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Written by: Jenna Tranter
Reviewed by: Christine Walsh
Published on: 01/25/2022
Omega 3 has become a trusted supplement in animal health and we know why Omega 3’s are important, but can there be too much of a good thing? Is there a risk if we over-supplement our animals with Omega 3’s? The easy answer is not really… but let’s look into this a little deeper.
Horses who don’t have access to fresh pasture year round need their diets supplemented to meet their basic needs. Domestic diets simply don’t address the need for Omega balance. If you look at the guaranteed analysis on complete feeds for horses you’ll notice that most don’t even list omega 3's, and they aren’t required to. If they list the omega values, they will need to include the omega 6 levels as well and this isn’t a good picture. Cereal grains contribute a lot of omega 6 to feed with little omega 3. These products end up being high omega 6 diets. High omega 6 intake, without the proper balance of omega 3 is an inflammatory situation. Over time, this can result in inflammatory symptoms showing up in your horse.
DHA & EPA are almost always sourced from fish (or another marine source, like kelp or krill). ALA is found in plants- when consumed some ALA is converted into EPA & DHA which is how most herbivores have historically met their individual requirements. Multiple research studies have shown that there is more risk in overdosing EPA & DHA than there is ALA.
There is some risk to feeding too much however. Horses & dogs who have diagnosed bleeding disorders are one such group that Omega 3’s can be a risk for. We strongly advise consulting with your veterinarian before supplementing any form of Omega 3’s to a horse or dog with diagnosed bleeding disorders. Some of these disorders may be congenital or acquired clotting protein disorders, platelet disorders and blood vessel disorders to name a few. Omega 3’s have the ability to thin the blood- this is advantageous for cardiovascular health within reason, however if you have a pet with a bleeding disorder who then is injured it can cause issues due to decreased blood clotting. Some animal studies (mainly in mice or rats) have also shown that very high amounts of Omega 3 decreases clotting which can increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. To reach this level however you would need to feed very high amounts daily- in the case of a horse or dog we would be looking at over 10X the recommended amount daily.
One of the major and most common causes of pancreatitis in dogs are high fat diets. Oil’s are straight fat, and caution is advised for dogs who have had pancreatitis. For dogs with a history of pancreatitis there are obvious risks when supplementing an oil, and it is not recommended. Pancreatitis pets need to minimize their fat intake. Pancreatitis is a life threatening condition for dogs- this is because their digestive enzymes can literally start trying to digest the pancreas itself during an acute pancreatic episode. Always consult with your veterinarian before adding any supplements to a pancreatitis pet’s diet.
If you over feed any omega based oils you’ll see gastrointestinal side effects. These can include gas and diarrhea. This is due to the fact that most Omega 3 supplements come in the form of oil which is 100% fat. We often see diarrhea or loose stool when introducing even a small amount of Omega 3 oil to the diet which is why we suggest to our customers they start with a low dosage and work their way up to their required dosage. When introduced properly you can avoid the loose stool phase. In cases where large volumes of any oil (fat) is fed you will see diarrhea. If you are familiar with horses you will know that in the event of colic, mineral oil is often used to clear the digestive tract. Large amounts of mineral oil will be used and the evidence that it’s travelled through the digestive tract is usually pretty umm…. liquidey & smelly. Mineral oil is a bit different as it is not absorbed by the digestive tract so it will just pass through, however large volumes of any oil will pass through a pet’s system without it all being digested. When fed at the correct volume, omega 3 oils should not cause diarrhea and are extremely beneficial for both canine and equine digestion.
Overall, there is very minimal risk when supplementing Omega 3’s which is why Smart Earth Camelina is considered a Low Risk Veterinary Product (LRVP). As long as the product is introduced properly to a pet or horse’s diet who does not suffer from a bleeding disorder or pancreatitis there should be no issues, and no risk of ‘overdosing’ them unless you're feeding extremely high volumes which we do not recommend. Smart Earth Camelina oil is a very safe source of Omega 3’s for your furry loved one.
Jenna is a lifelong equestrian and lover of all animals big and small. She has both studied and worked within the industry for 20+ years in both the feed sector as well as being a coach and hunter/jumper facility owner with time spent in the UK and Canada. She holds a number of equine certifications from universities in both countries. She also has completed numerous courses in equine body work, including equi-bow, but is not a practitioner at this time due to there just not being enough time in the day! Jenna lives on her farm in Ontario, Canada with her husband, 19 horses, 2 goats, a flock of ducks, a flock of chickens, her barn cats and her 3 loyal dogs, Bosco, Evaa & Eeyore.