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Fish Oil for Dogs – Part 2

written by Vin Kutty

comments 35 comments

fish Omega-3 oil for dogs

Useful Tips & Tricks

In Part 1 of this article, we talked about the importance of Omega-3 in your dog’s diet and the potential issues caused by Omega-3 deficiency.

We also talked about the #1 reason why most dogs suffer from Omega-3 deficiency.

Before you run out and buy fish oil for your dog, there are a couple of minor dietary changes you should make. These changes will make Omega-3 supplements more effective.

First, you need to cut back Omega-6 from their diet.

STEP 1: Reducing Omega-6

Watch out for the following ingredients in dog food:

  1. Corn oil
  2. Vegetable oil (soy oil)
  3. Sunflower oil
  4. Safflower oil
    • If you see any of these oils listed in the ingredient, DO NOT BUY the food. These oils are very high in Omega-6.
    • You need to REDUCE Omega-6 for Omega-3 to be fully effective.
    • If any dog food says “Excellent source of Omega 3 & 6,” then you know the manufacturer either does not know about the ill-effects of Omega-6 and/or thinks you don’t know. They should not be passing off Omega-6 as a good thing when there is already too much of it in dog foods! That’s what many brands are doing by proudly claiming high amount of Omega-6.


  • Omega-6 fats get converted to compounds that irritate your dog’s skin and joints.
  • Some brands list the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios. Many have 10 or 20 times more Omega-6 than Omega-3. This is not good. You need to get close to 3 or 4 parts Omega-6 to 1 part Omega-3.
  • A little bit of Omega-6 is necessary for canine health, but too much is BAD!

Real-life Examples:

  • Canidae is considered a good brand but its All Life Stages has a 7.4 to 1 ratio of Omega-6 to 3. That’s too high.
  • Many people consider Hill’s Science Diet to be an acceptable dog food, but they don’t list how much Omega-6 or 3 is present. The #1 ingredient in their Active Adult formula is Ground Whole Grain Corn. What the heck is corn doing there?

STEP 2: Buy all-natural foods that are made from grass-fed animals or fish

  • Corn meal or any other grain meal has no place in dog foods.
  • Dogs are related to wolves. Have you ever seen or heard of a wolf eating corn?!
  • Whole grains is not a good thing! Dogs are carnivores – they have no business eating whole grains.
  • The best dog foods are home-made or fresh-frozen raw foods (see below).

STEP 3: Look for the right Omega-3

  • If the label says ‘Omega-3’ in big letters but Flaxseed oil is listed as the source of Omega-3, then it’s almost useless.
  • Omega-3 from Flaxseed oil is often listed as Alpha-Linolenic Acid – dogs do not absorb these very well. Avoid dog foods with Flaxseed or Flaxseed oil.
  • If the label says ‘Omega-3’ and fish or flax oil is listed at the end of the ingredients list, there is not much Omega-3 in there. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight.
  • Look for foods with ‘long chain Omega-3’ such as EPA and DHA Omega-3. These are the Omega-3 found in fish oil and dogs can easily absorb them.

STEP 4: Start supplementing your dog’s diet with fish oil pills

  • Avoid Cod Liver Oil – this has too much Vitamin A and D, which could get toxic at high levels.
  • Feed a little wild salmon or liquid fish oil or fish oil pills with meals.
  • If you give your dog fish oil pills, go for the high quality human supplements.
  • If your dog is picky, wrap pill in peanut butter, bacon, sausage or cheese to get them to eat it.
  • Start slow – too much fish oil will give some dogs an upset stomach.
  • It’s easy to overdose with a liquid fish oil supplement so it is particularly important to start off with a small amount.

Giving your dog fish oil supplements is a great idea, but ONLY AFTER you’ve made the dietary changes listed in Steps 1 thru 3. Fish oil supplements only add Omega-3 to their diets, but a healthy, natural diet will address many other health issues that Omega-3 cannot do by itself.

How long before I notice a difference?

You will notice a difference in your dog’s health in 10 to 14 days, with most benefits becoming obvious in about a month. If your dog has allergies or some inflammatory condition, you will notice a decrease in itching, scratching and red or irritated skin.

So what do what does my dog, Bailey, eat?

natural foods for dogs
He gets a blend of Stella & Chewy’s raw lamb and Orijen and Acana brand kibble.

And, of course, he gets an OmegaVia pill dipped in peanut butter every day. If he’s been really good, I smear some peanut butter on his nose.

Our Bailey is 12 years old and still bounces like a puppy. Walking doesn’t tire him anymore, so he runs alongside me while I go bicycling around streets and hiking trails of Calabasas, California.

