Do dogs need to eat fats for good health? If so, what’s the best kind?
Dietary fat is the most concentrated source of energy for your dog. It also provides essential fatty acids and aids in nutrient utilization and transportation. Fat is involved in cell integrity and metabolic regulation. So, yes, dogs need to eat fats for good health! Let’s look at the different types of fats that your dog needs.
Types of fats your dog needs
Saturated fat is present primarily in animal sources. Polyunsaturated fat is present mostly in plant sources. Saturated fat provides greater energy for the dog than carbohydrates. In fact, as long as the diet provides sufficient glucose precursors (amino acids, fats, etc.), dietary carbohydrates are unnecessary for growth and maintenance.
Fats (and oils) are composed of fatty acids. These are sometimes called vitamin F. Both plant and animal sources contain fatty acids. The two types of essential fatty acids (EFAs) most recognized as important to canine health are omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3s include alpha-linolenic (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-6s include linoleic acid (LA) and gamma-linolenic acids (GLA). Trans-fatty acids, dangerous free radicals, form when unsaturated oils undergo heat, light, or oxygen exposure. Omega-3s are the most sensitive and are often deficient in cooked or processed pet food products. Thus, some dog parents choose to add supplemental omega-3 oils to their dog’s diet. This supplementation can replace the omega-3s that heat processing destroys.
There are many types of oils available, but most dogs do best on one from an animal source such as fish oil. There are plant sources of omega-3s, but some dogs do not make the conversion within their bodies necessary to make the plant form usable. If you choose to add EFAs to your dog’s food, please remember to choose the highest quality available. The oil label should state that it’s been tested free of heavy metals, PCBs, and other contaminants. Even though fats and EFAs are important to good health, too much can put a strain on organs such as your dog’s liver and pancreas. Avoid cooked fats (grease) or poor-quality products. And remember that a little goes a long way!