Omega-3 fatty acids have many proven health effects for keeping pets healthy and happy. That’s why is vital to choose a pet food that contains omega-3s.
But omega-3 fatty acids are not created equal and it’s become important to know the differences between these main forms of fatty acids. Why? Well, so that we can decide which ones are the most beneficial for pets.
Main sources of omega-3
There are two main sources of omega-3 fatty acids: marine sources (like krill) that provide EPA and DHA, and plant-based sources (like flaxseed) that provide ALA.
Plant-based sources of omega-3
On one hand, we have plant-based sources as are flaxseed, walnuts, rapeseed and chia seeds. They contain omega-3s in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA must be converted by the pets into EPA and DHA to have a health effect, and this is done through a complex series of metabolic reactions.
In dogs and cats, the conversion of ALA is naturally insufficient.
Marine-based sources of omega-3
On the other hand, we have marine sources as fish, whale, seal, algae, and krill which provide omega-3s directly in the form of EPA and DHA. Krill, a unique marine ingredient, is rich in marine omega-3s EPA and DHA that come in the form of phospholipids. This makes it easy for a pet’s body to transport and incorporate them into cell membranes in tissues and vital organs where they are needed the most.
Referred to as the “molecule of life”, phospholipids are natural, integral parts of human and animal cells, helping to maintain the strength, flexibility, and integrity of cells and cell membranes.
Marine omega-3s main health benefits
- Omega-3s can improve skin and coat by keeping the skin hydrated and the barrier intact, reducing inflammatory reactions, and altering lipid composition in skin and fur cells.
- EPA/DHA can reduce cardiovascular risk by modifying blood TG, HDL cholesterol, plaque development, heart rate, and heart muscle functions.
- DHA ensures normal brain and vision development by being an important building block for the eye, cognitive and behavioral function, reducing inflammation in brain tissue and diminishing the amount of neuronal loss in aging.
- Omega-3s can improve liver health and function by enabling liver to break down lipids to avoid fatty liver, increasing insulin sensitivity, and having anti-inflammatory effects in the liver.
- Omega-3 can support kidney function by inhibiting inflammation through avoiding the production of omega-6-derived pro-inflammatory signaling molecules and reduce blood pressure by e.g. dilate blood vessels and reduced heart rate.
- Omega-3 can reduce mobility issues and joint pain by inhibiting inflammation as a result of reduced pro-inflammatory signaling molecules and occupying the same COX-enzymes that NSAIDS (painkillers) block to give pain relief.
Recent study results
Multiple studies have shown the benefits of providing dogs and cats with omega-3 marine-based pet food and supplements.
Aker BioMarine has also done a study recently on 20 well-trained Alaskan Huskies (in which 10 dogs were given krill oil as a supplement and 10 dogs were given flaxseed oil as a supplement). The study concluded that marine omega-3 is significantly more effective in raising the omega-3 index than plant-based omega-3.
In case you didn’t know, the Omega-3 index measures the amount of EPA and DHA compared to the amount of other fatty acids in cell membranes.
Krill – more than a superior source of omega-3
In addition to being a superior source of marine omega-3s, krill is also naturally rich in marine proteins, choline, and astaxanthin.
More than that, Antarctic krill is considered one of the most environmentally friendly sources for marine omega-3s in the world.