Need Professional Help?

If you need the help of an expert, contact Nadine M. Rosin for a consultation at The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood. Nadine is a certified holistic pets/toxin-free lifestyle consultant whose own dog lived to be 19 with a purely holistic protocol after being given just 6 weeks to live at age 8 with a cancer diagnosis.

Schedule a one-on-one consultation with Nadine here.


Join the conversation

    • Hi Andrew,

      Omega-6 in an essential fat. It is actually REQUIRED by the their bodies (and ours) in small quantities.

      But there needs to be a balance between Omega-3 and 6 because these two fats compete for enzymes and placement into tissues. If there is too much Omega-6 from seed oils (corn, soy, sunflower, safflower), then Omega-3 gets ‘outcompeted.’ The problem with this situation is that excess Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory. Inflammation response is natural and necessary. The pro-inflammatory response from excess Omega-6 is important for immune responses etc. But too much inflammation leads to poor health conditions.

      Bears and several other hibernating animals bulk up on fattening Omega-6 before hibernation to fatten up. It also slows down their metabolism. This is great if you’re a bear during pre-hibernation. But if you’re a human, cat or dog, too much Omega-6 causes misery and pain.

    • Hi Mary,

      Stella & Chewys and Orijen are both available at mon-n-pop type pet stores. You may have to look around. I also like ZiwiPeak Lamb for dogs.

      As for cats, yes, they have the exact same need for Omega-3 as dogs. And for the same reasons. But good luck trying to get a cat to eat fish oil pills! Your best bet is to get liquid fish oils that comes in little plastic bottles with pumps – think hand moisturizer containers – you can squirt a tiny little bit onto their foods and mix it up. Here’s hoping your cats like it. Our two terrors don’t care for it so much. I adore cats – I can’t watch tv without one on my lap…but they are strange creatures from another planet. And I accept that.

  1. i have a 3 mth old shep/lab mix with some pit bull in her my question
    is when can i start giving fish oil to her
    I currently give her iams twice a day

    thanks in advance…………..

    • Hi Ken – now! Their brains, just like humans’ need Omega-3 to develop. Switch to a food that has no grains. I like Acana.

  2. Hi,
    My dogs are on Natural Balance L.I.D. Fish and sweet potato. Do they need fish oil supplements in addition to what is in the food?

    • Hi Amy – I dont think you need to give your dog additional fish oil. There is already some salmon and salmon oil in the food…but I can’t believe they put Canola oil in there! Canola is a genetically modified seed oil that’s very high in Omega-6. There is no place for a high-Omega-6 seed oil in a healthy dog’s diet. And I am not happy that they proudly claim that Canola is low in saturated fat. Dogs (and humans) are designed to run on quite a bit of saturated fats, regardless of low-fat brainwashing from the last 20 years. I’d only buy this food if I couldn’t find Acana brand kibbles. Don’t get me wrong, your Natural Balance product is SO MUCH better than most dog foods at the grocery store, but I’m just being really picky. Gotta give props to Natural Balance for not putting any grains in it!

  3. Really great info thank you. Recently adopted a pit/lab mix and found she has terrible allergies to what we havent figured out yet. However, the vet has placed her on IAMS KO. Extremly expensive and I just read that it has a “balance” of omega-3 and 6 as well as grains. According to the article this doesn’t seem to be the quality food we are paying for. Are there any other brands you can think of for allergies that are more wholesome?
    Thank you. ~Tania Gomez

    • Hi Tania – it absolutely boggles my mind that Iams KO, a product meant for easing skin and coat issues has oat flour and canola meal and the #1 and #3 ingredient. Seriously! I want to shake the formulators. And may be your vet as well. I’m fine with the kangaroo meat and most of the other stuff. Yes, the product probably has an OK balance of Omega 3 to 6. But it is possible that your dog is reacting to being fed flour from oats and other biologically inappropriate ‘foods.’ Try Acana dog food. I dont know them and they dont know me. But I know their foods are grain-free and contain ingredients that a wild wolf might eat…that’s what your dog really is and that’s how it needs to be fed.

  4. Hi – am wondering if you can help me. I have an 11yr old boxer who has recently developed arthritis in her back knees. The vet hasn’t been much use and after a year of treatments and medication, we have now resorted to giving her chewable anti inflammatory tablets when she has pain. I give her fish oil and glucosamine tablets, but she has been rejecting them – as she is a fussy eater..I put it ham and she will not eat it! I don’t know how to give her these tablets. Perhaps if they tasted like fish it would be better. Human fish oil is odourless. I don’t think the peanut butter will work and now it is difficult to treat her accordingly. Any suggestions? P.s she eats a meat roll from the pet store. It took us a while to find something she likes – and she is extremely fussy!

