Being itchy is no fun for anyone, and that includes your dog. Itchiness is a common problem for dogs and a true frustration for pet owners.
This is especially true when your dog is biting, chewing, and scratching ALL night long. There are a variety of causes for your dog’s itchiness, but there can also be other reasons they seem uncomfortable.
Each potential cause of itchy skin or potential discomfort has its own specific treatments and preventive steps.
Did you know that there is one common product that not only could potentially improve your dog’s skin and decrease itchiness BUT also help with many other aspects of their health and discomfort? There is — fish oil.
While fish oils are one of my favorite supplements, they are not a magic wand that makes all your dog’s problems, itching or otherwise, go away. In many cases, though, they can be a helpful and beneficial addition to your dog’s itchy skin treatment, part of your dog’s itchy skin prevention, and a boost to general health and comfort.
Why is Fish Oil Good for Dogs?
You may be wondering how fish oils are able to help. Well, Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), that are present in fish oils, can help decrease inflammation in not only skin cells but throughout your dog’s body. When a body is under a state of constant inflammation, regardless of the cause or location, cells suffer microscopic damage and oxidative stress. When this occurs, there is an increased risk of illness and disease.
Guess what? Fish oil benefits don’t end with just reducing inflammation. That’s right, they offer potential benefits to other parts of the body and help with different diseases. Studies and clinical experiences also suggest a role for the use of fish oils in managing a host of conditions in dogs.
Here are just some of the known benefits of giving your dog fish oil:
Slows the progression of chronic kidney disease
Lowers blood pressure
Can help with mobility issues due to arthritis and degenerative joint disease
Certain heart conditions, such as atrial fibrillation
For puppies, studies show that puppies with increased DHA learned and retained skills faster
For senior dogs, it helped improve recognition of other pets and family members and seems to decrease the behavior of pattern-pacing and other symptoms of cognitive decline
Help lower triglyceride levels in the blood, which is important for those dogs suffering from pancreatitis, heart disease, and inflammatory bowel disease
Found to slow the development (by inhibiting cell growth) and metastasis (spread) of certain cancers, such as lymphoma and mammary tumors
Improves coat condition, helping it be more silky and shiny
How to Choose the Best Fish Oil for Your Dog
While the list of the benefits of fish oils is seemingly tremendous, there are some things to consider. Their benefits are impacted by your dog getting the right formulation from a reputable source and at the correct dose. It is important to realize that fish oils are not a stand-alone therapy for any of the conditions mentioned.
Plus, even though they are generally quite safe, they do have potential negative side effects. For these reasons, it is essential to consult with your pet’s veterinarian so they can determine if the addition of fish oils to your dog’s daily routine will be useful in the management of any conditions your dog may have.
What Type of Fish Oil Should You Give Your Dog?
As mentioned, the benefits of fish oils require that the formulation is correct. When buying Omega-3 fatty acids, you must be aware if you are buying the triglyceride formulation (the natural one) or the ethyl ester formulation (the manufactured one). The information should be visible on the label.
Avoid using the manufactured ethyl ester formulation of Omega-3. The reason you do not want the ethyl ester product, even though it is less expensive, is because its health benefits are inferior. It is less stable, at least 40% lower absorption by the body, and it doesn’t taste as good. It has also been found that this formulation causes dogs to be more ‘gassy’ and who wants to deal with that! Instead, look for the natural triglyceride formulation of Omega-3.
Where is the Fish Oil Sourced?
As with anything that we or our pets consume, you want the source to be reputable and reliable. Over the years, fish oils have grown in popularity in both human and animal health. Therefore, manufacturers have made a lot of claims in regard to their products to boost sales.
Unfortunately, fish oil supplements are not regulated by the FDA. This means that these supplements may not meet their label claims for DHA or EPA and could potentially exceed the recommended amounts.
