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Fats and Oils: Good for Your Dog’s Health?

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An Ideal Balance

As you will see on MyBowl, fats and oils are a necessary part of a balanced diet for dogs. A diet that provides about 10-15 percent fat (for normal, healthy adult animals) is best to maintain health. The time when fat in the diet becomes a problem is when animals are allowed to eat too much fat and calories (such as from extra treats and table scraps), without getting enough exercise to balance things out.

High-Fat Diet

Dogs never have to worry about cholesterol levels like humans do, as they won’t end up with the same types of health issues humans may from eating a high-fat diet. If fat levels are too low; however, dogs can develop dry, itchy skin (dandruff) and a dull, dry coat. Other problems that can develop include a diminished immune system and other potential health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

The Building Blocks of Fats

Fats are a concentrated form of energy that give your dog more than twice the amount of energy as carbohydrates and proteins do. Fats used in dog foods are highly digestible and are the first nutrients to be used by the body as energy, ahead of protein and carbohydrates. Fats are made up of building blocks called fatty acids. Fatty acids are named according to their chemical structure and how they are bonded together.

Putting the Essential in Fatty Acids

There are certain fatty acids that dogs require in their diet because the body cannot make them. These are known as essential fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are divided into two groups called the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Fatty acids must be provided in a specifically balanced ratio. Fats have many important functions. Not only do they provide energy, but they are also necessary for the normal development and function of body cells.

Choosing the Right Fats and Oils

Fats are part of the reason that dog foods taste good and smell good too. Fats and oils also help the body to absorb certain vitamins. Not every fat or oil is good for our pets, however. The source, quality, and quantity of fat need to be carefully considered when choosing a good dog food. Check out the list of ingredients to see where the fats and oils are coming from.

Chicken, Pork, and Fish...Oh My!

Common sources of omega-3 fatty acids used in quality dog foods are fish oils (herring, salmon, etc.) and flaxseed and canola oils. Commonly used omega-6 fatty acid sources include pork fat, chicken fat (or any poultry fat), safflower and sunflower oils, as well as corn and soybean oils (vegetable oils). Keep an eye out for lower-quality sources such as lard or tallow. Dog food ingredients will include at least one source of fats and/or oils.

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