    • Hi Charmaine – you can find liquid glucosamine and liquid fish oil. Liquid fish oil meant for humans sometimes have lemon flavors in it, so get ones that are not flavored. Mix it in with her food. There are also powdered joint care products that contain MSM and a few other ingredients. I would also see if she will take foods made by Acana or other brands that do not have grains in them. Acana makes a high Omega-3 food you may want to look into.

  5. Hello

    I am having a difficult time getting my rescue dog healthy, she came from Guam with Mange. My Vet hasn’t been able to properly treat her so 6 months later she has Mange. I am looking for an affordable good dry food and have started making homemade to top her dry. I am currently feeding her dry Canidae but reading they use Omega3 +6 I think I need to change.. Can you give me a few affordable brands that would be a good choice for her?
    I also need to know if I can give her human Omega3 liquid pills?

    Thank you very much

    • Hi Brenda – yes, you can give her human Omega-3 pills. I don’t care much for Canidae brand, their grain-free line may be OK. Try Acana brand. It’s not cheap, but you will pay for it thru food or later at the vets. I also suggest you try another vet to get medication for mange.

  6. I am from Lucknow, India. What a shocker of an article! Here most vets themselves are “pets” of crap branded products like Pedigree & Drool and also promote supplements having Omega 3, 6 & 9 like Advance from PETCARE (Provimi) that smells and tastes awful without any canine flavor. We have always kept a dog of the male German Spitz variety and all have been abandoned companion pets adopted from a shelter. The present one, Bozo, came to us in October 2010 when it was around 3-4 years old with signs of renal and bladder calculi as indicated earlier by gross hematuria and has been on homeopathic mother tinctures. I would appreciate if you could provide an elaborated definition of the term “grains” in the Indian context?

    Thanks again for an eye opener of an article.

    • Hi gspal – not sure what’s available for sale in India, but there are a lot of international brands in Asia. And almost every brand has cheaper versions for sale in developing countries. Cheaper usually means govt-subsidized raw materials such as corn, soy, wheat and rice. In India/middle east, you have to deal with millet/sorghum etc that contain powerful goitrogens that block proper iodine and thyroid function. NONE OF THESE GRAINS have any place in canine, feline or human diets. White rice is OK in small quantities for humans if you’re not diabetic or insulin resistant (most indians are) and soy is OK as edamame on an occasional basis. Neither my dog nor I (family included) go near any of these grains.

  7. My silk terrier is fifteen. We have him derm caps but can no longer find them. After reading this we need to start at square one. He has been on science diet his entire life. Now he is having trouble with back legs. Seems like he can’t feel much back there

    • Hi Jack – it is never too late to start with a diet that’s grain-free. Good dog food is not cheap. Fortunately, there are LOTS of brands that fit the bill. I prefer Acana or Orijen.

  8. i have a fur child with IMHA and we home cook the IMHA was triggered from yearly fur baby has been in remisssion for about a 1& 1/2 years now.some times fish oil is bad to give with health problems as IMHA . we feed fish once or twice a week is that enough omega 3 and what about extra virgin unrefined coconut oil and wheat germ oil? is that safe to use? also freezed dried by orijin is that safe to use with IMHA or should we homecook? i do not like dry food i had my last fur baby to live 20+ years on home cooked. i also have a 17 year old fur child that is on all home made food and treats too the IMHA fur baby is soon to be 10 years old when triggerd by this awful disease my baby was 7 years old and on really bad serious medication but they save the lives of this disease. keep this little baby on home made throughout treatment and her vet has asked me to tell others about the balance of the i do balance but sometimes would like a break and just enjoy time with the fur kids.but will cook if that is best keeping it balanced w/ mico& minerals and calcium.the fish we use are salmon and white fish during the week i do use organ meat only to size of prey and you all know too much vitamin A can be toxic thats in liver. so balance balance balance and that means in all .any advice on oil will be halpful thank you

    • Hi James – the first thing I would do is make absolutely sure that your dog is not getting any grains at all. No wheat germ! Home cooking is good, but what are you cooking? Their diet should be mostly meats and fish with a little bit of vegetables. Is there anything in our home cooked food that is not meat, fish or vegetable? When in doubt and you want to try prepared foods, Orijen and Acana are safe bets.

