Fats for your Dog

Fats: Friend or Foe?

Dogs can digest and assimilate high levels of dietary fat, which is generally considered an excellent and concentrated source of energy. Fats are also highly palatable and break down slowly, which means that they will satisfy your dog’s appetite between meals. However, for optimum dog health, fats should not constitute more than 20% of the average dog's diet.

Fats provide essential fatty acids and carry fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K throughout the dog's system. The essential fatty acids, Arachonidonic Acid and Cislinoleic Acid (often called Linoleic Acid) help regulate such functions as muscle contractions, blood clotting, allergic reactions and add gloss to the coat. Arachidonic acid must be obtained exclusively from animal fat, while Linoleic Acid is readily available in vegetable oils. Linoleic Acid is the only fatty acid truly essential for dogs.

Vegetable oils, such as sunflower seed oil, flaxseed oil and safflower oil are rich in Linoleic Acid. Corn oil, olive oil and canola oil have less than 50% of this acid. Poultry and pork fat contain 15-25% Linoleic Acid.

A deficiency in essential fatty acids will result in a rough, dry coat, dandruff, retarded growth of puppies, reproduction problems, chronic pancreatitis, gall bladder disease, liver disease, malabsorption and general poor health.

Fortunately, dogs do not suffer from heart disease caused by fats or cholesterol, but a diet high in fats can contribute to another dangerous condition, obesity. High fat diets may also deplete the body's store of fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin E. Such diets increase the risk of gall bladder disease, pancreatitis and diarrhea. Fatty acid dog supplements, if used, should always be fortified with Vitamin E.

Storing commercial dry for a long time can sometimes cause an essential fatty acid deficiency in these foods. Fish oils, contained in some cold-water fish, are high in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, which are thought to be helpful in treating certain allergic, skin and arthritic conditions.

A diet high in fats should only be fed to very active working dogs, puppies or lactating bitches and only under the advice of a veterinarian.

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