The market for pet health nutritional supplements is booming and marketers should heed the growing bank of research supporting supplemental essential fatty acids for the health of domestic animals. No longer applied solely for aesthetic or superficial purposes such as a shinier coat, less dry, itchy or flaky skin, clinical research now ties marine oils — and the essential fatty acids they deliver – to reduce inflammation and to benefit animals’ allergies, joint, eye and heart health.
Prime Focus on Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 and Omega-6
What makes these nutrients essential? Fatty acids are essential to the everyday bodily functions of some cats and dogs, but for some, the body is unable to create them, and it therefore becomes essential that they be taken in through dietary sources. Omega-3 and Omega-6 are two types of these essential fatty acids; their names referring to their molecular structure, and the position of one important double bond, within that molecular structure.
Why do they have so many names? Omega-3 fatty acids include several sub-types, which can be seen cited in the literature, and may be seen highlighted on pet product labels, including: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-6 fatty acid sub-types include: linoleic acid (LA), gamma linolenic acid (GLA), dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), and arachidonic acid (AA).
Fatty acids have been linked with a variety of health benefits for cats and dogs, large and small. Credible nutrition supplement manufacturers offer some guidance based on the size/weight of the animal. The literature suggests that pet owners meet with their animal doctor to discuss their nutrition goals. From there, they can flag any contraindications for use and/or determine proper supplemental dosages.
Beyond Pet Food
Many pet food companies incorporate essential fatty acids at an appropriate and healthy level in their product lines. These nutrients are also found naturally in concentrated amounts in marine oils, cold water fish, algae; sunflower and safflower oil. However, pet safe nutritional supplements can be found in various forms, including oils, treats and chewables, and are specific to the animal, size, life stage, and described health benefit.