Omega-3 fatty acid benefits for a healthy skin/coat of your pet

by on 24/02/10 at 3:34 pm

The omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids play an important role in the health of the skin and coat of dogs and cats. It is well known that linoleic acid (LA), a primary omega-6 essential fatty acid that is required in the diet for dogs and cats 1, helps maintain a healthy skin and coat. Without adequate LA, dogs and cats will experience dull, dry coat; hair loss; greasy skin and increased susceptibility to skin inflammation.

Our current understanding about the role dietary fatty acids play in dog and cat metabolism and physiology includes considerations for the balance between the omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). This is an important decision for proper skin and coat health of pets. These two families of PUFA are necessary nutrients for the proper nutrition of dogs and cats 1 that support growth, maintenance and general health throughout the life cycle. When there are inflammatory skin conditions, an excessive intake of omega-6 PUFA can exacerbate the problem and worsen the symptoms, such as excessive itching, scratching and licking by affecting the balance of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory actions of various cell and signaling systems 2,3. In this regard, introducing omega-3 PUFA in the diet of the affected pet counteracts the adverse effects of omega-6 PUFA and improves the general health status in the pet.

Research by Hill’s Pet Nutrition indicates that precisely balanced blends of omega-3 and omega-6 PUFA are the foundation of nutrition support for healthy skin and a shiny coat. In further support of this concept is a study in which 18 dogs afflicted with atopic pruritus were supplied a diet with a ratio of omega-6:omega-3 PUFA of 5.5:1 4, and the symptoms of 8 (44%) of these dogs were satisfactorily controlled within 7 to 21 days. As a side note, the authors speculate that the dogs who responded to the treatment may have very different metabolic capacities for metabolizing omega-6 and omega-3 PUFA, and the need for omega-3 PUFA may differ significantly between individual dogs. Therefore, in working with dietary omega-3 and omega-6 PUFA treatments, either through diets or supplements, the amount and the relative proportions of each family of these essential fatty acids, the duration of treatment, and the dosage are all very important considerations.

Since dog foods have been traditionally high in omega-6 PUFA, which tend to promote and exacerbate inflammatory skin lesions, changes in diets have been progressively made to correct this chronic problem. There are now pet food products that are specifically formulated for skin and coat health (particularly those with managing skin inflammation in mind) that contain higher amounts of fish oil or other fish products. These products provide a sufficient amount of the longer chain omega-3 PUFA (eicosapentaenoic acid EPA and docosahexaenoic acid DHA) to counter balance the detrimental effect caused by a high amount of omega-6 PUFA in the diet.


1. Bauer JE. Facilitative and functional fats in diets of cats and dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;229:680-684.
2. Zainal Z, Longman AJ, Hurst S, Duggan K, Caterson B, Hughes CE, Harwood JL. Relative efficacies of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in reducing expression of key proteins in a model system for studying osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 2009;17:882-891.
3. Calder PC. Polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory processes: new twists in an old tale. Biochimie 2009;91:791-795.
4. Scott DW, Miller WH, Jr., Reinhart GA, Mohammed HO, Bagladi MS. Effect of an omega-3/omega-6 fatty acid-containing commercial lamb and rice diet on pruritus in atopic dogs: results of a single-blinded study. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research 1997;61:145-153.

Source: Drs. Yong Li and Bruce A. Watkins – Omega-3 Learning

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  • Really a great post to read. i really dint knew the benefits of them...

  • Some pet food companies have added omega-3 fatty acids to their foods to lower the ... PGE is necessary for the development of a healthy immune system in neonates. ...

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