Continuing in our series on Pet Nutrition, you may have heard the term “fatty acids” used many times with regard to human health. The fact is, our pets require fatty acids for improved heath, too.
In simplest terms, fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies and in the food we eat. During digestion, the body breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed into the blood. Fatty acid molecules are usually joined together in groups of three, forming a molecule called a triglyceride. Triglycerides are also made in our bodies from the carbohydrates that we eat.
Fatty acids have many important functions in the body, including energy storage. If glucose (a type of sugar) isn’t available for energy, the body uses fatty acids to fuel the cells instead.
Fatty acids with regard to dogs and cats
Dietary fatty acids serve as precursors to prostaglandins and other eicosanoids. The essential fatty acids in canine and feline diets include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Dogs and cats both require omega-6 acid linoleic acid. (LA). Omega-3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and α-linolenic acid (ALA). Another called arachidonic acid (AA) is also required for cats.
Marine oil sources provide EPA and DHA, which are more effective in dogs and cats than ALA (which is not significantly converted to EPA or DHA). The eicosanoids produced from omega-3 fatty acids are less inflammatory than those produced from AA.
Studies on the effects of feeding therapeutic food containing dietary fatty acids have shown improvements in pets with the following health issues:
- Inflammatory skin disorders
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Renal disease
- Cognitive function and neurological health
Ways to supplement your pet’s diet
Many commercial pet foods these days are supplemented with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. However, there is no legal requirement for listing omega-3 fatty acids on pet food labels or to guarantee the pet is getting the correct supplementation to suit his/her particular dietary needs.
We suggest talking with your veterinarian about your pet’s diet. After completing a Nutritional Assessment and reviewing the pet’s health history, your veterinarian can help you determine a proper diet and recommend additional fatty acid supplements such as our Catalyst Chews and mini-bites that are 100% made in America that pets find appealing.
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital