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Fatty Acid Supplements

What are omega 3/6 fatty acid supplements?
Most omega fatty acid supplements are made primarily from fish oil or flax seed oil (see the separate handouts on these products in this series), although some products may include other oils such as evening primrose oil, hemp oil, or borage oil.
Why recommend administration of omega 3/6 fatty acids supplements to my pet?
Fatty acid supplements can reduce shedding, promote growth of the undercoat, reduce tendencies to inflammation and help resolve inflammation. Anti-inflammatory effects come from the conversion of omega-3 and some omega-6 fatty acids into bioactive compounds called series 1 and 3 prostaglandins. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have named some of these bioactive compounds “resolvins” and “protectins”, to denote their roles in the inflammatory process. These compounds have a general anti-inflammatory effect on the body, in contrast to series 2 prostaglandins that are synthesized from another omega-6 fatty acid known as arachidonic acid, and that promote inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids, especially fish oils, may be beneficial in other conditions, including:

  • Prevention and treatment of autoimmune disorders
  • Prevention and treatment of diabetic neuropathy
  • Prevention and treatment of constipation and intestinal parasitism
  • Promotion of cell differentiation in cancer cells, resulting in inhibition of tumor growth, and even the shrinking of various tumors
  • Treatment of hyper-excitability disorders, including idiopathic epilepsy (seizures of unknown origin) and cardiac arrhythmias

One reason why omega 3/6 supplements are needed in small animal medicine is because, until recently, small animal commercial diets were low in omega-3 fatty acids.
“Animals that have chronic inflammatory problems may benefit by receiving additional supplements of omega fatty acids.”
Animals that have chronic inflammatory problems may benefit by receiving additional supplements of omega fatty acids. A relatively high omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid ratio helps promote a stronger anti-inflammatory effect of the supplement.
How much experience is there with the use of omega 3/6 fatty acid supplements in pets?
Experience is extensive with the use of these supplements in pets. They are one of the most commonly used supplements in all of human and animal medicine.
What species of animals are being treated regularly with omega 3/6 fatty acid supplements?
Horses, dogs, and cats are usually treated with fatty acid supplements.
How much research has been conducted on this supplement?
“Research is widespread on the benefits of essential fatty acid supplementation…”
Research is widespread on the benefits of essential fatty acid supplementation, which is reviewed extensively in the handouts on fish oil and flax oil in this series. Dozens of studies have been are conducted on omega-3 fatty acids alone, given their emerging importance in the prevention of heart disease (specifically myocardial ischemia and coronary artery occlusion). In animals, given the lack of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, these supplements are usually used to control inflammation and help inhibit the growth of tumors.
How can my pet benefit from omega 3/6 fatty acid supplements?
Pets with dry skin and rough hair coats can benefit from fatty acid supplementation. Pets with inflammatory conditions such as allergic skin disease, nephritis (inflammation of the kidney), heart disease, and arthritis appear to benefit from fish oil supplementation. Pets with cancer taking fish oil supplements plus chemotherapy have shown increased survival over those receiving chemotherapy alone. While not always effective by themselves, when combined with other supplements and medications fatty acid supplements are very helpful in treating pets with a variety of disorders.
How safe are omega 3/6 fatty acid supplements?
While extremely high doses of fatty acids may interfere with blood clotting, in general these supplements are very safe. A small number of pets may develop a fishy odor to their skin or breath.
Where do I obtain omega 3/6 fatty acids supplements and do I need a prescription?
Pet owners are cautioned against buying supplements without knowledge of the manufacturer, as supplements are not highly regulated and some supplements may not contain the ideal ratio of fatty acids for your pet.
“Products containing omega fatty acids are susceptible to rancidity if stored incorrectly.”
Products containing omega fatty acids are susceptible to rancidity if stored incorrectly. Your veterinarian may have preferred supplements that he or she will recommend. A prescription is not needed for fatty acid supplements.
This client information sheet is based on material written by: Steve Marsden, DVM ND MSOM LAc DiplCH AHG, Shawn Messonnier, DVM and Cheryl Yuill, DVM, MSc, CVH © Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license


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