Omega 3s vs Omega 6s: How much does your dog need?

Fish tail

Fat tends to get a bad rap, with a lot of us assuming that all fats are unhealthy. The fact is though, good fats are an incredibly important macronutrient for your dog. The secret to sorting the good fats from the bad is a key group called Essential Fatty Acids (or EFAs). Ensuring your pup receives the correct balance of these fats is crucial to reducing inflammation, whilst giving them all the nutrients they require.

Why does your dog need fat?

Behind protein, fats are the second most important macronutrient for dogs, making up nearly half of the calories they would eat in the wild. Not only do fats provide much-needed energy for active pets, they also allow for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E and K, as well as forming cell membranes, controlling hormones and keeping inflammation at bay.

What are the types of fatty acids?

There are three types of fatty acids: omega-3s, omega-6s and omega-9s. Omega-9s can be synthesised by your pupper, so are not considered essential for their diet. However, there are certain types of omega-3s and omega-6s, which they cannot produce themselves:

Essential omega-3s:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

For dogs to use ALA, their bodies must convert it to EPA & DHA, a highly inefficient function. It’s more ideal to maximise EPA & DHA, rather than ALA, in your dog’s diet.

Essential omega-6s

  • Linoleic acid (LA)

  • Arachidonic acid (AA)

When looking at the total fat content of a diet, it’s really important to consider the ratio of omega-6:3, as food lower in saturated fats may have a higher total fat content due to being enriched with omega-3s.

What balance of omega-3s and 6s should your dog receive in their food?

Although Essential Fatty Acids are vital for your pup’s health and wellbeing, there’s still a balance that needs to be struck when it comes to an ideal diet. An excess of omega-6s can promote chronic inflammation in your pup’s body, which has been linked to many degenerative diseases. On the other hand, omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, making them great for conditions like itchy skin and arthritis, as well as helping to reduce the risk of cancer.

Whilst a controlled amount of inflammation is needed for healing, it’s a balancing act of omega-6s against omega-3s that will ensure a perfect diet for your pupper. AAFCO recommends a ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s that is lower than 30:1, although any ratio above 6:1 is generally accepted as approaching suitable pro-inflammatory levels.

Not all omega-3s are created equal

The two most essential omega-3s (EPA and DHA) are found in fish and seafood; with mackerel, sardines and fish oil as great sources, as well as some microalgal ingredients. ALA, which requires a bit more work for your pup’s body to convert, is found in ingredients like eggs, flaxseed oil, canola oil, spirulina and other plant sources. Because ALA must be converted into one of the two essential omega-3s in a process which is inefficient, ALA is classed as having lower bioavailability overall.

Many commercial dog foods boost their omega-3 content with heavy use of ALAs because these ingredients are much cheaper – so looking into what actually makes up a pet food’s omega-3 content is key to avoiding foods that don’t strike the right balance.

Omega-3s are also sensitive to oxygen and may become rancid very quickly, so less fresh commercial pet foods may contain omega-3s that are no longer active, or may even cause oxidative stress to your pup. Whilst more bioavailable omega-3s are a good thing for your dog, additional Vitamin E to safeguard against oxidative stress can be a good idea.

How do we make sure your dog gets a healthy balance of fatty acids at Lyka?

At Lyka, we formulate our meals with both animal and plant sources of omega-3s, but always use a significantly higher proportion of animal sources (like sardines and fish oil) than other commercial pet food brands, to make sure your pup gets EPA and DHA directly from their food. Fish oil has also been shown to decrease the risk of cancer in dogs, so we love using it in our meals.

Another major ingredient we use is grass-fed beef, which has a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 than grain-fed beef (grain-fed beef typically has an omega-6: omega-3 ratio of 5:1 – 10:1, whilst grass-fed beef has a ratio of 1:1 – 3:1).

We ensure Lyka meals meet an omega-6:3 ratio between 2:1 and 3.6:1, much lower than the AAFCO recommendation of 30:1. This range has been determined by our veterinary nutritionist and in-house holistic vet, and is based on their clinical insights and appraisal of scientific evidence.

Lyka adds extra Vitamin E in line with Europe’s FEDIAF guidelines, ensuring that we keep health and safety at the core of what we do. Since our meals are always cooked to order, there’s much less time for omega-3s to go rancid, compared to other commercial foods. Plus, Lyka our recipes are stored in the freezer rather than on the shelf at room temperature like kibble, so the chance of rancid omega-3s is significantly lowered.

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A picture our range of Lyka meals

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