how to use fish oil

How to Use Fish Oil to Calm a Dog’s Allergy Symptoms

Fish oil Ewww. Sounds super unappealing, right? It does for most Americans!

We’ve heard from health experts that fish oil is a miracle for both humans and dogs. As a vet, I recommend fish oil to dogs who have allergies.

Fish oil has a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acid acts as an anti-inflammatory for dogs with allergies. There is also a good amount of evidence that supports the use of fish oils for dogs with multiple health issues.

How much fish-oil should you give a dog with allergies? The dosage tables that I have compiled from reliable sources can be found at the end of the article.

Please consult your veterinarian if you suspect that your dog may have a severe inflammation condition which could respond to fish oils. If you use fish oil in high doses, it can have side effects. It’s best that you only do so under the supervision of a professional.

I recommend Nordic Naturals Omega-3 pet products because they are made specifically for pets and have a label that says so.

Dogs with skin allergies can benefit from omega-3 fatty acids

Canine atopic dermatitis is common in dogs. Skin allergies can cause hair loss, sores, scabs, increased scratching, redness, body odor, and a poor quality of living for dogs.

A decrease in fat content of the outer skin layer causes dogs with allergies to develop dry skin. The disruption of the outer barrier of skin allows allergens into the deeper layers of skin of dogs. In 2011, a study showed that omega-3 fatty acid oral administration increased the amount fat in the skin’s outer layer. (8)

The addition of fish oil to the dog’s diet may help him take less medication (such as oclacitinib or steroids).

In a study conducted in 2004, researchers gave 60 dogs either borage oil, fish oils or a placebo over a period of 12 weeks. Prednisolone was also given to all the dogs in order to control their allergic symptoms. After nine weeks the dogs who took fish oil could take less prednisone for their pruritus. (6)

When your dog is in desperate need, steroids are a great option. However, they can have many negative side effects. This is why veterinarians avoid using them for long periods of time.

It is amazing that a fatty-acid supplement can reduce the need for steroid medications to control allergy symptoms!

When your dog is in desperate need, steroids are a great option. However, they can have many negative side effects. This is why veterinarians avoid using them for long periods of time.

It is amazing that a fatty-acid supplement can reduce the need for steroid medications to control allergy symptoms!

What are essential fatty acids?

To survive, dogs must consume certain fats. They are called essential fat acids (EFAs), which means that the animal cannot produce these compounds in sufficient amounts from other materials. EFAs must be a part of their diet.

Five essential dietary elements (EFAs) are required by dogs to be obtained from their food:

  • Linoleic acid (LA, omega 6)
  • Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA, Omega-3)
  • Arachidonic acid (AA, omega 6)
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA, Omega-3)
  • Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA, Omega-3)

It is not necessary to know the term “omega”, which describes a fatty acid structure. It’s important to know that omega 6 is different from, but both are equally important.

The body of a dog works best when it consumes the right ratio of EFAs omega-6 and omega-3. A high intake of either can lead to health issues.

Scientists believe an optimum ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is somewhere between 5:1 and 10:1.

Different Omegas Perform Different Functions within the Body

Omega 6 fatty acid is found in grains, vegetable oils and seeds. It can also be found in poultry, eggs, nuts, and grains. Omega 6 fatty acid promotes inflammation. This may sound bad, but inflammation is essential for healing. Omega-6 EFAs are essential for dogs to heal. When there is an excess of Omega 6, it will cause inflammation.

Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory affect on your dog’s system. These fatty acids are abundant in fish, but also in smaller amounts in nuts and seed.

Omega-3 fatty acid intake by dogs is necessary to counteract the omega-6 fatty acid content in their diet.

