When Max, our beloved German Shepherd, suffered a bad spout of hot spots a couple of years back, I took him to the vet to see what the problem was and learned he suffered with allergies.
They suggested all kinds of stuff for us to try on him and one of them included fish oil - the best source for omega-3 fatty acids. I spent some time researching omega-3 fatty acids as a cure for his skin health and coat condition! Fast-forward to today, my Max is happy, his skin has cleared up and I still use it especially since he's now a little older and want to lower his decline of cognitive function as much as I can!
Fish oil for dogs supplements is readily available online or in pet stores. There are so MANY options out there which makes buying confusing and frustrating. Ultimately, the biggest challenge us pet owners have is procuring good quality fish oil.
In today’s post, I take a look and review 8 of the best fish oil supplements available for dogs that happen to be some of my personal favorites as well. I've also created a fish oil for dogs buyer's guide that will help address other questions you might have.
When recommending the salmon we eat most of us know that Alaskan caught is some of the best you can get. Grizzly Salmon Oil with both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid from EPA and DHA, builds on that reputation by extracting the fish oil used in its supplement directly from these cold (cold) water fish.
The supplement - which is designed to be added on top of your pup's regular food - contains 1400 mg of pure farmed salmon oil per teaspoon, which is more than enough for pups to get the amount they need, and is approved by the National Animal Supplement Council for its purity and quality of ingredients and every third batch produced is tested for its purity, something that is very important, as every pet parent knows.
I've been using Grizzly oil for my dog for treating his skin issues and as a picky dog, he seemed not to have mind the taste and simply accepted the addition to his food without difficulty. There is no odor from this and I give my dog two squirts of this mixed in with his meal every night. Others report too how much this supplement helped with their dog's health too, especially for pups with skin problems and lacklustre coat issues.
Most also find it to be reasonably priced given that it lasts well and does not need special storage. This is a great choice if you have multiple pets in the house too, as a small 'pump' is all that is needed to supply a day's worth of fish oil and this blend seems to be equally well tolerated by dogs and cats.
This is another stellar fish oil supplement that makes use of Alaskan salmon, but this time it's wild caught instead of farmed. There is a lot of debate about whether farmed salmon is better than wild-caught - or vice versa - but there is no known difference in the quality of the DHA either provides.
With a 4.5-star rating on Amazon and more than 3,907 buyer reviews, the Zesty Paws Pure Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for Dogs is yet another top seller.
Like the Grizzly fish oil, this product is designed to be added to your pup's regular food, no matter whether that is dry kibble or wet food. Customers love that their pups seem to like the taste - in some cases A LOT- and they report a visible reduction in dry skin, skin irritations and even excessive shedding.
This product is especially popular with senior dogs, many of whom report a marked decrease in stiffness caused by arthritis and other age related joint issues. So if your pup is slowing down a little due to joint issues this may be a great choice.
Omegease Omega 3, 6 & 9 Fish Oil
This Omega-Rich Fish Oil contains omega 3 fatty acids to keep coats shiny and prevent skin from flaking. Made from sustainably caught wild sardines, anchovies, herring, and mackerel from the North Atlantic.
Although it is Omega 3 fatty acids that are discussed most often when talking about the health benefits of fish oil for dogs there are other omega fatty acids that offer some good stuff as well, and this supplement is one of the few that contains the three most popular and well- researched - 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids- in a single supplement.
This supplement is not made using salmon oil. Instead it contains fish oil from North Atlantic caught Wild Sardines, Anchovies, Herring and Mackerel. The variety of fish utilized is what allows the supplement to offer a wider variety of Omega fatty acids.
Buyers love the fact that unlike some other liquid fish oil supplements this product has no fishy odor - most say it has no odor at all - and yet still report seeing very positive effects on their pups' coat and skin health as well as in joint movement in older dogs. If you can't stand that fishy smell - and some people really can't - and want to give you pup a wider variety of Omega fatty acids then this is a great choice.
This is another top-selling Omega 3 for dogs liquid supplement that contains - 100% fish oil without any added ingredients - obtained from a variety of different fish, in this case, herring, sardine, mackerel and anchovies caught in North Atlantic waters. Guaranteed to contain at least 800 mg EPA and 525 mg DHA per serving.
