Skin disease is one of the most common medical conditions seen in small pet veterinary practice. Prescription medications are certainly important in managing many pet skin diseases; however, nutritional supplements are also increasingly used, especially for skin allergies. Many pets with excessive itching and secondary inflammation of the skin will benefit from fatty acid supplements, which often help to reduce inflammation and itching. Although these supplements may not work immediately, with prolonged use, pets often benefit by having decreased allergic skin symptoms and a shinier coat.
Usually it will take 3-4 months to truly see the maximal benefits of many fatty acid products. Often, these supplements allow pet owners to use less prescription medication than when the medication is used alone. Many skin supplements come in a capsule form that can be punctured and added to your pet's food, or easily hidden in a treat, such as Greenies Pill Pockets, or in a small amount of peanut butter or cream cheese. Other formulations can be easily sprinkled onto your pet's food as a palatable powder that is usually readily accepted by even the most finicky pet.
Omega 3 fatty acids are important nutritional supplements to consider for all pets. Not only does fatty acid supplementation benefit your pet's skin health, but additional benefits are seen in your pet's joints, heart, kidneys, and brain. The ideal intake of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids should be 5:1. Because of the high amounts of Omega 6 fatty acids in pet food and treats, it is usually necessary to supplement with Omega 3 fatty acids to get a healthy 5:1 balance. This balance is essential to avoid promoting unnecessary inflammation and allergic reactions in the skin and other organs of the body, including the brain, eyes, and ears.
When choosing an Omega 3 fatty acid supplement, there are several factors to consider. Freshness is essential, given that fish and fats can quickly become rancid. Purity is important as well—these products should be free of environmental toxins. Wild caught fish from open ocean waters are usually superior to products using farmed fish. Look for products that are research-based and with pharmaceutical manufacturing standards. Products should be stabilized naturally with Vitamin E and/or rosemary extract.
Omega 6 fatty acids are chains of molecules linked with single or double bonds. The location of the double bond determines whether a fatty acid is called an Omega 3 or Omega 6 fatty acid. Omega 6 fatty acids have the first double bond at the 6th carbon, and include linoleic acid (LA) and GLA (gamma linoleic acid). Omega 6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation in the body; therefore, their supplementation is particularly useful in conditions where inflammation is essential to your pet's health, such as fighting off certain viral or bacterial infections and cancers. Omega 6 fatty acids also seem to help with improving dry coats, as well as managing the skin disorder known as seborrhea. In other cases where inflammation is involved, including allergies and autoimmune disorders, it is better to reach for an Omega 3 fatty acid supplement.