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Health & Wellness

Are fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids good or bad for dogs?

Some tips on enhancing your pet’s wellness

The next time you’re putting together a list of supplements to get your pup, you may consider adding fish oil to the list. 

You should always check with your veterinarian before introducing a new supplement to your dog’s regimen, but in the meantime, here’s why fish oil may be a great addition to your pup’s diet.

Benefits of fish oil for dogs

According to Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian Dr. Aliya McCullough, fish oil mainly contains omega-3 fatty acids. “These omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help treat skin allergies like atopy, some kidney disorders, cardiovascular diseases and arthritis,” she adds. 

How much fish oil should you give your dog?

Your veterinarian can tell you the proper serving size of fish oil for your pup. Knowing the correct amount will lower the chance of adverse side effects of fish oil in dogs. 

“An overdose of fish oil can cause serious illness including liver disease, pancreatitis and gastrointestinal bleeding,” Dr. McCullough says. 

A vet-approved amount of fish oil is usually safe for dogs and may only negatively result in fishy breath and an oily coat. If your vet approves, you can start with a smaller dose and gradually increase their serving size to avoid unpleasant side effects. 

If your pup has a negative reaction to fish oil, talk to your vet before continuing to give them the supplement. Dr. McCullough says that the following symptoms indicate that your pet probably shouldn’t have fish oil:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Upset stomach
  • Loss of appetite

The best fish oil for dogs

Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation before placing fish oil supplements in your shopping cart. Dr. McCullough recommends looking for reputable fish oil brands with good purity standards and quality control.

It’s a good idea to check out any fish oil supplement ingredients before deciding on your purchase, too. Dr. McCullough says to look for brands with adequate EPA and DHA (two types of omega-3 fatty acids) concentrations. If you’re interested in giving your dog fish oil supplements intended for people, make sure to get the brand cleared by your vet — supplements meant for people often contain vitamin D at levels that are too high (they can cause toxicity) for dogs.

How to serve your dog fish oil

Fish oil supplements come in capsules, liquid form and are even included in some dog foods. If you’re giving your dog fish oil capsules, Dr. McCullough recommends putting it inside of a soft treat or piercing the capsule and dripping it on their food. The liquid form can be added directly to your pup’s food, too.

If you want to serve people food full of omega-3 fatty acids to your dog, ask your vet if it’s OK for them to eat cold-water, oily fish like herring, sardines, salmon and halibut.

Most fish oil supplements should be stored in a room-temperature environment, but carefully follow the directions on the back of the packaging. It’s also good to be mindful of the expiration date and never serve old medication or supplements to your pup, Dr. McCullough adds.

If your dog has itchy skin or aching joints, ask your veterinarian about adding fish oil to their diet. They can help you find the right fish oil brand and recommend the proper serving size to help your pup feel better.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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