TerraMax is one of the largest pet supplement companies in North America and their supplements are both popular and well reviewed across the board. The formula used here is tested and certified sustainable. Those who make use of it report that it seems to have a pleasant enough taste that their pups do not object to it when it is added to their food.
The biggest praise for this product comes for its ability to improve the condition of long haired dogs' coats. Many of the reviewers report that they saw a noticeable improvement in their pup's coat within just a few days. A number of pet parents also praise the product for its seeming ability to help improve joint movement in older dogs.
So far all the products we have covered come in liquid form and are designed to be added to your pup's regular food at standard mealtimes. This product takes a different approach though and offers dogs Omega 3 goodness in the form of a chewy soft treat - in a bacon or chicken flavor.
The fish oil contained in the treat is derived from pure and MSC-certified sustainable Wild Alaskan Pollock. The chew also contains Vitamin C and E and biotin. There is some discussion among veterinary medical professionals that Omega 3 supplements can prevent pups from getting enough Vitamin E from their food, so this supplement offers what some see as a better alternative. This is also a '3,6,9' Omega supplement, meaning it also contains the fatty acids Omega 6 and Omega 9. Here's a quick breakdown of the fatty acids it contains: Omega-3: 210 mg, EPA: 63 mg, DHA: 43 mg, Omega-6: 106 mg, Omega-9: 203 mg, Pollock Oil: 250 mg.
Customers who have tried this treat supplement for their pups praise it for its apparent good taste - in other words, the pups enjoy eating their treats - and the lack of an overt fish smell. Some also report that it is better tolerated in terms of easy digestibility by smaller pups than some of the liquid supplements.
This is another chewable supplement for dogs that comes vet recommended, and it too has added flavors that mask the 'fishy' taste that some dogs do not seem to like very much. Besides a variety of Omega fatty acids - 3, 6 and 9 are all included - the supplement includes evening primrose oil and sunflower oil and has a small element of liver and bacon flavor to provide additional flavor and vitamins. It's a broader supplement than just a standard fish oil for dogs, but still contains 300 mg of Omega 3-6-9 fish oil (18% EPA, 12% DHA) per chew.
The ease of use and taste of these chewable is praised by lots of pet parents, as is the apparent great effect it has on the health and appearance of their coats. Some pet parents report a noticeable improvement in dry skin and itchy skin conditions, some saying it is the best 'remedy' for such problems that they have ever tried. So if your poor pup has skin issues this is a supplement that may be well worth trying.
Vital Essentials Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil Freeze-Dried Treats
You don't have to feel guilty for rewarding your dog with a treat - these freeze-dried Wild Alaskan Salmon treats are packed with fatty acids – Omega 3 & 6 – for healthy skin and coat and they’re made with only fresh wild caught Alaskan salmon.
Freeze dried treats are very popular at the moment, with both pups and their pet parents and the Vital Essentials Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil provides fish oil from wild caught Alaskan salmon, in a tasty, small bite treat. The product is certified organic and contains no additional ingredients other than a few preservatives.
With more than 491 customer reviews on Amazon,Vital Essentials treats has a solid 4.5-star rating. Dogs love these treats with many owners reporting seeing an improvement the condition of their pup's coat. Some report that dogs suffering from dullness, dandruff and tangling of the coat looked a great deal better in a matter of just a few days.
Many also commented that although this is a pure salmon oil, the fishy odor is minimal and that it does not give their pups 'fish breath' either, which is an unfortunate side effect with some fish oil supplements.
To get the most of the benefits that fish oil offers for dogs it is best to start it early, but which supplement is best for puppies, who need a fish oil that is very pure but also gentle on their smaller stomachs. In the opinion of many puppy parents it is this Nordic Naturals supplement that scores highest in this respect.
The Nordic Naturals supplement is created using fish oils that are purified to remove any mercury or other contaminants before being added to a softgel. The oil itself is derived from North Atlantic caught sardines and mackerels and offers Omega, 3, 6 and 9 oils.
