Fat Chance

Not only do I feed Mylo a lot of fish products and snacks such as added fish oils and fish skin bites for his improved coat and healthier joints, fats are an essential part of a dog’s diet especially as they do not rely on any carbohydrates at all.


Fat is a very important part of a dog’s diet – especially when you consider that dogs don’t have a biological requirement for carbohydrates at all. Dietary fats provide concentrated forms of energy for the dog, carry the fat-soluble vitamins, and supply the dog with essential fatty acids (fatty acids are the basic building blocks of fats; “essential” fatty acids are those that the dog’s body needs but can’t manufacture). A variety of fats are needed by the dog for healthy skin, hair, and immune function; regulation of the inflammation process; and prenatal development. On a molecular level, fatty acids contribute to the physical structure of all the dog’s cells.

Fats – and their building blocks, the fatty acids – represent a broad category of nutrients. Just as your dog needs to consume a variety of vitamins and minerals, he needs a variety and balance of fatty acids. Which ones? How much? Well, I’m afraid it depends on who you talk to. In my opinion (and that of many canine nutrition experts), the best answers come from analysis of the dog’s ancestral diet and from nutrition science. Using these tools, I’ve come to believe that most commercial diets leave dogs short of what they need in terms of dietary fat in two ways:

1. Commercial diets generally feature an incomplete offering and unbalanced array of fatty acids.

2. The fat in commercial dog foods is prone to developing rancidity.

These traits pose problems for dogs, but they are easily overcome.

Incomplete and Unblanced
Before domestication, the dog’s diet contained a complete range of fats, because the dog ate many different parts of the prey animal, which contain different types of fat:

– Muscle meat contains saturated fats (SFAs), monounsaturated fats MUFAs), and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs).
– Storage fat contains primarily SFAs.
– Bone marrow contains primarily MUFAs.
– Organ fat contains mostly MUFAs and PUFAs.
– The fat that protects the organs consists primarily of SFAs.
– Eyes and brains contain mostly PUFAs, including DHA.

Scientists at the National Research Council (NRC) periodically review all the relevant literature on nutrition (for humans as well as companion and food animals) and issue recommendations for nutrient amounts, maximums, and minimums for each species. In 1985, the NRC recognized just one fatty acid, linoleic acid (LA, an omega-6 fatty acid and a PUFA) as being essential for dogs.

However, by 2006 (the year it released its most recent guidelines, Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats), the NRC had updated its findings and listed four additional PUFAs as essential for dogs: arachidonic acid (AA, another omega-6 fatty acid considered essential for puppies), and three omega-3 fatty acids: alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In time, I suspect it will list even more fatty acids as essential for dogs, including gamma linolenic acid (GLA), conjugated linolenic acid (CLA), and probably more.

It’s in the PUFAs that we often find a balance of fats problem, primarily an improper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids and the lack of DHA. Most nutrition experts suggest that the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids for the dog is between 2:1 and 6:1. But many chicken-based conventional dog foods are formulated with excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, primarily LA. And since LA is converted in the dog’s body into AA, an oversupply of LA results in an excess of AA, which promotes inflammation and exacerbates many health problems, including skin disease, arthritis, and renal problems.

Most dog foods do not contain DHA – which offers so many benefits for dogs! – and those that do contain DHA have a higher probability of becoming rancid. 


Read more at Whole Dog Journal


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