When evaluating what fish oils to buy, you want to look at some key features:
Purity. Be sure to check the labels Certification of Analysis (CoA). Fish oils can contain heavy metals and other contaminants, especially if they come from polluted waters. Know where the fish were caught for your supplement.
Be sure to check the labels Certification of Analysis (CoA). Fish oils can contain heavy metals and other contaminants, especially if they come from polluted waters. Know where the fish were caught for your supplement. Freshness. Fish oils can easily go bad. This is another reason the CoA is important. The CoA’s anisidine and peroxide values help you know the freshness, which is measured by oxidation. They should be less than 5mEq/kg.
Fish oils can easily go bad. This is another reason the CoA is important. The CoA’s anisidine and peroxide values help you know the freshness, which is measured by oxidation. They should be less than 5mEq/kg. Potency. The product must contain DHA and EPA. If you're wanting to focus on helping your dog's skin issues, such as itchiness, use oil with higher levels of EPA than DHA. The amount of DHA should be higher than EPA if you are trying to support brain health, particularly since it provides the most benefits.
The product must contain DHA and EPA. If you're wanting to focus on helping your dog's skin issues, such as itchiness, use oil with higher levels of EPA than DHA. The amount of DHA should be higher than EPA if you are trying to support brain health, particularly since it provides the most benefits. Bioavailability. The fish oil must be in the natural triglyceride form for optimal absorption by the body. Don’t use the synthetic form, which is sometimes labeled as EE-based (ethyl-esters) or sold as omega-3 fish oil concentrate.
Consult with your veterinarian on the brand they recommend that may be best suited for your dog. Some recommended products, since they have been analyzed for purity, accuracy, and safety, are:
Omega Benefits by Veterinary Recommended Solutions (VRS)
Find it here
Welactin by Nutramax
Find it on Chewy | Find it on Amazon
Omega-3 Pet Soft Gel Capsules by Nordic Naturals
Find it on Chewy | Find it on Amazon
Grizzly Omega Health Liquid Supplement
Find it on Chewy | Find it on Amazon
Only Use Fish Oils Made Specifically for Dogs
I cannot stress enough that there are several reasons not to use human fish oil supplements for your dog. They may have added sweeteners such as xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs.
We have a regularly updated list of products that contain xylitol, including a few brands of fish oils. Please read labels and keep your eyes open, and if you find a fish oil that contains xylitol and isn't on our list, please let us know at the list link above.
Fish oils formulated for humans may have added flavoring, which can create adverse reactions for those dogs with food allergies. Also, there may be other added ingredients that may not be suitable for dogs. For example, some human fish oil supplements contain vitamin D. The commonly supplemented doses of vitamin D can be toxic for your dog.
How Much Fish Oil Should You Give Your Dog?
Now you know what formulation to use and what to look for with regards to a reputable source. The last thing to take into account is the dose. If you under-dose your dog, you will lose the benefits of fish oils. If you overdose your dog, you can potentially cause harm (read more about this below).
I recommend consulting with your dog’s veterinarian in order to calculate the exact dose your dog needs based on their current weight. For reference, the typical dosing range is 75–100 mg/kg. But typically, the Canine Arthritis Resources and Education suggests 100 mg/kg.
Potential Adverse Side Effects of Using Fish Oil for Dogs
It is important to consult with your veterinarian because while fish oil is generally quite safe, there are some potential adverse effects, especially if the dose is incorrect for your pet.
The following are some things to be aware of when adding a fish oil supplement to your dog's diet:
Supplement and drug interactions — such as Anticoagulants, Doxorubicin, and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
Vitamin, herbal therapies, and supplement interactions
Changes in platelet functions can lead to blood clotting issues
Vomiting and diarrhea
Delayed wound healing
Effects on insulin sensitivity
Vitamin A overdose can occur
In addition to the above-mentioned potential side effects, you must use caution with dogs under the following circumstances:
History of diarrhea
Prior history of pancreatitis. This is especially true in Schnauzers and Yorkshire Terriers, both of which are predisposed to pancreatitis.
