As with your own diet, focusing on good fats and avoiding less-than-desirable ones is a smart goal for finding high-quality dog food. The right fats can work in many ways to heal your pup’s vital tissues and cells; they also play a role in fighting illness and disease, as well as safeguarding the body’s systems and enhancing his coat and skin.
“The best kinds of fats to look for in pet food, dog treats or supplements are omega fatty acids,” explains Dr. Stephanie Liff, DVM, medical director of Pure Paws Vet Care in New York City.
Most dog foods have omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids in them, but some are of better quality than others. Check out our list to get recommendations for the best dog food with omega-3 fatty acids.
American Journey Dog Food
American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe dog food is made with plenty of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids from multiple sources, including salmon oil and flaxseed. In this dog food, you'll also find long-chain DHA, a natural omega fatty acid that supports the development of the eye, brain and nervous system in dogs.
Merrick Dog Food
Merrick features high levels of omega-6 fatty acids in their formulation, with their Merrick Texas Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe reaching 3 percent minimum of omega-6 fatty acids and .8 percent minimum of omega-3 fatty acids. Both salmon oil and flaxseed are included in recipe to provide optimal nutrition for a healthy skin and coat.
Earthborn Dog Food
Earthborn Holistic Venture Rabbit Meal & Pumpkin Dog Food is another diet with high levels of omegas. Earthborn uses sunflower oil as a source, which is rich in omega-6 fatty acids.
CANIDAE Dog Food
CANIDAE All Life Stafes Multi-Protein Formula Dry Dog Food has high levels of omegas in the formula. During production, HealthPLUS Solutions is added to every kibble, which is an additive that features a trio of probiotics, antioxidants and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to help support a dog's overall health. The formula is added to the food after the cooking process, ensuring the intregrity of the ingredients remains intact.
True Acre Foods Dog Food
True Acre Foods uses omega-packed ingredients like canola, flaxseed and other fish oil to ensure the diet delivers nutrition that supports a healthy skin and coat. The True Acres Foods Chicken & Vegetable Recipe Grain-Free Dog Food is made with USA-raised chicken as the first ingredient and does not have any grains or artificial colors or flavors in the formulation.
What Are Omega Fatty Acids?
“These polyunsaturated fats aid many biological processes and are known as ‘essential fats’ for the diet because your pet’s body can’t make them on its own,” notes Dr. Liff.
“Essential fatty acids are biologically active fats that function as antioxidants, scavenging—and thus eliminating—‘free radicals,’ which are noxious by-products of cellular destruction,” furthers Jeffrey Levy, DVM, a veterinarian in New York City. The two most common fatty acids to consider are omega-3s (or alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6s (also called linoleic acid).
Sources of Omega Fatty Acids
Look to plants and the sea for these crucial additives. “Omega-3 fatty acids are primarily present in certain species of fish, including salmon, tuna and mackerel,” reports Dr. Liff. Omega-3s can be found in lesser amounts in flaxseed, chia and hemp as well as oils like canola and soybean. Omega-6 fatty acids are mostly found in plant-based fats like grape-seed oil, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and eggs.
Benefits of Omega-3 and -6 Fatty Acids for Dogs
The science behind these fats is very encouraging, which means improved dog nutrition if he’s eating high-quality dog food rich in these powerful nutrients. “Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids have been shown to help treat protein loss through the kidneys (or nephropathy), inflammatory joint diseases such as arthritis and skin conditions like atopic dermatitis (itchy skin and dandruff),” outlines Dr. Liff.
Fatty acids also help with neural cell synthesis, which means they benefit brain development as well as nerve function and health. And because of their anti-inflammatory components, these fats may be the best course of treatment for heart issues (disease, arrhythmia, high blood pressure and cholesterol concerns) and some forms of cancer.
Omega-3s reduce inflammation all over your dog’s body, which aids your pup’s skin, eyes, bladder, muscles and joints. They have been shown to reduce sensitivity to pollen and mold and ease symptoms of certain autoimmune disorders like inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis, and they can also help your pooch maintain a healthy, shiny coat.
Should Some Dogs Skip These Fats?
“In pets who are allergic to fish, fish oils can definitely be problematic,” Dr. Liff points out. And for pets that are on extremely low-fat diets, you may be advised to limit the use of omega fatty acids in their pet food. So, just like with any diet change, you should consult your vet to be sure a new pet food or supplement routine will benefit your pet. A pet nutritionist can also advise you on the types of omegas your pet requires as well as dosage details.