Fish Oil for Dogs

Lauren Mick, LVT
By Lauren Mick, LVT. Reviewed by Veronica Higgs, DVM on Aug. 9, 2023
brown and white jack russell terrier dog with a chew toy

In This Article

What Is Fish Oil?

Supplements have become very popular in the canine world, but which ones should you look for when seeking the best health for your dog?  Fish oil for dogs can have many great benefits—and for this reason, many pet parents have started adding it to their pet's daily meals.

What Is Fish Oil?

Fish oil is a supplement derived from cold-water fish such as salmon. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA act as anti-inflammatory agents and can be used to help inflammatory diseases including:

Is Fish Oil Good for Dogs?

Fish oil is used widely in cats and dogs, as well as horses. The supplement has continued to grow in popularity with dog parents because it’s readily available and easy to use. There are many fish oil benefits for dogs, including heart protection, keeping skin healthy, and helping with joint lubrication for pups with arthritis.

1. Fish Oil Protects the Heart

Fish oil has been found to reduce the heart’s vulnerability to developing an irregular rhythm, called atrial fibrillation. Additionally, fish oil can act as an anticoagulant and prevent blood clots from forming in dogs with heart disease.

2. Fish Oil Relieves Dry, Flaky Skin

Giving fish oil to dogs with allergies may reduce the overall itching caused by triggering irritants. Fish oil works by decreasing a pet’s production of potent stimulators of inflammation, called cytokines.

3. Fish Oil Slows the Progression of Kidney Disease

In failing kidneys, fish oil may lower elevated blood pressure, decrease undesired protein loss in urine, and reduce the production of pro-inflammatory substances that aggravate the kidneys.

4. Fish Oil Aids Arthritic Joints

Fish oil decreases the production of potent lipids that cause inflammation in the joints. Studies show that arthritic dogs and cats given fish oil tend to be more comfortable and agile than those not supplemented.

5. Fish Oil Improves Neurologic Development and Cognitive Function

A 2012 study found that supplementing puppies with DHA increased their ability to learn and retain certain skills when compared to puppies not receiving additional DHA.

Senior pets with cognitive dysfunction had improved recognition of family members and other dogs when supplemented with fish oil.

6. Fish Oil Lowers Blood Triglyceride Levels

Supplementing pets with fish oil may decrease harmful levels of triglyceride, a type of fat found in blood. This is especially critical in pets that have heart disease, pancreatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Fish Oil Dosage for Dogs

Typically, if you are using a canine-specific omega-3 supplement, there will be dosage information on the packaging. Your dog’s fish oil dosage depends on the supplement and your specific pet. Always talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog any supplements

Best Dog Fish Oil Products

There are many different fish oil products on the market, including liquids, capsules, and chewables. Some popular options are:

Some allergy supplements also contain fish oil, including Vibeful Allergy and Immune Support Soft Chews.

How To Give Dogs Fish Oil

A well-balanced dog food is likely to contain animal fats, which are high in omega-6 fatty acids and can contain some omega-3s. But omega-3s can be expensive, so their inclusion in your dog’s food is typically minimal. Supplying omega-3s through supplements is a cost-effective way to give your dog the additional health benefit without breaking the bank.

Fish oil can be easily mixed in with wet food, and the specific product will have dosing on the container. You can also give liquid or capsule fish oil by mouth; it may be given with or without food. Be sure to follow instructions on the label.

If stomach upset occurs (symptoms such as drooling, licking jowls, pacing, restlessness, vomiting) when dosed on an empty stomach, contact your dog's primary care vet and discuss giving fish oil with food, skipping it completely, or finding an alternative source of omegas.

Fish oil can take up to a few weeks before full effects are noted, but gradual improvements are typically noticeable.

Are There Side Effects to Fish Oil?

It’s possible that your dog may not tolerate fish oil well. If they are given high doses or prone to GI upset, they may experience diarrhea or other digestive issues as a result. In these circumstances, it may be best to find an alternative source of omegas.

Your dog’s gut may react OK to fish oil, but if you notice any symptoms of nausea (such as drooling, licking jowls, pacing, restlessness, vomiting) or diarrhea, stop giving the supplements and reach out to your primary care vet to determine next steps.

Fish Oil for Dogs FAQs

What are dog-safe foods that naturally contain fish oil?

EPA and DHA can be found naturally in salmon, sardines, and certain anchovies, and your dog will probably find these to be tasty treats. These foods may be OK in certain forms and in smaller quantities, but always talk to your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet.

Can you give a dog human fish oil?

Although human fish oil supplements are sourced the same, these are dosed for humans—not dogs. Human supplements may also contain additional ingredients that may be toxic to pets, such as xylitol.  It’s always best to give your dog fish oil formulated for canines.

Does fish oil help with dog anxiety?

New research shows omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may help dogs with anxiety. DHA plays a major role in helping regulate mood in dogs. Fish oil has been shown to help dogs overcome apprehension and anxiety. Although training and medications can assist with anxiety-related behaviors, fish oil presents a possible alternative to reduce anxiety and in turn unwanted behavior. It can be a great place to start with behavior modification.

Featured Image: Adobe/Evrymmnt


Lauren Mick, LVT

WRITTEN BY

Lauren Mick, LVT

Veterinarian Technician


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