Are Fish Oil and Omega-3 Fatty Acids Safe Supplements for Your Dog?

Due in part to better nutrition and veterinary advances, many dogs are living longer than they might otherwise, decades ago. One result is that a slew of nutritional supplements are now being marketed to doggie parents for the benefit of our beloved canines, much as they are marketed to the human population.
Fish oil’s benefits are derived from the various omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA and EPA. However, the quality of the supplements often is not well regulated for canines. Even if a pet parent is not purchasing fish oil supplements, some dog treats and even foods are now adding it into their formulations.

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Even with supposedly human-grade fish oil supplements, low-quality, contaminated and even dangerous fish oil supplements have been sold as recently as 2010.1 According to Democracy in Action, a lawsuit was filed in March 2010 in California court against eight manufacturers and distributors of fish oil supplements where independent testing found levels of PCB contamination above the safe limit for humans. Amongst the defendants are well-known chains including CVS Pharmacy, Inc., General Nutrition Corp. (GNC), Pharmavite LLC (Nature Made brand), and Rite Aid Corporation. For those who are unaware, PCB’s are linked with cancer, child development and interference with reproductive processes.

So what is a doggie parent to do? Let’s start with educating ourselves, right now.

Read the label of any supplement you are considering for purchase. According to an article in Time Magazine, “best omega-3 source is oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines”.2 Fish oil made from other types of fish may not contain much (or sometimes any) omega-3 fatty acids. Compare the levels of omega-3 fatty acids between different brands available to you. Leave the ones with low levels of omega-3 on the shelf.

On the label, look to see if the amount of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA acids are clearly identified; it is better to get a good concentration of both acids, rather than a supplement with a high level of one acid and a low level of another acid. Then double check to see if the amount of DHA and EPA (and any other omega-3 fatty acid listed) adds up to the total amount of omega-3 acids. If the individual amounts are not listed or they do not add up to the total, be aware that the supplement may be using non-nutritive filler oils. Those supplements should be left on the shelf as well.

Look for some indication that the supplement is tested by an independent third-party laboratory for purity and quality. If the label has no such indication, consider putting that brand back on the shelf as well.

Also consider the form the fish oil is marketed in. You may prefer either a flake-like dry powder or liquid, both of which can easily be added to most dog foods. However, if you are “free-feeding” your dog and have multiple dogs, you have less control over how much of the supplement each of your dogs is getting. In that case, you may prefer capsules or individual treats to ensure that each dog is getting the desired amount of omega-3.

Whichever form you prefer, take a moment when you first purchase it to take a good deep whiff of the supplement. Fish oil can go rancid and spoil fairly easily, so make sure that it is good when you first get it. As you work your way through the container, check occasionally to be sure that it has not spoiled.

Most consumers are unaware that not all omega-3 sources are from fish. Keep your eyes open for new omega-3 supplements made from algae, oilseed and other plant sources. A newer omega-3 supplement (life’sDHA) has been created by Martek Biosciences Corporation and the source is not fish, but tank-farm algae. This is considered a completely vegetarian omega-3 supplement for humans; the animal nutrition version is called DHAgold. The downside is that the algae version, while high in DHA, has little-to-no EPA. To counter this, Martek is developing an oilseed-algae hybrid, which would have high values of DHA, EPA and other fatty acids. 3

Remember to look past marketing hype of new products so that you can be assured that you are making the best choices for your dog.

1 http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6491/p/salsa/web/press_release/public/?press_release_KEY=36

2 Time Magazine, January 25, 2010, “The Trouble with Fish Oil”, Tim Padgett.

3 http://www.martek.com/algae-dha-products-and-services.aspx, retrieved January 12, 2011

How to Remove Tangles and Matted Hair from Your Dog’s Coat

Take care of your dog's coat.

One of the biggest problems facing dog owners today is the upkeep and grooming side of pet care. Specifically, more and more dog owners are having problems with keeping their dog’s coat unmated and untangled. Tangles and matted hair are nothing new for dogs, but folks are just starting to learn how to deal with them. If left unattended, these can lead to some serious health issues for dogs. What exactly is the best way to get rid of matted hair and that tangled mess? In this article, I will address that issue.

The best way to go about stopping matted hair in dogs is to keep on top of things and make sure to have a good routine for grooming the hair. If you leave the matted hair unattended, it can turn to serious skin problems such as an ulcer or even worse. These things cause unnecessary pain to your animal and can be potentially fatal in some circumstances. At the least, you will have to sheer your dog completely and let it re-grow the hair. If you want to avoid this, you must stay on top of things.

If your dog happens to get these tangled masses of hair, then you have some options. The easiest thing to do is to get a wide-toothed comb and go to work. Start with small amounts of hair and brush the hair out. This is a good way to fight the small problems before they become big ones.

Brush your dog's coat regularly.

When you get the big problems with lots of tangled hair, a comb probably is not going to cut it. You could sit there and slowly untangle every single patch of hair, but I doubt that you have an extra twelve hours on your hands. In this case, look to a wonder product designed specifically for this plight. Luckily, there are detanglers that will do the trick. This generally comes in a bottle and will look a little bit like shampoo. If you bathe your animal in the detangler, then you will cure the tangled hair pretty easily.

Sometimes, matted hair can be caused by a foreign object that has become tangled in the hair. Things like sticks and twigs are the most common cause of this problem. In this case, simply remove the object, but be careful not to hurt your dog. Using scissors to cut the object from the hair is always a good idea. When these things are removed, the matted area will generally go away.

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