Studies have concluded that the use of omega fatty acids in veterinary medicine presents a variety of benefits.
In the past 20 years, fatty acids have gone from only promoting healthy skin and coat to being acknowledged for helping musculoskeletal disorders and cardiovascular disease, for example.
1. What are fatty acids?
Biochemically, a fatty acid is what we refer to as fat. In fact, fatty acids are precise types of polyunsaturated fats.
The two main classes of fatty acids are known as Omega-3 and the Omega-6.
This classification is based on molecular characteristics.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are regarded as “essential” because they are not produced by the body and must be supplemented in the diet as Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids.
2. What are Omega-6 fatty acids?
Omega-6 fatty acids are derived from Linoleic Acid. They are included in products such as:
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
- Soybean oil
Examples of Omega-6 fatty acids:
- Linoleic acid (LA)
- Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
- Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA)
- Arachidonic acid (AA)
Linoleic acid is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the skin.
It’s also largely responsible for a healthy hair coat.
3. What are Omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids molecules contain alpha-linolenic acid as the parent compound, which can be transformed into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
EPA is commonly used in the management of some diseases such as inhalant allergies, arthritis, heart disease and keratinization disorders.
Examples of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Marine oils, such as salmon oil and fish oil, are high-quality sources of EPA and DHA.
Flaxseed and pumpkin seed are also good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.
4. What is the optimal ratio of Omega-6:Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet?
Previously, it was believed that the ratio should be approximately 15:1.
Up to date recommendations are for ratios of 10:1 to 5:1.
There is some controversy about this point.
One dilemma with this is that no one really knows how much omega 3 fatty acid to supplement.
However, there is some evidence that a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids in the supplement/dog food is essential.
5. What are the indications for using supplemental fatty acids?
Omega fatty acids are very important to a number of body systems and conditions including:
- Autoimmune conditions
- Arthritis (especially EPA)
- Inflammatory diseases (e.g. ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis)
- Dull and dry hair coats, hair loss
- Flaky skin
- Yeast infections (especially on the skin and ears)
- Eye disorders
- Heart disease
- Cancer cachexia
Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids help maintain healthy skin, promote a strong immune system, and play a role in cell growth.