What are essential fatty acids?
As the term implies, Essential Fatty Acids (or EFA’s), are fats which are ‘essential’ to the wellbeing of our dogs. Dogs cannot make EFA’s themselves and they cannot do without them because they are involved, one way or another, with virtually every biological process. Every bodily function from regulating the immune system to maintaining a healthy heart. You’ve heard of omega-3 and omega-6, right? Well they’re Essential Fatty Acids and they’re definitely essential fatty acids for dogs!
Fats and fatty acids
All fats are made of fatty acids, but not all fatty acids are essential fatty acids. So what purpose do they serve?
Fats act as fuel. Fats provide a dog with energy. When a dog exercises or plays, for example, the very first thing he or she will use for energy is those fats. That’s one of the reason fats are so important. Fats contain twice as many calories as carbohydrates or protein. In other words, they provide twice as much energy. Fats also enhance the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. None of these can be synthesized by a dog’s body (or ours in fact), because they’re fat-soluble vitamins. In other words, they can only be dissolved in fats or oils.
Good fats? Bad fats?
Dogs are not like human beings. For the likes of you and I, there are good fats (unsaturated fats) and bad fats (saturated fats). In humans, saturated fats are responsible for high cholesterol and heart disease amongst other things.
In the world of dogs, no fats are bad fats. Dogs just shouldn’t eat too much animal fat (saturated fat) because they’re likely to gain excess weight. Which in itself carries numerous health risks of course.
Sources of essential fatty acids
There are numerous dog-friendly sources of healthy fats – omega-3 and omega-6. Many of them are plant-based. Hemp seeds and hemp seed oil, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil for example. Then there’s safflower oil, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and coconut oil. They’re all good canine-safe, plant-based sources of essential fatty acids for dogs.
Fish body oil and oily fish themselves are of course excellent sources of EFAs. Fish such as sardines, herring, mackerel and salmon are particularly good for dogs
Nothing beats natural
Importantly, all the above are so much better than any synthetic essential fatty acid supplements.
So before asking your vet to prescribe synthetic EFA’s or buying them online because marketing man has made the packaging look appealing, take a look at what Mother Nature has provided for our dogs. After all, she was providing natural remedies for man’s best friend for thousands of years before man-made supplements were even thought of!