Puppy parents report that the soft gels are easy to administer and the coating dissolves quickly and there is not a noticeable fish odor. Some pet parents - of both puppies and older dogs - also praise this product because their dogs 'eat' it easily without the need for additional tricks with peanut butter and jelly.
Fish Oil for Dogs Buyer's Guide
So, you think you are ready to supplement your pup's diet with fish oil.
That's a great move, but as you have been able to see from the differences in the products, we have already covered - and those are just a handful of the choices available - you will need to make sure you are making the right choice for your unique pup.
To help you do just that - and to understand more about fish oil for dogs and its benefits we've assembled this brief yet informative buyer's guide.
What is fish oil for dogs?
The fish oil supplements you can buy for your pets make use of oils that are extracted from a variety of cold-water fish, including salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and trout. These fish are chosen because they boast the highest levels of Omega fatty acids, especially the two best known classes Omega 3 and Omega 6.
Fish oil has been recommended for some humans for some time. There is evidence that it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, help lower bad cholesterol levels, and reduce joint inflammation in those with rheumatoid arthritis and other similar orthopaedic joint problems. There is some evidence that it helps with mental decline as well, but that research is still very new.
As these are all conditions that can affect canines as well as humans offering dogs a fish oil supplement makes sense. And there are additional benefits for dogs, especially when it comes to improving their coat health and alleviating dry skin and other dermatological problems.
But what are Omega fatty acids?
Omega fatty acids are 'good fats' that are considered essential for survival, but the body - neither the human body or the canine body - cannot produce them itself so they have to be derived from food. Currently fish oil is the ingredient most used by the pet food industry as a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
There are several types of each classification of Omega fatty acids, but the most important, for a health and wellness standpoint include:
Omega-3 fatty acids:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Omega-6 fatty acids:
- Arachidonic acid (AA)
- Linoleic acid (LA)
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
- Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA)
Most humans can get all the Omega fatty acids - especially Omega-3 fatty acids, from the food they eat. However, as the best sources for these essential nutrients are fish and flaxseed these are often ingredients that we don't always think of as food for dogs, as many pet parents are so used to concentrating on providing meat as their primary source of nutrition.
Some pet food companies have added both additional fish ingredients, flaxseed and Omega 3 supplements to their foods, but in relatively small quantities. For that reason offering pups and additional fish oil supplement is becoming more commonplace.
NOTE: The effects of supplementation during canine pregnancy have not yet been established, therefore we advise pet owners to avoid giving these supplements to pregnant dogs and to talk to their vet directly.
Benefits of fish oil supplements for dogs
Originally, just a few years ago, vets recommended fish oil supplements just for dogs suffering with skin conditions. However, as research has progressed, it has been found that fish oil may offer several other benefits as well.
The most common of these health benefits are related to skin, coat, and joint health. There is however a growing body of evidence supporting brain health. It's been shown to food containing omega-3 fatty acid DHA improves cognitive function in older dogs. Finally, it's been show to significantly impact the achievement of genetic potential in increasing puppy trainability.
Inflammation: Fish oil has been found to be helpful for pets suffering from several inflammatory diseases, especially arthritis and other painful joint conditions common in older dogs. It has been shown to help restore movement and ease pain, both in research studies and via anecdotal evidence from pet parents.
Allergies and auto-immune diseases: It is believed that Omega-3 fatty acids can help to 'calm' the over-reactions in the immune system that lead to allergic reactions and to skin conditions like atopic dermatitis.
Dull and dry skin and coat: The essential fatty acids found in fish oil supplements, especially the Linoleic acid may restore shine and moisture while also helping to relieve itching and scaling of the skin.
Eye health: The health of the canine retina depends a great deal on Omega-3 fatty acids, so a fish oil supplement is a good choice for those concerned about their pups eye health, especially in breeds genetically predisposed to eye diseases.
Vascular and heart problems: As is the case for humans Omega fatty acids play a significant role in heart and vascular system health as well. In addition to helping prevent the onset of heart disease fish oil has been shown to help reduce high blood pressure in canines and may also help prevent dangerous blood clots, especially in older pups.
All these benefits are on the top ten list of concerns for owners of ageing dogs.