  9. the meats that i use is mainly chicken ,fish white fish and salmom,lean beef, rabbit, duck,& lamb been know to use more than one in a meal. the veggies i use greenbeans,kale,squash green and yellow,butternut,peas,carrots, pumpkin,celery the fruits blueberries.blackberries,apple,i also add cranberries when fresh i also add liver,kidney’s, heart, organ meats in all meals about size of prey. i do not use grains in meals but have made treats with wheat germ on a few hoilday’s to share w/ pet friends. i wanted to add wheat germ oil with other oils to my IMHA baby so she gets her efas in her diet my other can use fish oil also about 2 tablespoons of veggies and fruit mix to each pound and half of meats. what you think?i do not use grains in my homemnade foods.i also use eggshells ground to powder form. my first fur baby on my own lived from born dec25th 1979 was christmas pup for real brought her home in the end of jan due to breeders dog could not nurse the pups we had a way with pups my wife raise many from large litter we weaned her with goat milk and home cooked this pup passed august 2005 was a very sad day this pup lived over 20+ years on nothing but home made dehydated treats (meats) as we did not have freezed dried in those day’s our fur baby that is 17 years young is on home made she runs and plays like a pup run up and down the stairs hope we have the joy of keeping her healthy many more years to come as our IMHA baby . if something is off just tell us we can change it as we welcome advice.

    • Hi James – diet sounds very good. I’d back off on chicken – too much Omega-6, especially the dark meat. Go for grass-fed meats, more organ meats and find a way to get marrow content and collagen (skin) or by using powdered gelatin (teaspoon of great lakes gelatin from per day. I’d still avoid wheat germ and anything from what like it is poison. Even a little bit of gluten tends to stick around for months.

      You’re doing an amazing job with the diet.

  10. vin,
    thank you for the advice on the wheat and the chicken will do. i use plain knox gelatin but have really thought about using the great lakes as i have heard people swear by it. i will order that i ordered the freeze dried treats by orijin yesterday thinking about buying the food but not sure about the raw as the IMHA girl can not eat raw. dr. jean dodds said that the aiha/imha fur kids can’t handle it. but will use more grassfed meats and more organ meats to the diet i like to use different meats at each meal. i do use rabbit in the treats but not as a meal very costly. as i only buy meats are from the health food market for us as well as our fur kids. it really tricky to get it just right maybe i might try the orijin food in dry but i just don’t like dry food but that is just me.

  11. OMG! So chicken has high Omega 6? Chicken-based kibble is the most popular in India. I was trying out Farmina N&D low grain adult mini kibble for my adult 10kg male German Spitz. This has boneless and dehydrated chicken meat, dehydrated whole eggs, fresh & dehydrated herring, and powdered pomegranate, apple, spinach, blackcurrants & blueberries, glucosamine & chondroitin, etc. Taste of the Wild comprises of kibble size not being suitable for a small mouth Spitz. What would be your take on Farmina N&D?

    • Hi gspal – there are far worse things in dog food than chicken. Buy dog foods that do not have grains, flour and seed oils. A little chicken is fine.

  12. Hi Vin
    I have an 8 year old Boston Terrier who had a surgery on his neck a couple weeks back. I’ve been trying to improve his diet now that he is finished with all his pain meds. I’m looking at Coconut Oil, Fish Oil Pills & Tumeric to investigate further. But when I was looking into them I started reading about Omega 6 & Omega 3.
    He currently eats “Presidents Choice: Nutrition First” Salmon & Potato
    It says:
    – No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy
    – No By-Products, No Artifical Preservatives Added
    – With Probiotics & Prebiotics and Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    I’ve read a lot saying that the Omega-3’s should be higher than the Omega-6’s but that seems impossible to find. I’m wondering if this is actually high in Omega-3’s? and if it’s benefit is nullified by the amount of Omega-6’s? also would it benefit me to supplement fish oil with this?
    Here is it’s breakdown:
    Guaranteed Analysis
    CRUDE FAT (MIN) 15.0%
    CRUDE FIBRE (MAX) 4.0%
    MOISTURE (MAX) 10.0%
    CALCIUM (MIN) 1.5%

    and the full Ingredients List:
    Fresh Salmon, Salmon Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Potato Meal, Potato Starch, Whitefish meal, Canola Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Dehydrated Alfalfa, Dried Beet Pulp, Fresh Fruits & Vegetables (Pumpkin, Carrots, Apples, Tomatoes, Peas, Cranberries, Spinach, Blueberries, Raspberries, Pomegranate), Natural Flavours, Vitamin E Supplement, Olive Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Salmon Oil, Flaxseed, Garlic, Dried Kelp, Chicory Root Extract, Mannanoligosaccharides, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Zinc Sulphate, Ferrous Sulphate, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Copper Sulphate, Probiotic Bacteria and Digestive Enzymes (Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis, Lactobacillus acidophillus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Enterococcus faecium bacteria, Aspergillus oryzae fermentation product, Papin and Bromelain), Ascorbic Acid (source of Vitamin C), Beta Carotene, Taurine, Zinc Proteinate, Manganese Sulphate, Niacin, Aniseed, Cassia, Thyme, Rosemary Extract, Chamomile, Calcium Pantothenate, Iron Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D Supplement, Folic Acid

