by Craig Weatherby
We just discovered a great new book about the role of omega-3s in canine health.
Canine nutrition expert Steve Brown presents what must be the most exhaustively researched resource on the diets dogs have eaten over many millennia.
And in Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet: Healthier Dog Food the ABC Way, he’s used that research to show how people can enhance their pets’ health by approximating the ancient canine diet as closely as possible.
He finds evidence that most dogs ate diets that were high in protein, with balanced fats—including omega-3s, sometimes in large amounts (as with salmon-loving wolves) and usually included a few fruits, vegetables and grasses.
Here’s what holistic veterinarian Doug Knueven, DVM said about Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet:
“I find this book to be enlightening and invaluable. I especially like the fact that his guidelines can help balance canine diets no matter what the caregiver's level of commitment is to the ancestral diet. Dry food feeders can greatly enhance their pet's nutrition with just one homemade meal a week.”
Brown presents a compelling analysis of dogs' nutritional needs, and provides practical ways to meet them in his "ABC" diet plan, which owners only need to provide one day per week.
Here's what Brown means by an "ABC" diet:
- Add high-quality protein with hearts, eggs, and sardines
- Balance the fats with sardines
- Complete the nutrition with hearts, eggs, sardines, and vegetables
Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet represents a landmark in canine nutrition research... and in practical feeding advice for owners.
Interestingly, his conclusions and concerns about adequate intake of omega-3s by dogs are echoed by academic experts in the Omega-3 Learning consortium, as outlined below.
Academic experts endorse value of omega-3s for pets
Recently, a group of nutritional biochemists, doctors, and veterinarians formed a new educational web site called Omega-3 Learning.
As they say, the purpose of this scientific consortium is to “communicate, develop, disseminate and advance the understanding of the nutrition and health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids to the world.”
The latest issue of their newsletter alerted us to two informative articles for pet owners. These are some key excerpts, with our clarifying comments added between brackets , and with an important Editor's Note at the end.
To read the full articles, click on their titles... you'll see that we've reordered some of the paragraphs to improve the articles' clarity:
Healthy pet treats: Do I need to feed my pet seafood?
"Feeding your pet treats (aka snacks) is a wonderful way of rewarding him or her and strengthening the bond between you and your pet."
"Treat supplementation can also be a great way to raise your dog or cat's omega-3 fatty acid intake. Most of our pets are not getting enough of these healthy fatty acids simply because they are not traditionally included in pet foods. This lack in omega-3 fatty acids is especially true in dog food."
"Thus, providing treats fortified with omega-3 fatty acids to your dog (and cat) can aid him/her in achieving a healthy omega-3 fatty acid level."
Assessing Omega-3 in Dogs
"It is well known that omega-3 deficiency in mammals affects mostly the neural system, especially the visual development at early stages of life. Supplying omega-3 fatty acids, either by enriching the milk during lactation or by providing these fatty acids directly in the diet of the bitch or after weaning to the puppy, improves visual acuity in puppies."
"There are other health aspects that can also be improved with elevated dietary intakes of omega-3 fatty acids."
"However, it is hard to detect apparent symptoms of omega-3 deficiency. Examinations with the aid of special tests are necessary to find out if the dog's omega-3 fatty acid status is deficient. For example, by measuring blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids it can generally reflect what was fed to the dog."
"Likewise, [omega-6] Linoleic acid (LA) has long been recognized as essential for general health in dogs."
However, this benefit [of adequate omega-3s in the diet] is also associated with the biochemical balance achieved from omega-3 fatty acids in controlling the potential [adverse] actions of an excessive supply of omega-6 fatty acids [from meats and poultry and] common vegetable oils other than olive oil]."
"With the undeniable benefit of feeding DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids to dogs, finding an easy and accurate method to assess the omega-3 status has become an important issue for every dog owner."
Editor's Note: While it is possible to get a blood test for omega-3s levels in a dog, there is no agreed adequate blood level or daily requirement.
Instead, it simply makes sense to ensure that your dog is getting a reasonable amount of omega-3s, either from foods containing fish, or from fish oil supplements, which are perfectly safe for canines.
Fresh fish is safe as long as it is boneless... and canned fish is safe.
Steve Brown's book recommends canned sardines as a source of protein and omega-3s in his ABC diet plans. But canned tuna, or canned salmon are equally safe and rich in omega-3s. The bones in "traditional" style canned salmon, which retains its skin and bones, are very soft and easily chewable.
What is a reasonable amount of omega-3s for a dog? The recommended human dose ranges from 260 to 660 mg of omega-3 EPA+DHA per day, and the average of this range is 440 mg of EPA+DHA per day (See "How Much Sockeye Salmon Oil Should I Take?").
Assuming that the average human weighs about 150 pounds, just reduce the average recomended daily human dose (440 mg) to correspond to your dog's weight. Thus, if a dog weighs 50 pounds, which is one-third of the average human weight, it would make sense to give him or her one-third of the human dose, or 145 mg per day. For example, each 1,000 mg capsule of our salmon oil contains about 153 mg of EPA+DHA.