Dietary supplementation with fish oil has become all the rage these days as a means for maintaining a “well oiled machine”. Admittedly, I swallow fish oil capsules daily based on their proven health benefits. Not only do the fatty acids found within murine oil help protect the body against cancer, they may also benefit heart function, blood pressure, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and gastrointestinal disorders. Additionally, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), the fish oil fatty acids responsible for the greatest health benefits, are potent mediators of inflammation, reducing deleterious or damaging inflammatory responses within the body.
So, how might fish oil benefit our furry family members? Here’s a rundown of what we know about the proven benefits of fish oil supplementation. (Our poor kitties always seem to play second fiddle- the studies performed to date pertain to dogs.)
Itchy Skin: Studies have documented that dogs with allergic skin disease who were treated with DHA and EPA experienced significant reduction in the degree of itchy discomfort along with improved appearance of their haircoats.
Heart Disease: Dogs with heart failure tend to have lowered blood levels of EPA, so it makes sense that fish oil supplementation may create benefit. Studies have documented that dogs suffering from heart failure who were treated with fish oil along with other standard medications showed decreased vulnerability to development of heart rhythm abnormalities, weight loss, and heart muscle damage.
Kidney Disease: Fish oil supplementation has been documented to reduce the potentially damaging loss of protein in the urine of dogs with kidney disease. Because of their anitinflammatory effects, fish oil appears to create some protection against ongoing damage when kidneys are diseased.
Arthritis: The antiinflammatory effects of EPA and DHA have been proven to significantly alleviate discomfort associated with arthritis in dogs. In fact, prescription diets formulated specifically for the treatment of canine arthritis are loaded to the gills with fish oil (pun intended).
As mentioned above, completed studies in kitties are lacking. Hopefully this will be changing in the near future. Studies are underway to determine if fish oil supplementation is indicated in cats with arthritis, kidney disease, allergic skin disease, cancer, and obesity.
Current canine studies are evaluating the benefit of EPA and DHA as part of the therapeutic regimen for inflammatory bowel disease, cognitive dysfunction (dementia), behavioral issues, and cancer.
Wow! Fish oil is pretty amazing stuff, don’t ya think? Talk with your veterinarian about whether or not fish oil supplementation makes sense for your little snookums. Perhaps it’s also time to talk to your own doc about “getting fishy” yourself!
Are you already adding fish oil to your pet’s diet? If so, why are you using it and what have you observed?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.