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Fat Is Your Dogs Friend!

For dogs, “fat is where it’s at.” Fat offers energy, warmth and calories for dogs. Fat is essential for dogs. It is important to offer fat sources from animal based foods. In a normal, healthy dog, fat is easier to digest than proteins or carbohydrates. Studies have shown that animal based fats digest at rates of about 95%. Fat is the main source of energy for dogs, and are found to provide the best source of endurance and stamina for working dogs undergoing stress, such as working dogs.

Essential to life and good health, Omega-3 fatty acids protect against disease and can treat illness. They are considered essential fatty acids (EFA’s), which means that they are essential to health but cannot be manufactured by the body. This means that Omega-3 must be obtained from the diet.

It is important to maintain an appropriate balance between Omega- 3 and Omega- 6 in the diet as these two polyunsaturated fats work together to promote health. Basically, the Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory benefits and help prevent heart disease, whereas Omega-6s lower blood cholesterol and support the skin. The ideal balance between Omega 6 (high proportions in vegetable oils) and Omega 3 (primarily found in fish oils) is approximately 5:1 and may even be ideal at a 1:1 ratio.
Fats are necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. They also provide protection from cold and protect the nerve fibers in the body. They provide more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein, and improve flavor and palatability of the dog’s food. While many commercial dog food brands offer low fat diet to dogs for weight reduction, this in turn increases appetite in the dog, as fat is needed for energy and helps to satiate the dog’s appetite. Please note that fats do not affect canines like they do us when it comes to cholesterol or heart disease. Dogs as carnivores do not have the propensity for cholesterol clogging the arteries or producing strokes. High cholesterol or triglycerides in dogs can mean very different health considerations, such as hypothyroidism, diabetes or Cushing’s disease. If your dog tests high for cholesterol, always run blood tests to check for these causes.

Rancid fat or poor quality fat can cause a deficiency of these fatty acids. Deficiencies of essential fatty acids are most commonly seen in poor coat and skin condition, such as pruritis (itching), dermatitis (skin inflammation) and seborrhea. A good source of vitamin E is also recommended for the best absorption of essential fatty acids.
The omega 6 fatty acids are found in animal sources, such as chicken and pork. Smaller amounts are found in beef. Larger amounts are found in plant sources, such as olive, safflower and other plant oils. Omega 3 fatty acids are less common, found in fish oil, flax seed oil and marine sources, such as spirulina and blue green algae.

The best sources for omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish body oils, such as fish oil or salmon oil. Cod liver oil is quite different, as it is lower in omega 3 and very high in vitamins A and D. Fish oil has a readily available form of omega 3, called EPA and DHA. Plant based oils such as Flax Seed Oil contains ALA, which needs to be converted in the body to be of use. Most dogs are unable to do this conversion which results in high amounts of omega 6 from this source, but not much omega 3. A high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio promotes inflammation, poor coat, allergies and skin conditions.
Because high doses of omega 3 fatty acids are found to reduce inflammation, fish oil is helpful for dogs with arthritis and orthopedic problems. The anti-inflammatory properties have also been found helpful for dermatitis and other skin conditions, as well as for certain gastro-intestinal disorders such as Irritable Bowel Disease and Colitis. Fat is not the enemy of your dog, but in fact a very important and good friend.

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