Pregnant or nursing dogs
Overall, the benefits of fish oils are tremendous. I highly recommend consulting with your dog’s veterinarian to determine how you can safely incorporate them into your dog’s daily routine.
Caring for your skin can be quite the process, with all of the different creams and products to try, but just providing your skin with the right nutrients can go a long way toward supporting its health. Your skin is vital to your overall health, as it keeps out potential pathogens and serves as a protective barrier.
Although skincare can be tricky, it turns out that adding omega-3s into your diet can be an effective and easy way to promote the holistic health of your skin. With the right routine, you can achieve the appearance of glowing, healthy skin.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid. These acids are found throughout the body in cell membranes, making up important building blocks in the body. There are three main types of omega-3s:
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the omega-3 precursor
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Of those three types, DHA and EPA are the two most important nutrients. ALA omega-3s can be found in foods like chia seeds, olive oil, flaxseed oil, and other nuts, seeds, and oils. ALA is abundant in a standard diet, meaning it is not necessary to worry about maintaining a consistent ALA intake, and ALA acts as more of a precursor to true omega-3.
The main concern for many people should be obtaining enough EPA and DHA in their diet, especially since these two nutrients have the largest impact on your overall health.
These two nutrients are much more limited in a standard diet. A common food source of DHA and EPA is fatty fish, like mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna. Unless you eat fish or fish oil regularly, it is a challenge to obtain all of the DHA and EPA that you need through your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids have soothing properties that make them beneficial for several systems throughout the body. These fatty acids pose several health benefits, from supporting heart health to maintaining healthy joints and bones. Although not as widely discussed, omega-3s can also support the appearance of healthy skin.
How Does Omega-3 Benefit the Skin?
With the number of ways that omega-3s help support bodily functions, it may not be a surprise that they can also support healthy skin function. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it has several key functions, from fighting off pathogens to providing UV protection.
Omega-3 fatty acids might just be one of the most underrated parts of a strong skincare routine, as they can offer multiple potential benefits. These include:
1. Support for UV Protection
Regular omega-3 intake helps support your skin against harmful UV radiation. UV rays can have several negative effects on the skin, including sunburn and irritation. Sunscreen helps protect the skin from harmful UV rays, but of course, this protection only holds where sunscreen is applied.
Although sunscreen is a must for anyone spending time outdoors, your skin itself has built-in mechanisms to help it withstand UV rays.
Omega-3 fatty acids in your skin help support the skin’s natural photoprotection capabilities. Not only do they help support natural photoprotection, but omega-3 dietary supplements are also able to do so in a generalized manner because they are taken orally.
Your skin uses omega-3s alongside systems like melanin production and enzyme repair to create an advanced layer of protection against potential sun damage. Plus, some omega-3 supplements are fortified with other nutrients like selenium and vitamin A, which both have antioxidant properties and can help mitigate the visible side effects of sun damage.
By protecting your skin from UV rays, you can also keep it protected from sun damage that leads to early aging on your skin. The added protection that comes from your skin’s natural UV filter helps reduce the risk of developing sunspots, wrinkles, and discoloration.
Of course, omega-3s are no replacement for sunscreen. Without sunscreen, even your skin’s natural photoprotection will run out, and you’ll experience sun damage. Instead, you can take omega-3s daily to add support to your hardworking sunscreen.
2. Support for Skin Hydration
Dry skin bugs all of us, from its rough texture to the potential itching. Dehydrated skin is just outright uncomfortable. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it is also unhealthy.
Hydrated skin is far more resilient than dry skin, as it stretches more easily and is more resistant to potential wounds. For example, if you scratch dry skin, you will see a clear mark, while hydrated skin is less likely to show a sign of irritation.
