If you are researching ways to keep your dog happy and healthy, you have probably come across the suggestion of adding fish oil to their diet. Fish oil can be extremely beneficial for your dog’s health, but it is important to make sure that you are fully informed before making the decision to add it to your dog’s diet. Continue reading for more information about fish oil and its risks and benefits.
Fish oil is an excellent source of healthy omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats combat and balance out omega-6 fats, which cause chronic inflammation when left unbalanced. Many dogs are fed a diet that is high in omega-6 fats, and it is for this reason that is important to provide a source of omega-3 fats in order to reduce inflammation.
Chronic inflammation, when left untreated in the canine body, can lead to:
- Allergy symptoms
- Joint pain
- Auto-immune diseases
Fish oil certainly provides various health benefits by providing omega-3 fats in your dog’s diet, but it is also important to make sure you are aware of the risks associated with fish oil, as well:
1. Disease And Premature Aging
Each time you open your dog’s bottle of fish oil, the capsules become exposed to oxygen. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are extremely vulnerable to oxidative damage; when the fat particles in the oil are exposed to oxygen, it’s called oxidation. This is how they break down into smaller compounds, like malondialdehyde (MDA).
Oxidation also creates oxygen-containing molecules called free radicals. Both MDA and free radicals cause premature aging and disease, as they damage proteins, DNA, and other important cellular structures. This damage is referred to as oxidative stress, and it has the potential to lead to a number of health problems, such as gene mutations, cancer, and various inflammatory conditions. This is quite contradictory, as many people add fish oil to their dog’s diet in the hopes of reducing inflammation rather than creating it.
Most fish oil pills will be already oxidized before you purchase them; oxygen leaks through plastic containers and even the gel caps, causing harmful oxidation. Even glass containers face the risk of allowing oxidation to occur, as oxygen enters the container each time it is opened.
A study by Mata et al showed that oxidative damage increases as intake of omega-3 fat increases. Other study has shown that 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. This is accompanied by the fact that our oceans are sadly becoming 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
- In worst-case scenarios, death.
Along with heavy metals, there are other toxic compounds that accumulate in fish. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) were banned in 1979 but are still actively 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
- The development of certain cancers
Most fish oil pill manufacturers will deny that their products contain harmful toxins, but independent lab analyses have proven otherwise.
It’s for this reason that it is important to ask for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) from the manufacturer before you make the decision to purchase fish oil pills. While this is a better way to ensure that the product you are buying is safe, it is not always 100% guaranteed; a 2010 lawsuit found that even tested fish oils were still found to contain dangerous PCBs.
Finding a Solution
After reading the information above, you may feel a little discouraged, and you may be left wondering what you can do to help your dog avoid harmful inflammation. There are a few different options in this case:
Option One: Purchase fish oil that comes in dark glass containers from reputable manufacturers. Ensure that they can prove that they clean their product from toxins and heavy metals. Store the oil in the refrigerator after opening, no longer than 3-6 months.
Option Two: Feed your dog whole fresh or frozen fish. Remember to choose small fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines, smelt, anchovy, and wild salmon(salmon should always be cooked, do not feed raw salmon).
Option Three: Feed your dog canned fish such as canned sardines in water with no added salt, or sardines in olive oil. Half a can per day should be enough for a medium or large size dog.
Going forward with the information you learned here, you will be able to ensure that you can safely add healthy fish oils to your dogs diet.