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The Importance of Fatty Acids in a Dog's Diet

Updated on September 4, 2010

Understanding dog nutrition is not easy. This is why there are nutritionists out there. However, it does not take rocket science to understand some basics. Do not let the technical lingo found on a dog food label confuse you. Deciphering such labels is much easier once you understand your dog's nutritional needs. This guide should help you understand the role of fatty acids in a dog's diet and what happens if your dog lacks them or is over supplemented with them.

In the dog's diet, fat has the primary role of providing energy and the secondary role of supplying essential fatty acids (EFA). Fats also increase the appetibility of foods and carry fat soluble vitamins to the dog's body.

Fatty Acids are simply a type of polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). There are fatty acids and fatty acids. Some, dogs are capable of producing some themselves, whereas other can only be obtained through food. Those obtained through nutrition are known as essential fatty acids. The two main classes of essential fatty acids encompass the omega 3's and omega 6's..

Essential Fatty Acids:

Omega 3 fatty acids include the following:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Function: reduces inflammation,important for the correct function of brain and retina.


  • Alpha-linoeic Acid is found in flax seeds, canola oil and black currant oil.
  • EicosoPentaenoic Acid found primarily in cold water fish.

Omega 6

Omega 6 fatty acids include the following:

  • Linolenic acid (LA)
  • Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
  • Arachidonic acid (AA)

Function: to treat inflammatory disorders.

Sources: vegetable oils such as corn and sun flower oil. Linoleic Acids is also found in chicken and pork fat.

Some dogs require higher levels of fats. These are dogs who live in the cold, police dogs and working dogs. Such dogs need more fat so they do not have to get their energy from proteins and carbs,

Excess Fatty Acids

Feeding meals too rich in fatty acids may lead to problems. An excessive quantity of energy may make dogs prone to obesity. While fats can be easily digested, providing excessive fat may cause diarrhea. This is the case of dogs getting sick with diarrhea after being fed excessive fats from greasy table scraps.

Lack of Fatty Acids

  • Dull coat
  • Predisposition to pyoderma
  • Alopecia
  • Hot Spots
  • Lower reproductive function

How Fats are Stored

Fat content in dry dog food risks becoming rancid. This is why preservatives are used. Most commonly used are vitamin E, BHA, BHT.

Dog Products rich of fatty acids

Grizzly Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil Dog Food Supplement Omega 3 Fatty Acids, 64 oz
Grizzly Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil Dog Food Supplement Omega 3 Fatty Acids, 64 oz

Grizzly Salmon Oil helps as pets age and face increased risk of heart problems, stiffening joints and loss of zest and vigor. Health risks such as these listed may be reduced by a diet consistently supplemented with readily accessible, long chain omega-3 fatty acids found only in cold water fish oils like Grizzly Salmon Oil. These omega-3 fatty acids are essential building blocks for maintaining a balanced metabolism.



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    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      8 years ago

      One of best sources of EFA for dogs is fish oil because compared to flax seed oil it contains omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). You can read more about the benefits of fish oil below:

      Best wishes!

    • dingyskipper profile image


      8 years ago from Northamptonshire

      Years ago my father always said a bit of cod liver oil sprinkled over food did most ailing animals good. I have never tried it on a dog as mine have always had a varied diet and lived to a good age, I have tried it on hamsters and rats on unvaried diets and they have improved.

    • bayoulady profile image


      8 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

      I came back and read this again, and your reply. It is a very interesting hub.But,help me out here.....I love my little doggie. What are better sources of EFA? I always have ground flaxseed in the fridge.Do dogs eat that? Should I buy some canola oil?

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      8 years ago

      Concerned about what exactly? If you watch dosage of fats carefully there should be no problems. Problems arise when you give too much fat, which is usually the case of dogs fed greasy table scraps. If you give skinless chicken only and a bit of olive oil to improve the condition of the skin you should be fine..even though I think there are better sources of EFA than olive oil..

    • bayoulady profile image


      8 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

      Great piece, and I didn't know about this. My vet has me give Sweetie Pie olive oil,and when I give her chicken, absolutely no skin. She has a very sensitive stomach.Now I'm worried .

    • chardee42 profile image


      8 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I've been giving my dogs EFAs for quite a while. They work wonders on his coat and also seem to help with his allergies. Nicely done hub.


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