Lyka

Everything you need to know about Essential Fatty Acids for your dog
Essential Fatty Acids are a crucial element of your dog's diet and should be balanced for maximum benefits
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Lyka: Redefining Pet Food

NUTRITION


In society, fats tend to have a negative connotation surrounding them, thanks to junk human foods that are often loaded with trans fats. The reality is that fats are one of the most important macronutrients in your dog’s diet. The right types of fats, Essential Fatty Acids, are critical to optimise your dog’s bodily functions.

 

Essential fatty acids for dogs

Dietary fatty acids are grouped into three types, based on the location of the first double bond in their molecular structure: omega 3s, omega 6s and omega 9s.

Fatty acids can be then further classified into essential or non-essential. Dogs can synthesise omega 9s in their body, therefore they aren’t considered essential in a dog’s diet. On the other hand, dogs aren’t capable of synthesising certain omega 3s or omega 6s in their body, hence must be provided as part of your dog’s diet. These fats are known as Essential Fatty Acids.

The following fatty acids are considered Essential Fatty Acids for dogs:

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. Hence a dog’s diet should maximise EPA & DHA, rather than ALA.

Omega 6s

  • Linoleic acid (LA)

Arachidonic acid (AA) is another omega 6 fatty acid, that is essential for cats, but not for dogs. As opposed to cats, dogs can efficiently convert LA to AA in their bodies due to an enzyme in their digestive systems. Therefore AA is not considered an Essential Fatty Acid in dogs.

Fatty acids are categorised based on their chemical composition

The benefits of dietary fats for your dog

Fats are an excellent source of energy and convert 2.25 times more energy than protein or carbohydrates. Fats are also necessary for your dog to absorb some vitamins in their diet including Vitamin A, D, E and K. Healthy joints and a shiny and healthy coat is another benefit your dog will reap.

To achieve these benefits, it is important to consider not only the amount of fat in your dog’s diet but also the ratio of fats. Omega 6s and omega 3s have different properties and work together to provide their nutritional value. If not balanced correctly, consumption can lead to one dangerous side-effect in your dog’s body: inflammation.

Omega 6s stimulate hormones that promote inflammation in your dog’s body. Omega 3s balance this by producing hormones that reduce inflammation and regulate the immune system. If your dog consumes too much omega 6 without enough omega 3, this can lead to a state of chronic inflammation in a dog’s body. This may lead to diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancers, arthritis, bowel diseases, skin conditions and a general unbalance in their immune system.

 

Fish Oil Supplements are not always the best way to provide omega 3s to your dog

 

The optimal ratio of Essential Fatty Acids

So, what is the optimal ratio of omega 6s: omega 3s for your dog? Unfortunately, studies on this topic are ongoing and there is still no conclusive answer.

AAFCO, the USA body that sets recommendations and regulates animal foods, recommends an omega 6: omega ratio of 30:1 or less. In many commercial pet foods, the ratio is hence close to this figure.

In contrast, your dog’s ancestors’ diet had a low omega 6: omega 3 ratio and many studies suggest that a lower ratio, in line with the ancestral diet, is better. Research by Dr. Gregory Reinhart suggests a ratio between 5:1-10:1 is more appropriate.  Leading global omega 3 expert Dr. Doug Bibus, recommends an even lower ratio of 2:1 – 4:1.

At Lyka, we mimic the ancestral diet, all of our recipes contain an omega 6: omega 3 ratio between 3:1 to 5:1.

 

Food sources of essential fatty acids

Omega 3s

  • EPAs are found in fish, fish oils and seafood sources such as oysters and mussels
  • DHAs are found in fish, fish oils and seafood sources such as oysters and mussels, and eggs
  • ALAs are found in eggs, walnuts and flaxseed oils, canola oils and algae such as spirulina.

Omega 6s

  • LAs are found in animal meats and plant-based oils such as corn, safflower or soybean oils

 

Fish is a fantastic source of omega 3s for your dog

 

Some controversial sources of essential fatty acids

Fish Oil

Fish oil is a common ingredient in some dog foods, but is it the best source of omega 3? Unfortunately, once fish oil is added to food, it interacts with oxygen, and unless counterbalanced with antioxidants, can become highly unstable and rancid. Once rancid, it loses its omega 3’s benefits, and can also be detrimental by releasing free radicals into your dog’s body. Not to mention, producing fish oil is harmful to the environment as it drives overfishing and ecosystem disequilibrium in our oceans.

Instead of fish oil in your dog's food look for fresh fish

A better omega 3 alternative is seafood or fish itself, rather than fish oil. Fish and seafood have a much lower tendency to oxidise and become rancid. Plus they’re more sustainable for our oceans when compared to fish oil.

At Lyka, we use mackerel and oysters as our omega 3 source, and never fish oil.

Grain Fed Meats

Grains such as corn and soy have higher omega 6: omega 3 levels that grass and leafy vegetation. This translates to meat from grain-eating livestock having a higher omega 6: omega 3 ratio than the meat from grass-fed livestock.

Instead of grain fed meats look for grass fed meats in your dog's food

Our dog’s ancestors used to eat prey that grazed on leaves and other vegetation,  and therefore the prey’s meat also had low omega 6: omega 3 ratio. We can mimic this in our dog’s diet by feeding them grass-fed and free-range meats. For example, grain-fed beef typically has an omega 6: omega 3 ratio of 5:1 – 10:1, while grass-fed beef has a ratio of 1:1 – 3:1.

At Lyka, we use 100% grass-fed beef in our beef bowls and 100% free-range chicken in our chicken bowls.



Author: Anna Podolsky

About the author: Anna has been an animal lover since she can remember. She loves dog and cats of all shapes and sizes, but has a soft spot for Border Collies. In her spare time she can be found running with her dog, at the beach with her dog, or brunching, you guessed it, with her dog. We should mention: her dog is the original Lyka.