Fatty Acid Differences - Dogs and Cats
Cats cannot convert flax oil or alpha linolenic acid to EPA and DHA; they require fish oils that already contain EPA and DHA. Dogs can convert linolenic acid to EPA and DHA, but this conversion becomes inefficient with age. It benefits all cats and older, or sick, dogs to have EPA and DHA supplied directly with fish oils.
How Much Omega 3 Fatty Acid Does My Pet Need?
Since Omega 6 fatty acids are so prevalent in pet food and treats, it's usually necessary to supplement with Omega 3 fatty acids to get a healthy 5:1 ratio. Without Omega 3 supplements, most pets eat a diet with a ratio of 20 Omega 6 fatty acid to 1 Omega 3 fatty acid. Omega 6 fatty acids from corn, safflower, sunflower, canola, and olive oil are usually cheaper, and more readily available than Omega 3 fatty acids from flax, fish, hemp, and walnuts.
Ratio of Omega 3 Fatty Acid to Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acid and Omega 6 fatty acid share a common enzyme. As the enzyme converts fatty acids from precursor molecules to active molecules, an overwhelming abundance of Omega 6 floods the enzyme. This flood causes the body to produce more of the Omega 6 metabolites and these metabolites promote inflammation. The places in the cell membrane that would ideally be filled with Omega 3 fatty acid get filled with Omega 6 fatty acid, and cells don't function optimally.
In the brain, which is 60% fat, learning and behavior is not optimum. In the skin, eyes and ears, reactions to allergens are exaggerated. Rather than a normal response to flea bites, yeast infection, or inhaled pollens, pets exhibits extreme itching, oozing and swelling. This extreme reaction can be lessened in many pets if they are supplemented with Omega 3 fatty acids.
How Quickly Will My Pet Benefit from Omega 3 Supplements?
While your pet begins benefiting quickly, you may not notice a difference from Omega 3 supplements for three to four months. Your pet's body will change from the inside out—first the individual cells, then the tissues, then the organs. Gradually you'll notice your pet's coat and skin become more radiant. When you see this, you'll know the internal organs, including the kidneys, liver, heart, and brain, are also experiencing more radiant health.
How Big is a Fatty Acid?
Fatty acids are so small that 100 quintillion (1 followed by 20 zeroes) fit in a single drop of oil.
Best Fatty Acids for Shiny Coats
Omega 6 fatty acids promote shiny coats. Saturated fats (bacon, beef tallow, lard) do not help the coat. To nourish the coat, keep the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 at the optimum level, which many believe is 5:1. If your pet has a dandruff or seborrhea problem, in addition to fatty acids, supplement with zinc, folate, and retinoids.
Sources of Omega 3 fatty acid:
Pacific or Atlantic herring
Sardines canned in water
Sources of Omega 6 fatty acid:
Black current oil
Evening primrose oil
Battery Chickens, Feedlot Beef, and Farmed Fish
Battery chickens (raised in cages), feedlot beef, and farmed fish are all fed grains. Grains promote the production of Omega 6 fatty acids, and Omega 6 fatty acids promote inflammation. Fifty years ago the picture was different. It used to be that chicken and cattle were free range and ate plants. Fish were not farmed; they ate algae or smaller fish that ate algae. Fish, chicken, and cattle that eat plants make Omega 3 fatty acids; if they eat grains, they make Omega 6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation characteristic of allergies and heart disease. That's why it used to be healthy to eat eggs and beef, but now it's best to eat them in limited amounts. The same dietary advice holds for pets: supplement with Omega 3 fatty acids or feed kibble made from wild caught fish or free range chicken, chicken eggs, beef, or lamb.