Exploring the role of omega-3 supplementation in cats and dogs

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This article is sponsored by Standard Process Veterinary FormulasTM.

Omega-3 fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are needed for proper growth and development. In fact, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties in many types and can be used to treat canine osteoarthritis.

ALA can be considered an “essential” fatty acid because several of its long-chain derivatives, such as EPA and DHA, have important metabolic effects. Essential fatty acids are those that the body cannot produce in sufficient quantities – they have to be obtained through food. EPA and DHA can be synthesized from ALA, but the conversion process is inefficient in dogs and almost non-existent in cats. Hence, both need and benefit from foods that contain EPA and DHA.

This article takes a closer look at omega-3s, including some key food sources, how they work, and more! Let’s start with sources.

Important food sources for omega-3 fatty acids Sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish, krill, calamari, green-lipped mussels and algae. Fish do not produce omega-3 oils directly – omega-3 fatty acids accumulate in their food, be it from plant material or from smaller prey. Active omega-3 fatty acids in marine springs are DHA and EPA. Nuts and seeds also contain omega-3 fatty acids; however, they have a higher ALA content. Only about 10% of ALA converts to the more active EPA and DHA; therefore the use of marine sources is preferred. 1-4

Understand the mechanism of action of omega-3 After digestion and absorption, omega-3 fatty acids build into body tissue and cell membranes of the organ system, change metabolic pathways and lead to an “inflammation-relieving” activity

How much is enough A closer look at dosage and nutrition plans The Association of the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets minimum requirements for DHA content in pet food for growth (0.08% ALA and .05% EPA / DHA, dry matter basis) and the ratio of total PUFAs to ALA, EPA, and DHA in adult maintenance diets (maximum 30: 1). Typical over-the-counter pet foods contain minimal amounts of EPA and DHA. Veterinary therapeutic diets for disease states provide higher levels and should be evaluated for the type and amount of omega-3s (ALA, EPA, and / or DHA).

As each patient can have multiple and different concerns, it is highly recommended that you determine an omega-3 intake range for each pet and monitor for side effects. Treatment can include both a therapeutic diet and a specific supplementary dose. Experts consider the combination of all supplements and medications administered, and the potential for interactions and dosages can be modified based on the tolerability and concerns of each pet. This plan is sure to get the maximum benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for pets to support their health.

Omega-3 Supplementation: What You Need To Know While the optimal dosage for pets has not been determined, general guidelines from a compilation of studies have been offered for many health conditions. Supplementation is considered safe when given in appropriate amounts under veterinary supervision. Safe upper limits have also been set as higher dosages can rarely cause side effects. A veterinary examination is recommended to determine the optimal omega-3 fatty acid supplement plan for your pet’s unique needs.

Standard Process Veterinary Formulas ™ VF Omega-3 is a fish oil supplement containing long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA to support dog and cat health. Through a combination of anchovy and sardine oil, VF provides omega-3 DHA and EPA in softgel form to close the nutritional gap and support:

  • The ways that regulate joint health
  • Heart health
  • Healthy dog ​​skin and coat
  • The central nervous system
  • Puppy and kitten brain development

Because each patient is a unique individual and may have a combination of concerns, it is best to determine a specific omega-3 intake range for each dog or cat. This can include a combination of a therapeutic diet and a specific supplement dose. Monitoring for side effects is very important. Experts recommend considering the combination of any supplements and / or medications given and the potential for interactions. The dosage can be adjusted depending on the tolerance and individual concerns of each pet. This plan is sure to get the maximum benefit from omega-3 fatty acids for pets and support their health.


  1. Farmer JE. The Essential Nature of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2016; 249 (11): 1267-72.
  2. Farmer JE. Dogs’ reactions to dietary omega-3s. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2007; 231 (11): 1657-61.
  3. Farmer JE. Metabolic basis for the essential nature of fatty acids and the cat’s unique fatty acid needs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2006; 229 (11): 1729-32.
  4. Bauer JE, Dunbar BL, Bigley KE. Flaxseed in the diet of dogs can lead to a different transport and metabolism of (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids. J Nutr. 1998; 128 (12 Suppl): 2641s-4s.
  5. Farmer JE. Therapeutic uses of fish oils in pets. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2011; 239 (11): 1441-51.