Did you know that fish oil supplements can be just as beneficial for dogs as they are for humans? That’s right: if you want to improve the joints, brain function, skin condition and overall health of your dog, it’s well worth exploring if fish oils could work for you and your pup.
High-quality fish oil supplements offer a myriad of benefits, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of products on the market and not all are created equal. We’ve compiled this guide to help you make the best decision for your dog’s needs.
At a Glance: Our Top 6 Best Fish Oil Supplements for Dogs
- Omegease Omega-Rich Fish Oil
- Grizzly Salmon Oil All-Natural Dog Food Supplement
- Zesty Paws Pure Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for Dogs
- Amazing Nutritionals Omega 3 Chews
- Nordic Naturals Omega 3 Pet Soft Gels
- Pure Paw Pure Alaskan Salmon Oil
Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
Contents & Quick Navigation
- 1 What are Fish Oil Supplements?
- 2 What are the Different Types of Fish Oil Supplements?
- 3 Benefits of Fish Oils
- 4 Which Dogs Can Benefit?
- 5 How Effective are Fish Oils?
- 6 What to Look for in the Best Fish Oils
- 7 Dosage
- 8 Can dogs Take Human Versions of Fish Oils?
- 9 Are There Any Side-Effects of Fish Oil Supplements?
- 10 The 6 Best Fish Oil Supplements for Dogs
- 11 Conclusion
What are Fish Oil Supplements?
Fish oils are omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in certain cold-water fishes, including salmon, mackerel, herring and cod liver. These oils are extracted from the fish, then packaged and sold as supplements in either tablet or liquid form, occasionally mixed in with some added vitamins and minerals.
Two of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils is especially beneficial to health: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These are anti-inflammatory and provide various benefits to weight management, brain health and heart health.
Humans, dogs and cats can take fish oil supplements. Of course, you can also take in these fatty acids by going straight to the source and eating the fish themselves. Supplements are simply an easier way to guarantee a regular dose and are often more concentrated and purified.
What are the Different Types of Fish Oil Supplements?
Fish oil supplements for dogs are either in liquid form, whereby you pour a small dosage onto their daily kibble, or in tablet form, which can either be given to your pup to chew or punctured and squeezed over their food.
There are a huge number of different fish oil supplements on the market and these can usually be divided into two camps: regular fish oil and salmon oil. As you might expect, salmon oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids extracted solely from salmon, whereas fish oil comes from any array of different cold-water fish.
Whether you choose fish or salmon oil is up to you: high-quality products of either option will contain high levels of EPA and DHA. Salmon oil may be preferable if your dog has allergies or sensitivities to any other fish.
Benefits of Fish Oils
One of the reasons why fish oil supplementation is so popular with both humans and dogs is because it’s truly very beneficial for your health.
The benefits of EPA and DHA fatty acids include:
- Anti-inflammatory properties that are great for tackling allergies, arthritis and inflammation in the bowel
- Restoring shine to the coat and skin, and reducing shedding
- Aiding weight management
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing triglyceride levels (cholesterol)
- Strengthening the immune system
- Improving cognitive function
- Developing cognitive function and eye health of fetuses (it’s a great supplement for pregnant dams)
- Supports heart health by thinning the blood and therefore boosting circulation
Which Dogs Can Benefit?
While dogs of all ages, size and breeds can benefit from regular supplementation with fish oils, there are a clear few groups that can seriously benefit.
Older dogs, especially those suffering from arthritis, will be able to move a lot more painlessly and easily as the fish oils will help to halt and reduce any swelling and inflammation around their joints. Their blood pressure will be lowered, heart boosted and cholesterol levels lowered too.
At the other end of the spectrum, puppies can also hugely benefit from fish oils. Various studies have shown that puppies with an optimal level of DHA are easier to train than those without it, thanks to the fatty acid’s effect on cognitive function. It also helps to boost their immune system to help them fight any disease or infection they may be vulnerable to while they’re young.
In that same vein, pregnant dams are also a prime candidate for fish oil supplementation. Not only will it greatly aid the development of the fetus, but it will also protect the dam from disease by strengthening their immune system, while keeping down their blood pressure.
Dogs that are suffering from omega-3 deficiency will obviously very much benefit from fish oil supplements too. Symptoms of this include dry skin and coat, pain in their joints, and being quick to fatigue.
How Effective are Fish Oils?
You’re likely reading this and thinking that the benefits of fish oils sound great – too good to be true, almost.
There’s lots of debate as to whether the entire supplement market – for humans, dogs and other pets – are as effective as they claim to be.
The clue as to their value lies in their name. Fish oil supplements do just that – supplement a hopefully already healthy diet and lifestyle. They’re not going to be able to undo the effects of a bad diet or lack of exercise for your dog. The starting point to doggy health always starts with a healthy, balanced diet and plenty of exercise – then it’s a good idea to look at supplementation.
