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Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in cats and dogs

Fatty acids are defined “essential” because they can not be synthesized, therefore they must be assimilated through nutrition.They are fundamental for cell structure, necessary for the production of certain hormones, aid the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, protect internal organs and fight inflammation.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in cats and dogs

Essential fatty acids (EFA) or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are divided in two categories:

Omega-3s (n-3)

Omega-6s (n-6)

Polyunsaturated fatty acids Omega-3 are

  • Alpha-linolenic or linoleic acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Omega-6 fatty acids are

  • Linoleic acid (LA)
  • Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
  • Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA)
  • Arachidonic acid (AA or ARA) (essential fatty acid in feline nutrition)

Omega-3 fatty acids: not all are the same

As we previously listed the omega 3 fatty acids are EPA, DHA and ALA

EPA and DHA: derive from fish and/or krill

ALA: exclusively derives from a vegetarian source such as linseed oil and in general from all vegetable oils

This is a very important distinction because cats and dogs do not have enough enzymes to convert ALA into EPA

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in cats and dogs

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in cats and dogs

After this has been made clear, let’s see more in detail only EPA and DHA, that are omega-3 fatty acids that need to be integrated.

Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA) – (DHA) play a fundamental role in controlling inflammation

  • Miliary dermatitis
  • Eosinophilic granuloma
  • Malassezia pachydermatis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Cardiac problems
  • Allergies
  • Inflammation
  • They slow down the appearance of metastases in certain tumors

animal based omega-3 taken during chronic renal failure improve residual kidney functionality, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation


1. They must have the IFOS certification (International Fish Oil Standards – International Standard for products made from fish oil)

2. They must be 100% pure (free from heavy metals and mercury) obtained by molecular distillation, which guarantees purity and concentration

3. Check the total percentages (%) or milligrams (mg) of EPA, DHA and of other omega-3 fatty acids

4. Check the presence of vitamins A and D and E

[ecp code=”omega”]


The supplementation of omega 6 fatty acids is different, they are useful as well, but an excessive presence of them in the food causes inflammation, decreasing omega-6s and increasing omega-3s reduces an inflammatory reaction such as: allergies, arthritis, inflammatory intestinal disease, glomerulonephritis

It is derived from the seeds of flax plant and widely used as an alternative to fish oil, its benefits are very scarce compared with animal based omega-3s

Flaxseed oil contains high levels of ALA, therefore it is not an optimal integration and contains omega-6s already abundantly present in our pet’s diet;

An excess of omega 6 causes inflammations and chronic immune disorders!

The omega-6 (LA) – (GLA) – (DGLA) – (AA)

A proper integration can help in case of

  • Chronic diseases
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)/Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
  • Cancer

We have seen that both omega-3s and omega-6s are important for our cat and dog’s health, therefore we are comfortable, we can ask our vet the integration!

Unfortunately it is not that simple:

Commercial feeding and pet food contain too many omega-6s: vegetable oil, corn oil, sunflower oil etc are added

Too many omega 6 are precursors of inflammation

Even if we buy food with statements of omega-3 claims on the labels, we do not resolve in terms of ideal ratio, the omega-3s are thermosensitive and they are destroyed by refinement

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in cats and dogs

Even if we find flaxseed oil with a 56% omega-3s percentage in this scheme, we recall that dogs and cats have few enzymes to make the conversion into EPA

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in cats and dogs


The arachidonic acid is mainly found in red meat, this is why cats need to eat a diet consisting primarily of animal proteins. The arachidonic acid contributes to maintain in good condition skin and fur, for reproductive system and to support kidney function.

AA is an essential acid for cats because they are unable to convert alpha linolenic acid (ALA OMEGA3) in arachidonic acid. The arachidonic acid is necessary for proper blood clotting, for reproductive and gastrointestinal system.

Dogs and human beings are able to perform the conversion of ALA in AA, this explains why dogs can survive eating few protein sources

Omega-3s must not be assumed if you are taking drugs that fluidify the blood, and in view of a surgery. Always check the products to buy and what they are made of, if the fats come from vegetable or marine sources

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