What to look for in a dog fish oil supplement
The products we covered earlier are some of the best selling- and some of our favorites - but there are many more.
So what should you be looking for when choosing the right one for your pet?
Here are some of the most important considerations to keep in mind as you shop.
Fish oil can be given to dogs in a number of ways. There are standard liquids, capsules, traditional treats and even freeze dried treats infused with fish oil.
Liquid fish oil
These supplements are fish oil and little else. The fish oil is treated as necessary and then bottled, it is that simple. The supplements are usually sold in a pump dispenser as oil can be messy - and the liquid is added to your pup's standard dog food.
Liquid fish oil is easy to use and as they can't see it dogs often do not even notice it is there. On the downside, as it is pure oil its shelf life is limited and once opened the container needs to be refrigerated and not everyone wants fish oil in their fridge!
Soft capsules have a longer shelf life than pure liquid fish oil, do not need refrigeration and they do not have the immediate pungent smell that some dogs don't like. The biggest problem with capsules however is getting your dog to take them, as most dogs balk at taking medication in pill form.
Fish oil caplets and soft gels are advertised as colorless and tasteless but if your dog bites into one before swallowing it they will get a pungent mouthful of oil and that's something they may dislike (you would right?).
Chewable treats offer fish oil with tastier flavors, and so your pup can take his 'medicine' and not even really realize he is doing so.
The downside here is that fish oil treats usually contain the lowest levels of the essential Omega acids and they are made using additional ingredients, so it's important to check the ingredients list for things that may be allergen triggers in some pups.
Fish oil type
There are three main types of fish oil available for both human and animal consumption:
Natural triglyceride oil is completely natural and easiest to absorb. It is not, however, purified so may contain traces of contaminants. It can also have a pretty pungent smell.
Ethyl ester oil is distilled and purified, while still retaining high levels of the Omega fatty acids that are the reason for supplementation in the first place. Most of the good quality liquid fish oil for dogs supplements fall into this category, including all of those that we have featured here. They are the safest available and are potent enough to offer your pup all the Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids they need.
Synthetic triglyceride oil is synthetic and is only usually found in lower quality supplements as well as in some dog treats. It's not dangerous, but it only offers a fraction of the nutrients that the other types of fish oil does.
The purity of the fish oil supplement you give your dog is very important and it is something that you need to keep in mind as you shop.
As is the case with many supplements, not all are created equal, and not all contain the same amount of the 'good stuff' you want your furkid to benefit from. The actual dosage of fish oil to be given to your pup is something you should discuss with your vet, but you should be looking for one that offers as much pure fish oil as possible.
There is a concern about the purity of the oil as well. Omega 3 rich fish oil comes from fish species that live in deep, cold waters but are exposed to environmental pollutants, especially mercury. It is something that supplement manufacturers are aware of though and the best do their utmost to source their fish oils from the least contaminated waters around Alaska and the North Atlantic.
If you are not willing to store your pup's fish oil in a refrigerator, then the liquid supplement is not the right choice. The oil has a limited shelf life and if it is not refrigerated, it will go bad very quickly, losing its potency and potentially make your pup sick if you accidentally give them oil that has gone bad.
Soft capsules have a longer shelf life and can simply be stored in their bottle in a cool place. They are also easy to take with you if you travel with your furkid. The downside is that they can be hard to administer and are not quite as potent as liquid fish oil supplements.
You can expect that a good fish oil supplement in its standard sizing will cost you between $15-$25. Therefore, if you see a fish oil supplement for considerably less is is probably not the bargain it seems to be. The chances are good that it either contains very little real fish oil or, worse still, is past its sell by date. Saving money can be nice, but as this is a health issue saving a few bucks is not worth risking your dog's health.
Dog Fish Oil FAQs
Will My Pup Really Benefit From a Fish Oil Supplement?
It's thought most dogs can gain some benefit from a good fish oil supplement as it has been found to offer eye and brain health protections. However, some pups are likely to benefit more than others.
Dogs with skin conditions, allergies and a dulling of the coat can benefit a lot from a daily fish oil supplement and it was for these reasons that vets first began recommending them several years ago.
