Omega-3 + 6 Fatty Acids – Are these important for my pup?
By Rudy Leschke —
3 Minute Read
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an Omega-3 fatty acid found in brain phospholipids and the retina. It therefore supports central nervous system development (vision & brain function). In fact, brain and retinal development in animals (and humans) depends on DHA.
The inclusion of DHA is recommended at varying levels for all life stages, but it is especially important to support puppy training. DHA is not essential for adult dogs, but the National Research Council recommends inclusion of this in combination with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, another Omega-3 fatty acid) in adult foods.
EPA has important metabolic consequences in nervous tissue and in inflammatory and immune responses. The inclusion of EPA is therefore recommended as a dietary component in all dog foods. DHA & EPA are sourced from fatty fish, seaweed and algae.
Alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, is another important Omega-3 fatty acid. It also contributes to nervous system function and visual acuity, and when balanced with other Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids has beneficial effects related to the composition of cell membranes. Different from DHA & EPA, ALA is sourced from plant seeds like flax.
ALA is considered essential for growth and required by AAFCO to support growth for all life stages. The National Research Council also recommends inclusion of this in adult foods, and a level of 0.044% in a 4,000 kcal/kg diet. Fatty acid supplements have become popular in the management of canine inflammatory skin disease, and the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids has been shown to be important in skin and coat health.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids:
Linoleic acid is the most important Omega-6 fatty acid. Other Omega-6 fatty acids can be synthesized from linoleic acid, so dogs are able to meet their requirements for Omega-6 fatty acids with an adequate source of linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is essential for the maintenance of normal skin function, such as maintenance of skin and coat condition and lipid transport in the blood. Excellent sources of linoleic acid are safflower oil, canola oil and sunflower oil. Poultry fats also contain a fair level of linoleic acid.
Elevated levels of linoleic acid, in combination with zinc, have been shown to improve the skin and coat of healthy animals.
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