Omega-3s play an important role in supporting your skin’s hydration as they strengthen the barrier that seals in moisture. These essential fatty acids are also found in cell membranes, so without enough omega-3s, you may not experience quick cell regeneration and growth, which can also result in dryness.
Improved hydration also helps support the appearance of healthy skin aging and delay the onset of wrinkles. In combination with healthy skin care habits and proper hydration, the moisturizing effects of omega-3 fatty acids help maintain your skin’s natural firmness and elasticity. By embracing the powers of omega-3s now, you may be setting yourself up for the long-term.
3. Temporary Relief of Skin Irritation
If you have skin conditions that cause dryness, you likely deal with the frustrations of itching or flaking skin. These symptoms can be particularly discouraging as they can be unpredictable and leave your skin with open sores and scabbing.
Omega-3s can help provide temporary relief for irritation. Between their ability to support hydrated skin and support the body’s natural wound healing process, omega-3s can help provide much-needed relief for the soreness and irritation involved with these symptoms of dryness. By supporting the development of healthy tissue, these essential nutrients are an excellent option for pushing back against irritation.
Omega-3s may also help to support relief for sensitive skin as well, by minimizing the skin’s response to potential irritants. This is another byproduct of improving the skin’s moisture, elasticity, and resilience.
4. Support for Skin Barrier
The skin barrier is vital to our overall health, protecting us from various outside threats. This barrier helps us to keep out harmful bacteria, chemicals, and other harmful pollutants.
Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful as they positively support the function of the skin barrier, helping to maintain its strength and soothe potential irritation to the skin. These nutrients also play a key role in the immune system, helping to support the skin’s response against potential invaders.
The eicosanoids generated by EPA are vital to supporting the skin’s immune response, allowing the appropriate cells to target and remove any threats. Altogether, omega-3 is extremely valuable in supporting your skin’s ability to protect your insides.
How Can I Get More Omega-3s?
Since DHA and EPA omega-3s can be hard to come by in a standard diet, it is important to be mindful and proactive about how you obtain these essential nutrients. Of course, the first solution for many people is to eat more fish, as they are rich in both nutrients.
Krill and fish oil supplements are an easier approach to obtaining more omega-3s, allowing you to receive the fatty acids through just a capsule or spoonful of the oil. Taking the recommended serving each day will give you the fatty acids you need.
If you are not a fish fan or prefer to avoid animal-based foods altogether, you may want to turn to a different supplement.
Fortunately, fish is not the only source of EPA and DHA fatty acids. After all, the fish have to get it from somewhere. We can actually get these two omega-3s from the same powerful source as the fish do — algae.
With iwi life’s algae-based omega-3 supplement, you can access a simple but efficient form of omega-3s. These omega-3s are also absorbed by the body more easily than those found in fish oil and krill oil. At the same time, you get to avoid the fishy aftertaste with a simple softgel tablet.
If you want to get more omega-3s in your diet, skip the middleman altogether and get your fatty acids straight from the source by trying iwi life algae.
Advance Your Skincare
Omega-3s have a surprising number of benefits for your skin, helping you to enjoy softer, more durable, and more radiant skin. Incorporating these essential fatty acids into your daily nutrition can give you more resilient skin while supporting your overall health and wellness.
To provide your skin with more of the nutrients it needs, start making iwi life part of your daily routine. Just two softgels each day can provide you with your daily recommended omega-3 intake. To see all the potential benefits you can gain from omega-3s, explore our complete family of iwi life products.
Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health | Linus Pauling Institute
Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil’s Fatty Acids on the Skin | PMC
Diet and Skin Barrier: The Role of Dietary Interventions on Skin Barrier Function | PMC
Donia started her career as a freelance nutritionist, later she joined Nestle as their Market Nutritionist to help support their healthier product range, before joining the team at Holland & Barrett in January 2018.
Donia has over 6 years experience as a Nutritionist and also works with clients on a one to one basis to support their goals which include weight loss, prenatal and postnatal nutrition and children’s health.