    • Hi Jae – Omega-3 does not have to be higher than the Omega-6. It is natural to have a roughly equal ratio or slightly higher levels of Omega-6. What happens is that people feed their dogs peanut butter and other treats that are super high in Omega-6 and this completely blows the natural balance that some of these kibbles are providing.

      The food that you list here seems OK. I still prefer formulas by Acana or Orijen. Stella and Chewys frozen foods are great…and the only thing better is if you make your own salmon, meats and veggies meals at home. You can eat the same thing! Except, the dog gets mostly meats/seafood and a little bit of veggies while the ratio should be the opposite for humans.

  13. What about Farmina N&D Low-Grain Canine – Chicken & Pomegranade ( currently available in India whose Typical Analysis states:
    Typical Analysis
    Calcium: 1.20%
    Raw ashes: 6.80%
    Chondroitin: 900.00mg/kg
    Raw fiber: 2.90%
    Phosphorus: 0.90%
    Glucosamine: 1200.00mg/kg
    Raw fats and oils: 18.00%
    Raw proteins: 30.00%
    Moisture: 9.00%
    Omega 3: 0.90%
    Omega 6: 3.30%
    EPA: 0.30%
    DHA: 0.50%
    Energy EM: 3750.00Kcal/Kg
    Energy Kg: 15.80 Mj/kg

    I am buying the 800 gm pack for my adult male Pom+German Spitz (10 kg) mix

    Also mentioned at the above stated website and on the pack:
    60% Premium animal ingredients.
    20% Fruits, minerals and vegetables.
    20% Ancestral and OGM -Free cereals.

    Wound appreciate your reply on the Omega 3 : Omega 6 ratio

    • Hi gspal – the web page you shared says 20% cereals. And it has a bunch of typos. That’s all I needed to read. I would not give this to my dog. Then again, I don’t know if you have access to grain-free and byproduct-free products in India. The Omega-3 to 6 ratio is not ideal, but that’s secondary in a food that’s 20% grains!

      • Thank you Mr. Kutty.
        Taking EPA & DHA which are long-term Omega-3 Fatty Acids the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 in the above product is 1:2.
        As for the 20% grains they state that it comprises of Ancestral and OGM-Free Cereals. OGM would be Organism genetically modified. The terms ‘Ancestral’ I best understood only at

        Taste of the Wild (TOTW) is available in India, so is Solid Gold. However, the kibble size is only for large & giant breeds, not for small breeds like our mix of Pom+Spitz, Appy, weighing 10 Kg (22 lbs), an abandoned adult male that we found ‘walking its last mile’ with a maggot infested wound around the base of its tail. TOTW has had a recall:
        However, nothing goes back once imported into India.

        • Hi gspal – it’s great that you’ve adopted the abandoned and injured animal. That’s always heart warming to hear.

          Cereals, grain and seeds (genetically modified or otherwise) could/should/would never be 20% of any dog/wolf’s life cycle. Ever. My suggestion is to try the larger kibble size if you can find better foods.

          • Thank you Mr. Kutty for your patient reply and precious time. I will go for Orijen if available in India, otherwise TOTW or Solid Gold. Even if the kibbles are large I will break them down before giving them to Appy. Farmina was to introduce N&D Grain-Free Canine ( in India in May 2014, but it has got delayed for unknown reasons.

          • Hi GSPAL,
            Farmina has indeed launched the grain free kibble in india, My golden’s just love them…

            Another question i have is, If i have access to raw chicken food from butcher’s, would it be safe to feed it fresh, Or would you recommend freezing for a few days and then feeding them?

  14. its been a while since I have posted. so much has changed in what I do with my fur kids. I feed orijen now with the freezed dried treats. no time to make home made. I tried the freezed dried foods some can eat it some ca not. the fish oil I do use still but I change from bag to bag so they get each meat group. I have to say I do not see a difference in fur and health as with home made its just as beautiful with home made as with the orijen and gives me more time with the fur kids. my imha baby is doing great I feel very blessed. the fur kids love the freeze dried treats on outings.easy to take along too! I know… I know I have gotten lazy but 8 months of feeding orjen the health is just as great as with home made and more time with my fur kids. so it is working good for my fur kids and for me.

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