coconut oil? Click here]