Dogs are creatures with naturally high levels of energy. Given that, they would also need the right type of food and ingredients to help sustain that, and some of which are fats and oils.
Are Fats and Oils Good for Dogs?
Fats are a form of energy that dogs mainly use. While these are important to incorporate into our dog’s diet, we should still be vigilant about picking the right types of fat we should use. There are different types of fat and only some are considered essential for dogs, which are made up of fatty acids.
What are Fats?
Fats give more amounts of energy than carbohydrates and proteins for dogs making them one of the most essential components of a dog’s diet. The ones that are used in their food are made to be digestible and are the first of the food’s nutrients to be utilized as energy by your dog’s body, before protein and carbohydrates.
In the topic fatty acids, fats are made up of these as their building blocks. As mentioned earlier, there are only particular fatty acids that your dog should consume as their bodies cannot naturally produce them, which are called essential fatty acids. Their names originate from their chemical structure and the way they are bonded together. For dogs, the essential fatty acids are categorized into two groups namely the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
These EFAs, or essential fatty acids, help maintain your dog’s systems functional and sustain the structure of their smooth muscle organs, namely the heart and reproductive systems. Moreover, essential fatty acids also aid in protecting liver cells, keeping the skin and coat healthy, as well as maintaining strong joint tissues.
Essential fatty acids provide so many benefits that should your dog not be given the right amounts of these EFAs, their bodily functions may be interfered with in a negative way. Some of the harmful outcomes for this deficiency include the development of problems in digestion, chronic disorders in skin and coat, eye disease and allergies, and cardiovascular diseases.
What are the essential fatty acids for dogs?
To be more specific, there are exactly five essential fatty acids for dogs and they are all polyunsaturated fats, which are also known as PUFAs. Listed below are the essential fatty acids:
- Linoleic Acid (LA) is an Omega-6 fatty acid which has been found to be an essential component in a dog’s diet for growth and prevention of skin lesions of dogs and other animals.
- Arachidonic Acid (AA) is another Omega-6 fatty acid which can be essentially found in the dog’s brain. Sources of these can be found in meat, poultry, and eggs.
- Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA) is an Omega-3 fatty acid that is responsible for the production of two other omega-3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA. These are essential in your dog’s body, brain and eye health.
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) is an Omega-3 fatty acid which is considered to be the anti-inflammatory fatty acid. Deficiency in this type of fatty acid is linked to depression in dogs.
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is an Omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for the brain and eyes. Deficiency of this type of fatty acid leads to slow thinking in dogs as well poor memory and auditory and visual functions.
The sources for LA and ALA come from plant-based oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, flaxseed oil, and canola oil. AA is not usually found in plant oils and seeds but is commonly found in animal fat. For EPA and DHA, fish oil is the primary dietary source.
How can my dog benefit from fats and oils?
Given that there are a number of adverse effects that deficiencies in these essentially fatty acids brings to a dog’s overhealth, it’s as expected that the benefits are quite a lot as well. Many research and studies have shown that the right amount of fat in your dog’s diet may lead to a better brain and overall behavior. For puppies, they may start to learn faster and remember better. Meanwhile, for older dogs, they would have a sharper mental health. The right balance of fat also helps with eye and heart health. Essential fatty acids also develop better athletic performance in dogs as they help with the development of muscle and reduction of fat in their body.
Generally, given all of these wide range of benefits, the proper balance of essential fatty acids for your dogs reduces their chances of contracting health problems.
How do I balance the fat in my dog’s diet?
Just like in most things of a dog’s diet, these essential fatty acids should be well-balanced as well. Too much or too little of whatever type of fat can prove to be counterproductive and lead to adverse health effects. Given that, the misconception that omega-6 fatty acids are exclusively bad and omega-3 fatty acids are good is not true. It is actually recommended that there should be a proper balance of the two types of fatty acids in your dog’s diet.
To help manage and regulate diseases, you can adjust your dog’s fat levels in their diet. With higher fat diets, your dog will be able to gain more weight as an increase in fat also leads to an increase in the energy density of their food. This is especially helpful as this implies that you wouldn’t need to increase the amount or volume of your dog’s food just to regulate their weight. Meanwhile, lower fat diets can help with weight loss while, at the same time, still providing the right amount of essential fatty acids without compromising the amount of food and their caloric intake.
As you can see, the right balance of fat still depends on the health of your dog and what they need. For example, some dogs require a dietary fat restriction in order to manage diseases. The right type of fatty acid and how much of it they need are dependent on your dog’s history, clinical signs, and concurrent diseases.
So are fats and oils good for dogs? There’s no standard to how much each dog should consume what specific type of fat so it’s important that you seek help with your veterinarian in order to formulate the proper diet for your dog.