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Dogs who eat a processed and commercial diet rely on supplements from essential vitamins and fats to thrive. You can add several convenient sources of good fats to your dog's daily nutrition to avoid any deficiencies and to help bolster good health -- but before you make any adjustments to your dog's dietary intake, consult your veterinarian.
Omega-3 fatty acids come in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. These fatty acids can be found in fish oil and flaxseed oil as well as in nuts and seeds such as walnuts and flaxseed.
Omega-6 fatty acids exist in the form of linolenic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid, and arachidonic acid. These omega-6 fats are found naturally in poultry, eggs, whole grains and corn oil. Cashews, pecans, pine nuts and walnuts are other good sources of omega-6 fatty acids.
Benefits of Omegas
Good fats from omega-3 and omega-6 help alleviate allergies and autoimmune conditions, as well as arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. These fats also promote healthy coat and skin, and promote eye health. Fatty acids can slow or prevent the growth of yeast infections in dogs and can help prevent heart problems and cancer.
Signs of Deficiency
You may notice in your dog a general failure to thrive, such as failure to gain weight and poor development. Without good fats in his system, a dog's immune system will suffer and his kidney and liver may degenerate. In cases of severe deficiency, your dog may exhibit some behavioral abnormalities, slow-healing wounds, and in breeding dogs, miscarriage in females and sterility in males. When you notice such symptoms, supplementing the diet without consulting your vet is not the way to go. Your vet needs to be in on all your supplement and diet decisions.
It's important to monitor the dosages and ratios of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your dog's diet. Veterinarians recommend a 10-to-1 to 5-to-1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 acids. Most dog foods have high levels of omega-6s, enough to normally fulfill your dog's daily dietary needs. If your vet approves of supplemental omega oils, heed manufacturers' recommendations for daily dosages, taking the nutrition already in your dog's food into account to avoid any overdosing toxicity.