The Skinny on Fats
Dietary fats provide animals with the most concentrated and easily digestible form of energy (there are actually twice as many calories in a gram of fat than in a gram of carbs or proteins), they play an important role in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, and they promote a healthy nervous system. But are all fats created equal??
Essential fatty acids (EFA's) are called as much because our bodies (& our pets bodies) cannot make them and thus they must be consumed in the diet.
THE ALPHA & OMEGA
Omega-6 EFA's are easily consumed (often in excessive amounts) as they are readily found throughout the diet in foods such as nuts, seeds and the oils made from them. This excessive consumption (think of any packaged food made, produced, cooked or processed in or with oil) unfortunately PROMOTES inflammation in the body which is very unhelpful.
Omega-3 EFA's on the other hand help to REDUCE inflammation, as well as regulate hormones and protect the body from diseases. The three major Omega-3 essential fatty acids are:
ALA (Alpha-linoleic-acid) which is plant based and found in chia seeds, flaxseed/linseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, nuts and plant oils and is the easiest to come by;
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) is marine based and found in fish oil, mussel oil, krill oil etc
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is also marine based and found in the above alongside EPA, but is found in highest concentrations in marine algal oils.
It is important to understand that whilst dietary ALA can be metabolised into EPA/DHA in the body, this process is actually not efficient ~ even less so in animals ~ which is why supplementation can be so beneficial to health. Studies clearly show that EPA/DHA is far more effective at promoting cellular health than plant based ALA's.
BUT REALLY, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EFA'S?
increase metabolism to fight obesity
inhibit formation of tumours
induce apoptosis of cancer cells
promote overall health
benefit brain health
decrease risk of Alzheimers
improve cognitive learning
increased retinal function (benefits eyesight)
supports kidney health
reduces blood pressure
protects the heart
increases seizure thresholds
supports a healthy digestive tract
healthy skin and nails
So you can see from this list that it is SOOOOO worth ensuring that your furry friend is getting their daily dose of cell loving fatty acids.
THREE VERY IMPORTANT POINTS HERE:
1. AVOID oils made from GMO crops. Greater yields that provide more food for people may sound great until you realise that this actually translates into crops which have been genetically engineered to be more resistant to herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides in order to withstand heavy spraying that would otherwise kill them. These chemicals are toxic, carcinogenic, environmentally disastrous and accumulate in body tissues, and we still have no long-term studies demonstrating that they are safe. For your own health, and your pets health, avoid them at all costs.
2. AVOID farmed fish ~ these poor creatures are fed grain based diets (SO unnatural) to increase growth, and their feed routinely contains antibiotics to prevent the outbreak and spread of disease in their highly populated and tightly confined tanks or sea-pens. The lack of a natural diet means that these fish contain less Omega-3 fatty acids (or none at all), and to compensate farmed salmon food actually contains dyes to turn the flesh its characteristic pink-red colour as the lack of oils mean the flesh would otherwise be grey. Gross.
3. If supplementing, find a reputable company that conducts independent heavy metal and contaminant testing of their products. The last thing you need is to be dealing with heavy metal toxicity which can take years to shift and clear and cause all manner of headaches along the way.
SO WHAT DO WE DO?
How do we incorporate EPA & DHA into our pets diets? EASY! Try adding one of the following: - anchovies, - herring, - mackerel, - salmon (only wild caught), - SARDINES* or - a fish-oil supplement (we use Nordic Naturals Omega-Pet)
Dosage? 100 - 150mg of combined EPA/DHA per 5kg (10pounds) of body weight daily. Consult your holistic vet or animal health specialist for more detailed dosing for specific conditions.
CAUTION: DO NOT GIVE FISH LIVER OIL e.g. Cod Liver Oil as you can quickly create toxic levels of vitamin A and vitamin D in your pet. This is NOT the same thing as "fish oil" and may make your pet very sick.
If you would like to just add SARDINES to your pets diet (because, hello, does it get any easier than that!?!) Look for ones packed in water without salt, and avoid soy, corn, sunflower or safflower oil packed as these are high in omega-6's. Sardines are high in protein, essential fatty acids, EPA, DHA, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and exhibit all the benefits listed above!
Cats can tolerate 1/4 - 1/2 can per week max Dogs 5kg: 1/4 can per week Dogs 10kg: 1/2 can per week Dogs 15kg: 3/4 can per week Dogs 25kg: 1 can per week Dogs 50kg + up to 2 cans per week
One can is equivalent to 1/2 cup of average dry food, or about 200calories, so feel free to adjust the daily feeding accordingly. Enjoy!