Sources of Essential Fatty Acids: In-Depth Guide for Dog Parents

Written by: Sarah Seward-Langdon

Published on: 10/31/2023

Are you a new dog parent? Are you concerned about your pup’s health? Have you maybe heard a thing or two about essential fatty acids (EFAs)?

Wherever you are on your pet ownership journey, it’s crucial to have a basic understanding about nutrition—and part of that is knowing a little bit about EFAs. In other blogs, we’ve done deep dives into tips on how to feed essential fatty acids, and why you should add them to your dog’s diet.

In this blog, we’re focusing on some of the top sources of essential fatty acids for your dogs. When it comes to the health and well-being of our dogs, essential fatty acids play a pivotal role. So, as a responsible dog owner, understanding the significance of EFAs and where to find them in your dog's diet is crucial.

The ABCs of EFAs for Dogs

Before we delve into the sources of essential fatty acids for your dog, it's essential to understand what EFAs are and why they are so important.

We mentioned (and linked) our other in-depth articles about these topics. That said, if you don’t have time to read complete guides on each of these sub-topics of EFAs and dogs or you just want a refresher, we’ve included an overview below:

What Are Essential Fatty Acids?

Essential fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that dogs, just like humans, require for their overall health. These fats are considered "essential" because dogs cannot produce them on their own and must obtain them through their diet [1].

EFAs can be divided into omega-3’s and omega-6’s. And even more specifically as the following:

  • A-linolenic acid (ALA) - omega-3

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) - omega-3

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) - omega-3

  • Linoleic acid (LA) - omega-6

Why Are EFAs Crucial for Dogs?

EFAs are not just your average fats; they are essential for various bodily functions in dogs. They play a pivotal role in [2]:

  • Healthy Skin and Coat: EFAs are the secret behind that shiny, lustrous coat you adore in your dog. They keep your pup's skin moisturized and prevent dryness and flakiness.

  • Brain Health: These fatty acids are essential for cognitive function, which can aid in training and overall mental health.

  • Joint Health: Dogs, especially as they age, can experience joint issues. EFAs can help reduce inflammation and maintain joint health.

  • Immune System: A robust immune system is vital for your dog's well-being. EFAs support the immune system, helping your dog fight off illnesses.

Now that we understand the significance of these fats in your dog's life, let's explore some of the best sources of essential fatty acids!

Sources of Essential Fatty Acids for Dogs

To make this easier for you, we’ve separated the sources of EFAs into 3 separate sections: animal-based sources, plant-based sources, and supplements.

Animal-Based Sources

Fish Oil: One of the most popular sources of EFAs for dogs is fish oil. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil can help maintain your dog's skin and coat health, reduce inflammation, and support heart health. Salmon and mackerel are particularly high in omega-3s [3].

New Zealand Mussels: Unlike some fish-based sources that may be prone to contamination or overfishing, New Zealand mussels are sustainably farmed, making them an eco-friendly and ethical choice. They offer an abundant supply of omega-3s, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which can significantly benefit your dog's joint health, inflammation management, and overall well-being [4].

Eggs: Eggs are a versatile source of nutrients for dogs, including essential fatty acids. Both the yolk and the white provide a range of beneficial fats and proteins [5].

Plant-Based Sources

Flaxseed Oil: Flaxseed oil is an excellent plant-based source of essential fatty acids. It contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which can be converted into omega-3s in your dog's body. It's a great choice for dogs with allergies or sensitivities to fish [6].

Coconut Oil: While coconut oil is primarily composed of saturated fats, it contains small amounts of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can have potential health benefits for dogs. However, it should be used in moderation, as it's calorie-dense [7].

Chia Seeds: These tiny seeds are packed with ALA, a form of omega-3 fatty acids. They can be sprinkled over your dog's food or added to homemade treats for a nutritional boost [8].

Hemp Seed Oil: Hemp seed oil is another plant-based source of essential fatty acids. It contains a balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, promoting overall health for your pup [6].

Camelina Oil: Camelina oil is a lesser-known but valuable source of EFAs for dogs. It contains a well-balanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, making it an excellent choice to support your dog's skin, coat, and overall health. Incorporating camelina oil into your dog's diet can provide a unique and nutritious boost of essential fatty acids.

Essential Fatty Acid Supplements

If you're concerned that your dog's diet isn't providing enough EFAs, you can consider EFA supplements specially formulated for dogs.

Consult your veterinarian before adding any supplements to your dog's diet to ensure it's safe and appropriate for their specific needs.

Implementing EFAs into Your Dog's Diet

Incorporating essential fatty acids into your dog's diet doesn't have to be a daunting task. Here are some practical tips:

  • Consult your veterinarian when making changes to your dog’s diet.

  • Ensure your dog’s diet is well-balanced—an appropriate ratio of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

  • Be mindful of portion control to prevent overfeeding and obesity (remember that while EFAs are beneficial, they are calorie-dense).

  • If your dog has known food sensitivities or allergies, choose EFA sources that are safe for them.

  • Get creative in the kitchen by making homemade treats with EFA-rich ingredients like flaxseeds, chia seeds, or coconut oil. Just be sure to use dog-safe recipes!

  • Incorporate EFA-rich foods into your dog's diet regularly to see the long-term benefits on their skin, coat, and overall health.

Feed EFAs for a Healthier, Happier Pup

Now you’re more educated on essential fatty acids and the numerous ways you can add them into your dog’s diet. Many people argue one source is better than another; however, it’s always good to have rotation and variety in your pup’s diet—just like yours!

Whether you opt for fish oil, camelina oil, or other EFA-rich sources, the love and care you put into your dog's diet will be reflected in their overall health and longevity. If you’re looking for specific advice for your unique dog, remember to consult the professionals available to you—vets, nutritions and more!

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About Sarah

Sarah is a marketing specialist with a passion for anything creative! Her openness to working across industries and job opportunities has allowed her to gain enormous amounts of experience in graphic design, video production, and written content creation. Animals have a special place in her heart as she grew up with cats and now owns her own Alaskan Malamute. She has spent the last couple of years in Vancouver working with different companies within the pet industry and gained valuable knowledge about the ins and outs of the (alternative) pet food industry, supplementation, and various training methods. When she’s not digitally creating content for pet lovers to consume, she’s out eating great food, dancing at drop-in classes, or exploring the beautiful Canadian scenery with her fur-child Miso.