Some kibble manufacturers will claim to have added fish oils in their products, but the truth is that these fragile chains of omega-3 fatty acids will simply not survive in bags of kibble and are unlikely to provide any real benefit. Fish oils should ideally be refrigerated and used relatively quickly to avoid going rancid.
Fish oil supplements are also only as good as their manufacturing process. The best products will be 100% pure, all natural and responsibly sourced. They’ll be as close to their natural state as possible – i.e. straight from the fishes – and won’t be burdened with any fillers or preservatives.
Lower quality (and usually cheap) fish oil supplements may claim to deliver the many benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, but they’re so loaded with worthless extra ingredients to keep the manufacturing costs low that they’re often not worth their price tag at all.
If you are going to supplement your dog with fish oils, make sure that you go for high quality, pure products. They may cost a little more, but they’re ultimately much better for your pup’s health in the long and short term.
What to Look for in the Best Fish Oils
So, how can you spot which products are high quality and which are worth passing on? There are a few indicators of quality fish oil supplements:
- No fillers, artificial preservatives or colors. Ideally they should be all-natural or 100% pure (their purity might even be tested by third parties)
- High levels of EPA and DHA
- Should be extracted from wild-caught fish
- Impurities and heavy metals removed by molecular distillation
Also, although these features won’t make the fish oils any more effective, you may wish to consider products that:
- Don’t have too much of a fishy odor
- Are tasty
- Are hypoallergenic
- Have an added source of Vitamin E. Taking fish oil supplements will warrant additional Vitamin E in your dog’s diet. Consult your vet to see whether how much – if any – additional Vitamin E they might need.
As with all medicine and supplementation, dose is very important and should be calculated by your vet who will be able to consider your dog’s weight, size and physical conditions before advising on correct dosage.
By way of some outlined guidance, the Whole Dog Journal recommends that healthy dogs can be given a combined 100-150g of EPA and DHA per 10 pounds of body weight, while those suffering from health problems might increase their dosage to 300g per 10 pounds of body weight.
Again, we stress that you should consult your vet to determine the exact dosage that your particular dog needs.
Can dogs Take Human Versions of Fish Oils?
While human-grade fish oil supplements are equally suitable for canine consumption (providing you adjust the dosage accordingly), there may be some flavorings that your dog doesn’t like, even the ravenous Labrador may turn their nose up at the taste of raw fish oil.
Most, however, do love the ultra-fishy taste of canine-formulated fish oils!
Are There Any Side-Effects of Fish Oil Supplements?
There are some potential side effects of fish oil supplements that you should carefully monitor your dog for – most of these can be avoided by sticking to the right dosage for your dog’s weight and circumstances.
Some of the beneficial aspects of fish oils can prove potentially harmful in rare circumstances. One of the reasons why they’re so good for heart health is that they thin the blood, boosting circulation. But this can also have an effect on how well the blood clots – effectively slowing down this process. This could mean that they bleed out faster in major trauma.
If your dog is already taking blood-thinning medication, due for surgery or prone to bloody injuries or roughhousing, it’s worth consulting with your vet about exact dosages and even if it’s a good idea for your dog to take fish oils at all.
As we touched on earlier, you will probably need to introduce more Vitamin E into your pup’s diet when they start taking fish oils. The higher quality fish oil supplements you give them, the less Vitamin E they will require, however.
They need this extra vitamin dose because the antioxidant properties of Vitamin E will ensure that the fish oils don’t become rancid in the body. Better quality fish oils, and at lower doses, are less likely to oxidize so require less Vitamin E to compensate. Again, consult your vet to work out exact dosages.
Another potential side effect is diarrhea or an upset tummy – common ailments when there’s a shift in your dog’s diet. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best dosage to avoid this, and whether you should work to gradually increase your dog’s dose up to the optimal level for their weight.
Finally, remember to talk to your vet about the interaction between supplements and any other medication your dog might be on, as it could cause some adverse effects. This is particularly important if your pup is already taking anti-inflammatory medication – while tackling inflammation is a good idea, we don’t want to completely suppress the body’s inflammatory responses!
The 6 Best Fish Oil Supplements for Dogs
Following is a roundup of the best fish oil supplements for dogs, picked for their great mix of quality and price, as well as raving reviews and popularity from previous buyers.
Omegease Omega-Rich Fish Oil for Dogs and Cats
This fish oil supplement is a highly rated and popular product on the market and it’s easy to see why. Wild caught fish from a variety of sources provide pure omega 3, 6 and 9 – and it can just be added easily to your dog’s kibble with no fuss and great taste.