Increased Omega-3 Intake Has Many Benefits

Add omega-3 fatty acids to your pet’s food to reduce inflammation. Research supports the use an omega-3 supplement to treat several canine illnesses, including

  • Osteoarthritis (2)
  • Itchy skin from allergies (four symptoms)
  • Ageing (3)
  • Aggression (9)

Feed whole foods containing Omega-3 FAs

You can increase your dog’s intake of omega-3 fatty acids by giving him whole foods rich in this substance. You run the risk of giving your dog too much food or causing him digestive problems if you feed him fatty foods that he is not used to.

Cold-water, fat fish is high in Omega-3 fats and low in Omega-6. This list contains other foods that have lower Omega-6: Omega-3 ratios.

They are both convenient and inexpensive. These are whole foods that contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Three ounces of canned salmon with skin and bones contains 718 mg EPA and 685mg DHA, a total of 1403mg omega-3 FAs.
  • 3.2 ounces (or 890mg) of sardines in cans contain 430mg of EPA, 460mg of DHA and a total of 480mg of omega-3 FAs.

The dog that weighs 10 pounds could benefit by eating a half-ounce of sardines or salmon a few time a month. To avoid stomach upset, start with small amounts given rarely.

Commercial dog food with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids

To increase your dog’s intake, the easiest way is to switch to commercial dog foods that contain a higher level of this nutrient.

Omega-3 fatty acid-rich products are available in high-quality nutritionally balanced products. These foods can promote good health and moderate to mild inflammation.

  1. Purina® Pro Plan FOCUS Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice 
  2. ​​Hill’s® Prescription Diet® Derm Defense™ Canine
  3. Hill’s® Science Diet® Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Grain Free 
  4. ORIJEN™ Six Fish Grain Free

These special dog food products are not a good choice for dogs with severe inflammation. They need more Omega-3 fatty acids. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon oil, krill, cod liver, flaxseed, hemp, and chia seed oils. But they’re all not the same. What’s the Difference?

Krill and salmon oil may have a higher concentration of EPA+DHA than regular fish oil. Both are good choices, but they may be more costly and less environmentally friendly.

Cod Liver Oil is not the exact same thing as fish oil, because it contains large quantities of vitamin A and D. If you give your dog too much, they can overdose. My advice would be to avoid it.

Hemp oil, flaxseed oil and hemp seeds are all good sources of omega-3. Plant-based omega-3 sources are not the exact same as fish oil. Dogs do not absorb the ALA in plant-based foods the same way as they do the EPA and DHA found in fish oil. Algae oil is one notable exception. Algae is a product derived from plants that contains EPA, DHA and other nutrients. However, there are few studies on its efficacy or safety when given to dogs.

What is fish oil?

Fish oil is a nutritional supplement that is made from the oil of fatty fish.

Fish oil is made from sardines, herrings, mackerel and salmon. Fish oil of high quality is a concentrated, fresh source of omega-3 fats. It contains two essential omega-3 fatty acids that dogs require: eicosapentaenoic (EPA) acid and docosahexaenoic (DHA).

You can buy fish oil in capsule, liquid or tablet form. Many different products are available at online, pet supply and grocery stores.

Not all fish oils are worth purchasing.

How to choose a good fish oil for your allergic dog

The “International Fish Oil Standards Program”, or , is an independent organization that tests and certifies the fish oil.

IFOS maintains a site that lists all the fish oil products it has certified. The IFOS certificate on a label verifies a food’s potency, purity and freshness.

Another news flash: Fish oil shouldn’t smell fishy. If it does, your fish oil may be rancid and you should not use it.

I’ve noticed that products of higher quality, like Nordic Naturals or Carlson’s, don’t have an overpowering fishy smell or taste.

Only buy the amount of fish oils you will use within a month. Store it in the fridge to keep it fresher for longer.

You can find the milligrams of EPA+DHA on the label

On the label of fish oil supplements, you will find the amount of omega-3 fatty acid and EPA/DHA in the product.

The most important number to remember is the summation of EPA and DHA (in milligrams) Check the label of each product to find out the correct amount.

Check for the “IFOS logo” as well as expiration dates.

