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Q&A: Is It Okay to Give My Dog or Cat Bites of Fish?

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It’s a question I get all the time: I’ve heard fish contains something that is good for my pet, so can I just feed fish to my pet?

It’s a great question! Fish does contain something that is critical to your pet’s health and longevity – omega fatty acids. But feeding fish to your pet can be a dangerous gamble.

Not only can you not guarantee the purity and safety of the fish, your animals are much smaller, with different “filtration” systems, and are therefore much more susceptible to the threats of contaminants and heavy metals.

Now you may take a daily omega-3 supplement, knowing that this essential fatty acid is a nutrient your body needs in adequate supply, but many pet parents are surprised to learn their pets need it too.

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Well guess what? Your pet’s need for this essential fatty acid is just as critical to his health as it is to yours!

Skin disease, joint disease, heart disease and even kidney disease has been shown to benefit with proper supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids, because of their marked anti-inflammatory effect when added to the diet at proper levels.

But, just as in humans, omega-3 fatty acids need to be balanced with the proper amount of omega-6. And when it comes to pet food, finding this balance can be hard.

While a complete and balanced pet food likely has an ideal ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, most commercial diets are lacking in the omega-3 fats your pet needs, supplying significantly higher amounts of the inflammation-inducing omega-6 fats that, in high doses, can trigger discomfort and sickness in your fury friend.

So What is the Proper Level of Omega-3 Supplementation for Pets?

Research has shown that for pets, the proper ratio should be 5:1 to 10:1 omega-6 to omega-3. Now, that sounds like a lot of omega-6, doesn’t it? Good news is that most commercially available pet diets only incorporate omega-6s into them, so to achieve the proper ratio one must only supplement with omega-3’s. So by supplementing with omega-3’s in combination with a low-fat diet (this reduces the amount of omega-6’s being supplied), you can achieve that optimal ratio.

The best source of omega-3’s are, of course, fish oils. Specifically cold water fishes have the highest concentration of omega-3 rich oils.

Fish oils have been shown in clinical studies to have massive systemic anti-inflammatory effect. They have also been shown to decrease inflammation in joints and skin and to even increase the lifespan of canine kidney failure patients.

In addition to having incredibly anti-inflammatory properties, omega-3s have been shown to halt progression in some tumor cell lines, and possess antimetastatic activity in laboratory animals, as well as anti-cachectic activity in human patients due to the anti-inflammatory benefits.

Worried About Allergies?

In many cases you can even use fish oils in patients with reported allergies to fish! Why? Fish oils (with the possible exception of some cold pressed fish oils) are claimed to be free of any peptides, which are the allergens in diets. Therefore it is considered safe to feed fish oils to animals with dietary fish allergies.

So, if your pet suffers from any allergic, orthopedic, cardiac, renal conditions or some type of cancer – or if you’re just interested in keeping your pets as healthy as possible for as long as possible – ask your veterinarian today if supplementation with Omega-3 rich fish oils is appropriate for your pet!  My PapaDawg and Eddie Underbite certainly never miss theirs!  They love it sprinkled over their fresh healthy meals!


MZX_6893-Edit (2) Dr. Katy Nelson is the mother of five – two human and three animal – kids, an avid nutrition and fitness enthusiast, and an admittedly rabid Louisiana sports fan. She is an associate veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, VA., as well as the host and executive producer of “The Pet Show with Dr. Katy” on Washington DC’s News Channel 8. A Certified Veterinary Journalist (CVJ) accredited by the American Society of Veterinary Journalists (ASVJ), Dr. Katy is the Animal Health Reporter for ABC7 News, and serves as “Dr. Pawz” on WTOP Radio. Dr. Katy is also a founding partner of PetsMove.org, a national health and fitness initiative aimed at getting people healthy alongside their dogs, and serves as a media and marketing consultant for numerous pet-related companies and media outlets.

A lover of all animals, Dr. Katy carves out time for many charitable organizations in the DC area and beyond. In early 2012, Dr. Katy teamed with Emmy-Award winning producer Judy Plavnick to form Sit. Good Girl Productions, LLC, their first production is the documentary Tell Them I Am Kind, the story of the creation of the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary.


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