- All-natural, human-grade and 100% pure, exceeding US pharmaceutical standards
- Rich in EPA and DHA, contains omega 3, 6 and 9
- Sourced from wild-caught sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel from the North Atlantic
- Contains no additives, fillers or preservatives
- Molecularly distilled to remove any toxins and heavy metals, then 3rd party tested for purity
- Distilled at a low temperature to conserve the oils’ potency
- Easy to add to your dog’s kibble
- The pump dispenser is quite messy, allowing the oils to dribble out the top
- It does have a reasonably fishy odor (despite its claims to the contrary)
Grizzly Salmon Oil All-Natural Dog Food Supplement
One of the most popular fish oil supplements for dogs, Grizzly Salmon Oil is sourced entirely from – you guessed it – salmon, wild-caught in Alaska. Again, it’s contained in a pump bottle for dispensing straight onto your dog’s usual food and widely loved for its rich taste.
- All-natural, 100% pure, derived entirely from wild Alaskan salmon
- Contains Omega 3, 6 and Arachidonic fatty acids, as well as natural occurring Vitamin E, antioxidants and other trace vitamins
- Light odor that’s not too fishy
- The product line’s toxin and heavy metals levels are regularly checked and found to be below the method detection limit
- Minimally processed with a very short heating period to maintain the potency of the salmon oil
- Available in 4 different sizes from 8 to 64 ounces
- Again, the bottle pump is messy and leaks relatively easily
- It contains all-natural rosemary extract as a natural fat preservative to ensure that the salmon oil doesn’t oxidize and go rancid in your body. Canine intake of rosemary is relatively controversial, despite being classified as ‘Generally Regarded As Safe’ by the FDA, as there have been some links to seizures with very high dosages in the past. As with anything, dose is what makes a particular ingredient toxic, and consult with your vet if you’re concerned
Zesty Paws Pure Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for Dogs and Cats
This is another salmon only fish oil supplement for dogs, that again comes in a liquid formula, easy to mix into your pup’s daily kibble. Zesty Paws have taken great pains to ensure the product’s safety as an all-natural supplement.
- All-natural, derived from fresh, wild-caught Icelandic salmon
- Independently certified by the NSF and GMP certified
- Made in the USA in an FDA-registered facility
- Rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
- Free from GMOs and fillers
- Only very lightly scented with no overwhelmingly fishy odors
- Tasty – dogs love it!
- In what is apparently a common theme, the pump isn’t well equipped to deal with the oily texture of the salmon oil and is known to leak and get quite messy
Amazing Nutritionals Omega 3 Chews
This product is the number one bestseller in the ‘dog food toppings’ category on Amazon, likely due to the health benefits of it being a 100% pure, natural source of fish oils, and the ease that comes with giving your dog a delicious, chewable tablet – much better than a leaky pump!
- 100% pure, all natural fish oil chewables
- Third party tested for purity and dosage
- Rich in Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids
- Don’t require refrigeration
- No fishy odor
- Delicious bacon and liver flavor
- Hypoallergenic with no manufacturing byproducts or allergens
- Made in the USA, in small batches in a GMP certified organic facility
- Tablets are custom formulated for dogs
- Some dogs may not like chewing a tablet
- They don’t contain any additional Vitamin E so you may need to source this elsewhere
Nordic Naturals Omega 3 Pet Soft Gels
Nordic Naturals is a very popular brand of fish oil supplementation that creates products for both humans and dogs. These ‘soft gels’ can either be chewed or punctured and added in smaller doses to your dog’s kibble. As with the other products on our list, they’re pure and natural.
- Contains wild-caught anchovy and sardine oil
- Rich in Omega 3 – 1 gel contains 1000mg of fish oil — from the freshest catch
- Produced in its true triglyceride form to ensure that it’s fully absorbed by the body – most fish oil supplements are actually ethyl ester molecules (concentrated and distilled forms of fish oil)
- Distilled to remove toxins and heavy metals
- 3rd party tested for purity and freshness, exceeding standards set by the World Health Organization and European Pharmacopoeia
- Certificates of analysis are available upon request
- Specially formulated for dogs and cats
- Comes in two sizes: 90 or 180 soft gels per package
- The gels aren’t particularly easy to puncture if you’d prefer to add the oil directly onto your dog’s kibble
Pure Paw Pure Alaskan Salmon Oil
This is another pure, salmon-only fish oil and it appears to be one of the few products that have escaped the leaky pump fate! Unlike some of the other products in this list, it also contains additional vitamins that may be beneficial to your dog’s health.
- Made from wild-caught Alaskan salmon
- Also contains Vitamin B complex. Vitamin D3 and potassium
- The pump is robust and ensures no drips or leaks
- Contains no additives, preservatives or rosemary
- The bottle is recyclable and free from BPA
- Made in the USA
- Available in two sizes – 8 and 32 ounces
- Relatively strong, fishy odor
- This may not be suitable for pups that aren’t house trained: the B vitamins are known to color their urine a more vibrant yellow, which may not be a good thing for your carpets!
Hopefully now you’re aware of the many benefits of fish oil supplements for dogs, and the best products on the market to help deliver those benefits.
The one important piece of advice to take when you’re considering starting your dog on fish oils is to double check with your vet what dosage to take, so you can avoid any potential side effects or harmful interactions with other medication.
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