A few years ago, I dumped out all of my dogs’ fish oil …
I decided the risk wasn’t worth the benefit.
I know that sounds crazy … millions of dog owners feed their dogs fish oil every day. And fish oil is a good source of two important fatty acids: DHA and EPA.
So why did I stop give my dogs the world’s most popular supplement?
The Benefits Of EPA And DHA
There’s actually a good reason to add fish oil to our dog’s bowl every day … he likely needs the omega-3 fats it contains.
Most dogs eat kibble or meats that eat grains and starchy foods. These foods are too rich in omega-6 fats. And feeding higher amounts of some omega-6 fats leads to an increase in inflammation in your dog’s body.
This excess inflammation puts your dog at risk. This type of chronic inflammation can lead to common health issues including:
- Allergy symptoms
- Joint pain
- Autoimmune diseases and many more
This is why you need to add omega-3 fats to our dog’s diet …they help balance out those omega-6 fats to reduce harmful inflammation.
While fish oil does indeed contain two omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, and they are a healthy addition to his diet …
… there are a few problems with fish oil that you need to be aware of.
6 Reasons To Upgrade Your Dog’s Fish Oil
Your dog doesn’t need fish oil … but he does need anti-inflammatory fats to balance out his diet and help prevent chronic disease.
And as you’ll find out, there are healthier sources of anti-inflammatory fats … and more complete ones.
So let’s look at the top reasons to skip the fish oil for your dog:
1. Fish Oil Is Incomplete
There’s no doubt … fish oil is a very rich source of two key fatty acids: EPA and DHA.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) isn’t an anti-inflammatory fat. It mainly protects the brain and nervous system.
But it’s clear that EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is an important anti-inflammatory fat … and fish oil has EPA in spades.
But fish oil is a good source of these two omega fats only. It’s missing other key anti-inflammatory fats such as ETA and GLA.
ETA (eicosatetraenoic acid) is an important precursor to EPA … with plenty of anti-inflammatory benefits of its own. And while your dog can convert ETA to EPA, he can’t convert EPA to ETA. So fish oil is an incomplete source of anti-inflammatory fats.
GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) is another anti-inflammatory fat that can benefit your dog. But GLA comes exclusively from plants, not animals. So fish oil is also devoid of GLA.
2. Fish Oil Goes Rancid Fast
The two main fatty acids in fish oil are the most vulnerable to oxidative damage.
When oil is exposed to oxygen, it breaks down into smaller compounds. A by-product of this is unstable molecules called free radicals. These free radicals build up and damage proteins, DNA, and other important cellular structures.
This damage is called oxidative stress and it leads to a number of health problems. The most common include gene mutations, cancer, and inflammatory conditions.
Most fish oil will already be oxidized before you even buy it. Oxygen leaks through plastic containers and even the gel caps, causing harmful oxidation. The same applies to krill, squid and algal oils.
A study by Mata et al showed that oxidative damage increases as the intake of omega-3 fat increases. And eating DHA and EPA has been shown to increase markers of oxidative stress in rats.
Other anti-inflammatory fats such as SDA, ETA and GLA are less likely to oxidize because they have fewer double bonds.
3. 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 like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury are a by-product 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 many health issues including:
- Nervous system dysfunction
- 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.
PCBs can cause skin problems, muscle spasms, bronchitis and nervous system disorders.
Dioxins and furans have also been linked to a number of adverse health effects including:
- Skin issues
- Liver issues
- Immune system problems
- Endocrine and reproductive disruptions
- And the development of certain cancers.
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 beware a 2010 lawsuit found that even tested fish oils were still found to contain dangerous PCBs.
4. You Could Be Feeding Your Dog Radiation
In 2011, the Fukushima nuclear power plant was hit by a tsunami and its reactors melted down. This caused radioactive water to seep into the Pacific ocean.
Every day, 300 tons of this radioactive water still seeps into the ocean.
This radiation has now hit the west coast of North America and has contaminated most marine life. Including the salmon that are commonly used for fish oil. The salmon are testing positive for radioactive particles, such as Cesium-137 and Strontium-90. If you feed Pacific fish or oils, radioactive strontium and cesium can deposit in his bone marrow. And this can lead to bone cancer and leukemia.
5. Your Dog’s Fish Oil Is Killing The Ocean
Nearly all fish oils are made from fish that are vacuumed up from the oceans. In the process, other marine life are caught by accident.
This includes many sea creatures, such as whales, dolphins and sea turtles.
It’s estimated that fishery nets kill 300,000 whales, porpoises and dolphins each year. And from 1970 to 2012, their population 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 by doing this they keep the ocean waters clean and full of oxygen. An adult menhaden can filter 5,760 gallons of water in one day! This allows sunlight to penetrate the water and aquatic plant life to grow to support the ocean.
But it’s estimated that half a billion menhaden are fished from our oceans every year. This has resulted in dead zones developing – which are areas with a lack of oxygen. The fertilizers used on crops run off into the oceans and create algae blooms. But without the menhaden fish, theses algae blooms are killing our oceans.
It’s not just menhaden fish that are problematic …
Most salmon oil (especially from Canada and Norway) comes from farmed salmon. Farmed fish contain significantly more toxins than wild fish … and contain a lot more omega-6 fats because of their diets. Another 1/3 of both Pacific and Atlantic salmon are raised in hatcheries and then released into oceans, where they threaten wild fish.
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 tonnes 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!
6. There Are Better Alternatives To Fish Oil
But what about the omega-3 fatty acids he needs for inflammation and optimum health? Does your dog still need those?
Yes, he does! But the answer isn’t fish oil …
Fish, krill and squid oils are all limited in the fatty acids they contain.
They’re also an irresponsible choice. Fish, whale and sea animal populations are being decimated … even so-called sustainable fishing.
And lower quality brands will contain heavy metals and pollutants.
But the good news is, you can get a full array of healthy fats into your dog without harming the ocean …
Safe Alternatives To Fish Oil For Dogs
The idea isn’t necessarily to replace fish oil … what you want to do is get the healthy, anti-inflammatory fats without harming the oceans and without harming your dog.
So let’s look at the important fats your dog needs … and the alternative source of each one.
Sources Of DHA
DHA is the fatty acid that’s most likely to oxidize and create free radicals. Fish oil is a good source of DHA, but other sources include:
- Algal oil
- Organs rich in DHA (brain and eyes)
- Sources of DHA precursors (ETA and EPA)
Algal oil isn’t the best choice because it only contains DHA and not the important anti-inflammatory fats your dog needs: EPA, ETA and GLA.
Organs rich in DHA are fairly easy to find at your local butcher or in a glandular product made for humans or dogs.
The best sources of DHA are ones that contain a good supply of ETA and EPA. These two fats are easily converted to DHA if your dog needs it … and they are important anti-inflammatory fats all on their own.
Let’s take a look at oils rich in these fats …
Sources Of EPA and ETA
EPA and ETA are the two key omega-3 fats your dog needs to reduce inflammation and boost health. Fish oil is a major source of EPA, but not ETA. There are other choices that contain both EPA and its precursor ETA. These include:
- Green lipped mussel oil
Phytoplankton are tiny little bundles of algae and bacteria that sustain the entire ocean. Think of phytoplankton as the meadows and forests of the ocean.
By weight, phytoplankton are about half omega-3 fats … and they pass this on to the sea creatures that eat them.
You can feed your dog phytoplankton directly. The benefits are that they can be sustainably grown on land in filtered seawater. Phytoplankton are also rich in a powerful antioxidant called Superoxide dismutase (SOD).
SOD is called the “king of antioxidants. This is because research shows that creatures with high levels of SOD live longer.
The downside of phytoplankton is that they’re microscopic. So the actual amount of EPA and ETA your dog gets is small.
A better option is a major consumer of phytoplankton: green lipped mussels.
Green lipped mussels are grown in shallow waters in the sounds of New Zealand. They can be sustainably farmed because their food is phytoplankton.
Green lipped mussels filter phytoplankton from the waters they live in so they offer a more concentrated source of the omega fats found in phytoplankton. And unlike fish oil, they also contain high concentrations of the antioxidant SOD.
The green lipped mussel is unique among all oils. It’s extremely rich in ETA, which isn’t found in significant amounts in other oils. ETA is a powerful anti-inflammatory fat that’s starting to get a lot of attention from researchers. Green lipped mussel oil is also more bioavailable than fish oil, so a smaller amount will get the same results.
Unlike fish oil and other marine oils, green lipped mussel oil is also rich in magnesium and zinc, which are cofactors for the conversion of omega-3 fats.
Sources Of GLA
GLA is actually an omega-6 fat. But it’s a key anti-inflammatory fat that also helps regulate hormones. It’s also linked to healthy skin and coats. But this important fat doesn’t come from animal sources. You can get it in:
- Hempseed oil
- Ahiflower oil
A key benefit of both hemp and ahiflower is that they’re rich in minerals, including zinc and manganese. Both are rich in GLA, but ahiflower is the richest source of GLA, containing 60% more than hempseed.
Both hemp and ahiflower also contain SDA, which can be converted to ETA and EPA. Other plant oils including flax don’t carry this benefit. Ahiflower contains about 10 times more SDA than flax.
Is Fish Oil Good For Dogs?
Well, the fats in fish oil are good for dogs. But your dog needs more than just the EPA and DHA that fish oil contains. Ideally, he should also get a daily source of GLA and ETA.
And it’s our responsibility to protect the oceans from further devastation.
This is why I no longer feed my dogs fish oil.
My dogs get a combination of green lipped mussel and ahiflower oil every day. Giving both marine and plant oils gives my dogs the full array of healthy fats they need with as few toxins as possible. Plus this gives them a rich supply of SOD to protect against any dangerous free radical buildup.
I feel good knowing I’m not adding to the continued devastation of our oceans. And I like giving my dogs two key immune-boosting fats that are missing in fish oil supplements.
I hope this guide helps you make healthier choices for your dogs too … and better choices for the planet.