Table 1: Fish Oil Daily Dosage Chart for Healthy Dogs (7)

Body Weight in PoundsEPA+DHA in mg

Dosage of fish oil for healthy dogs

National Research Council is an association of scientists that provides guidelines for the nutritional needs of dogs. NRC recommends 30 mg EPA+DHA for dogs per body weight.

Below, I have calculated the amounts recommended by veterinarians and researchers for dogs of different sizes. This dose is perfect for dogs that are in good health but need a boost.

Refer to Table 2 for dosage recommendations for dogs with allergies.]

Dosage of Fish Oil for Allergy-prone Dogs

It is unknown the perfect dose of omega-3 fatty acid for dogs with allergies. Veterinarians have used super-high doses of omega-3 fatty acids to treat severe inflammatory conditions.

Calculate the dose using the sum of EPA+DHA (not “total Omega-3’s”) in milligrams.

Table 2: Fish Oil Daily Dosage chart for dogs with allergies (1)

Body Weight in PoundsEPA+DHA in mg

The Nordic Naturals Omega Pet label recommends dosages similar to those in Table 2. Consult your veterinarian before increasing the dose of omega-3s.

Give oil and fat with caution to animals that are susceptible to or pancreatitis .

Start with half the recommended dose for your dog’s sensitive stomach. Continue this dosage for two weeks, and then stop it if you see diarrhea or upset stomach. Fresh, high-quality products that are kept in the refrigerator should minimize any side effects.

Results are not immediate

You may not notice the full effects of giving your dog omega-3 fatty acid supplements for several months. It takes a while for the omega-3 fatty acids to accumulate in a dog’s body. You should notice positive results within 60 days if you feed the recommended amount every day.

The majority of people will give their dogs a long-term fish oil supplement as long as there are no adverse effects such as weight gain, stomach upset or other symptoms.

Don’t Go Overboard! Fish oil side effects: Don’t go overboard!

Fish oil is generally well tolerated by most animals, even at low doses. More isn’t always better. Fish oil overuse can be harmful to pets.

A paper published in Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine (5) states that excessive doses of Fish Oil can cause:

  • Abnormal platelet function
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Reduced wound healing
  • Cellular lipid (fat) damage
  • Oversupply and exposure to toxic substances
  • Weight gain
  • Immune system changes
  • Blood sugar regulation changes
  • Drug metabolism can be altered

Vet-Recommended Supplements for Fish Oil

Nordic Naturals Omega-3 pet is my recommendation. It’s a product that is specifically marketed for dogs, and it doesn’t taste like many fish oil products aimed at humans.

Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet

Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet

Nordic Naturals offers extensive information about safety testing for every batch of fish oil produced, even though many products do not have an IFOS rating.

Nordic Naturals Pet label recommends a dosage that is somewhere between a nutritional and anti-inflammatory dosage. This moderate dosage should be tolerated by most dogs, but you still want to introduce it slowly.

Buy liquid fish oil to mix with your dog’s diet and avoid the stress. The taste is generally well-liked by dogs.

Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet has been tested to ensure its purity and is of high quality. The 2-ounce size is perfect for small dogs, so the oil won’t turn rancid before it’s used up.

Keep your fish oil fresh by storing it in the fridge!

does fish oil taste bad

Avoid Related Products

  • Oils containing vitamin D and other compounds.
  • “Burpless” capsules. They are not necessary for your pets, and they may not dissolve properly in the stomach of a dog because they were made to be consumed by humans.
  • Cod liver oil. Cod liver oil is different from regular fish oils, and shouldn’t be substituted.
  • Plant-sourced omega-3 supplements. These supplements are not absorbed by pets the same way as humans. These are not substitutes for fish oil.
  • Buy large quantities of cheap fish oil capsules. Buy small containers, and keep them in your refrigerator. Use the whole container within two months or, at the very least, before the expiration date listed on the label. Throw away any product with a strong fishy smell.

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