Some pet parents report that their pups with joint issues, including rheumatoid arthritis improve after a few weeks of use. Omega fatty acids are not a magic bullet for improving these often painful and debilitating conditions but a growing body of research backs up the anecdotal evidence that some dogs see very positive results.
Other dogs who may benefit most from being given a fish oil supplement are those with high blood pressure, heart problems - or a genetic disposition to such problems - growing puppies whose brains are developing and there is even some evidence that it may help slow the growth of cancerous tumors.
How Much Fish Oil Should I Give My Dog?
Whatever product you choose it will come with standard dosing instructions based on weight. If you are wondering if your pup would benefit from a larger dose consult with your vet before deviating from the recommended dosage of Omega-3 (EPA and DHA).
EPA is rarely sold by itself, it's usually combined with DHA. In most cases it is recommended to focus on the target EPA dosage when supplementing your dog, as the recommended DHA dosage often matches this. Generally speaking most fish oil products contain equal amounts of both.
Although more research is required to determine the most appropriate dose and dosing method, the recommended typical dose of fish oil is:
- Dogs: 50 to 75 mg EPA + DHA (combined) per kg body weight
- Cats: 30 to 50 mg/kg.
NOTE: It's advisable that pet parents balance the amount of Omega-3 a dog is receiving with the amount of Omega-6 in their diet. The recommended ratio is 9:1 where Omega-6 is 9 times more abundant than Omega-3.
Is a Fish Oil Supplement Safe for Puppies?
Puppies over the age of eight weeks can be given a fish oil supplement and they may in fact benefit most from one. Omega 3 has been shown to impact brain and eye health, and as these are developing rapidly in a young dog then a fish oil supplement may give him a better start in life.
There are fish oil supplements made from different kinds of fish? Which is best?
As you shop, and as you have read our best product choices, you will have noticed that there are fish oils that are created using the oil from different fish. The fact is however that the type of fish is not as relevant as the concentration of oils a supplement contains. The best contain high quality Omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acids (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acids (DHA).
The difference in the types of fish used has more of an affect on the size of the catch needed to extract the required amounts of oil, so it is more of a sustainability issue than anything else. Mackerel, for example, contain very high levels of high quality EPA and DHA but are smaller and often rarer than, for example salmon, which are farmed and therefore in more plentiful supply.
Will fish oil cause bad breath in my dog?
The smell of fish oil can be pungent, but most supplements are created to be as odorless as possible. Liquid fish oil does have a smell, but the best products are not particularly offensive. Most capsules have no odor at all, unless chewed and fish oil treats usually smell no different to any standard treat. If you practice good oral health for your pup fish breath should not be a reason to avoid letting them benefit from all that a fish oil supplement for dogs has to offer.
Can I give my dog the same fish oil supplement I take?
As we discussed right at the beginning, lots of humans have discovered the benefits of fish oil as well, of which there are many. Most people take a fish oil capsule, as pouring fish oil on your own food is neither very practical or very appealing (although many people do use it in cooking).
Most human fish oil capsules contain just 200-400 mg of EHA and DHA. The recommended dosage for dogs is usually 50-75 mg/kg body weight. So whether your dog can successfully share your supplements will depend on how big they are. And remember that getting your dog to eat one 200mg capsule may be a lot easier than trying to convince them to eat four or five smaller ones!
NOTE: Many owners perceive that giving dogs large amounts of fish oil supplementation is harmless. Avoid making this mistake, as these supplements DO have adverse effects and large amounts can lead to clotting issues and a rise in the risk of gastric effects (i.e. diarrhea and vomiting).
Most dogs especially ageing dogs or those with skin conditions will benefit from being given a high quality supplement of fish oil.
Consult with your vet to see if one would help your furkid, and shop carefully, remembering the hints, tips and information we’ve offered you throughout this guide.
When choosing a supplement I recommend one that has been made specifically for dogs with more than 4,900 customer reviews on Amazon, the Grizzly Salmon Oil Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supplement is by far one of the most popular fish oil supplement for dogs on the market.
What is your favorite supplement for your fur-kid and why? We’d love to hear your comments, questions or suggestions down below.
NEXT READ: The Best Anti Inflammatory for Dogs
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