On the heels of Thursday’s post on the merits of high quality supplements in pet diets comes this celebration of the lowly fatty acids in our pets’ diets.

We’ve long known that dogs and cats who consume diets including fish, flaxseed oil and/or enhanced with fatty acid supplements we may add tend towards shinier coats and healthier skin. Fatty acids are important to the health of skin, which is one reason we vets like them.

But there are other, more specific health concerns fatty acids seem to address: Allergies (typically skin related, as well), heart health (less of a concern in animals than in humans, admittedly) and more recently…joint pain.

It seems the unifying feature of all these indications for fatty acids is one simple, annoying characteristic of these diseases: inflammation.

A recent article in Veterinary Practice News addresses this nicely, describing the process in which fatty acids are thought to aid in thwarting the chronic inflammatory process we observe in joints. While the description involves treacherously complex machinations at the biochemical level, the reality of the whys and hows of fatty acids are still poorly understood.

Nonetheless, there’s sufficient science to suggest that fatty acids might well aid in alleviating joint pain by thwarting the chronic inflammation that leads to osteoarthritis in pets.

Because fatty acids are considered almost devoid of untoward effects (sometimes a little diarrhea at the initial supplementation stage in some gastrointestinally sensitive pets), it seems reasonable to include them in any arthritic pet’s supplement protocol.

Indeed, many supplement manufacturers are reformulating their glucosamine and chondroitin products to include fatty acids. (Vetri-Science comes to mind with its newly reformulated Glyco-flex.) It’s a nice mix for me, what with my skin and joint challenged dogs. And it makes the tasteless glucosamine more palatable, what with the tastiness of the oils, which serve as vehicle for fatty acids.

At the risk of plugging a product (oh, what the hell, the Furminator gets freebies on Dolittler, too), Glyco-flex is one of my favorite new products in the veterinary product marketplace. It’s delicious (yes, I try everything and my dogs are annoyingly capricious in their delicate tastes) and comes with fatty acids, glucosamine, green-lipped mussel extract.

Moreover, it’s chewy, wonderfully packaged and reasonably priced(!). Retailing at about $17-$20 a month for a 60-pound dog, I think this product is well on its way to stardom in my place of work.

As to my own dogs’ improvement on fatty acid supplements packed in with their glucosamine? Too soon to tell—it’s only been a month. But I will confess to having witnessed my Sophie make a flying leap into my SUV. Not something I’m proud of having allowed her to do (who knew she would even try?), but an event well worth celebrating nonetheless.