Like humans, Holistic health for dogs includes fish oil. Fish oil is not what it used to be, even when the quality is excellent.
The environment and climate change are--and should be--major considerations in all consumer choices, and specifically in choosing fish oils. From sardines to trout, mercury and radiation toxicity are reaching alarming levels. Poisoning and heavy metals is further exacerbated by overfishing.
So what is the best source? Currently, it turns out to be calamari, otherwise known as cephalopod, and commonly known as squid.
Squid oil provides the lowest or non-existent levels of mercury and toxicity and the right balance of Omega 3's and DHA/EPA. Plus, Squid populations are on the rise.
Ah, Omega 3's and DHA/EPA, things we see printed on so many food packages now, but also something most people know little about.
So why squid, why Omega 3, and why DHA/EPA?
Essential Fatty Acids
Like humans, your dog needs what are called "essential fatty acids." Understanding what fatty acids are and how the body--animal and human--needs them can be a highly complex scientific understanding. For now, the basics will suffice.
Good Fat and Bad Fat
The body needs fat. Some fat is synthesized by the body while other fat is not and needs to be obtained from the diet.
There is good fat and bad fat. Good fat is needed to build cells and nerves, and is "essential" for muscle, blood and just about every other part of the body.
Saturated fat and trans fat are considered the bad fats. Saturated fats are primarily fats that are animal and dairy-based, but also include tropical oils (coconut, palm, cocoa butter).
Trans fat (trans fatty acids) is found in foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These are considered the worst fats, i.e., fried foods, margarine, snack foods, baked goods, and more. In other words, junk food.
Both saturated and trans fat can raise levels of "bad" cholesterol (known as LDL), while suppressing "good" cholesterol (HDL). Bad cholesterol levels can significantly increase risk of heart disease.
The three major classes of unsaturated fatty acids: omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9. Omega-6s and omega-3s are essential. Omega-9s are non-essential because the body can make them from other fatty acids.
EPA vs. DHA
EPA and DHA are derivatives of Omega-3, and are therefore the best of the “essentials.”
DHA improves skin, coat and nervous system function regardless of a dog's age. DHA improves cognitive ability and neurologic function, from increased memory to reducing dementia in older dogs.
EPA is the anti-inflammatory component of omega oils and great for joints, heart and blood.
Squid offers the best in terms of Omega 3's, EPA and DHA, and sustainability. It's relatively free of toxins, depending on where it comes from. The northern seas of Scandinavia prove to be one of the best areas on the planet.
The benefits of fish oil—and even more so, squid—are far ranging.
Reducing heart disease is at the top of the benefit list, helping to prevent irregular heart rhythm and acting as an anti-coagulant (preventing blood from clotting).
Pets get allergies too, and fish oil acts as an anti-inflammatory helping to reduce itchy, flaky skin. By lowering blood pressure, it also acts again as an anti-inflammatory in kidney ailments.
Reducing inflammation appears to be the major benefit, and along with allergies and kidney ailments, there has been noticeable improvement in joint and muscle tissue, as well as reducing the effects of other illnesses like pancreatitis and IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome).
Holistically, there isn't any area of a dog's health that isn't greatly improved through the use of high quality fish oils, especially squid oil.
Heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, arsenic and others, have infiltrated the environment at alarming rates. These metals are not easily broken down, ending up in food supplies, especially fish and fish oil.
Fish oil should be protected from light, heat, and air, and best stored in dark bottles in the refrigerator. One or two month supplies are best to avoid rancidity.
There is such a thing as too much fish oil. Side effects can include: diarrhea, blood clotting problems, slowed healing of wounds, vitamin E deficiency, weight gain and possible immune system issues.
Problems can arise when fish oil is mixed with other supplements and medications. Other anti-inflammatory medications are especially known to create conflicts.
Always check with a vet for the right "cocktail" of supplements and medications, and the right dosages and scheduling.
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