Essential Fatty Acids

These suggestions are in response to the following questions:

What do people Use?

  • I use flax seed oil I get from the health food store and I use fish oil. I trade off every other day. I started using Kelp on one of them and I have noticed a difference in her coat.

  • We've used Derm Caps ever since one of our Dals blew her coat after her first litter. If we run out and she doesn't get one for a few days, her coat looks a bit duller and she gets what my husband calls "scurf" - flaky skin. She stayed on Derm Caps right through her last pregnancy with no ill effects. I now suggest to our owners that show puppies be given a Derm Cap ES daily, starting at about five months of age, to promote optimal skin condition during their show career. Some of our retired showdogs continue to take them since the owners notice a difference when they don't. One of the boys from our last litter is going through a case of adolescent Dal crud right now so I am currently experimenting with higher doses for him.

  • All the kids here get the foster/smith vita caps once a day. One dog's coat is better for it, but it is still crispy. The other 2 Dals have soft it is more to prevent problems with them. Even the non spot has a super shiny coat now. Have not tried to give more than one a day, though. (Mine are the ones for large dogs).

  • I do not use the EFA caps very often, however, if a dog starts having drier coat from weather, or whatever reason, I will use it for a period of time. I have both types coats you mentioned, and my experience is that it softens both coats. (and very quickly -- like in two to three days I can tell a difference when I run my hand across the coat) The ones with the very softer coats, after two or three days on the EFA (that is the actual one I use) becomes almost too much of an oily texture, so with those guys I only give one every two to three days. My "harder" coated ones can take it daily. I'm not certain of the dosage, but it is in the blue labelled bottle. It is not the smallest one, but the next size up. I've been very fortunate with coats, but sometimes I do become concerned that a judge may not care for the more silky texture -- since thestandard comments on that --- however, I must admit it feels wonderful and personally I can't help but love it. BUT then, I'm not the judge.

  • I started out by using Derm Caps with my first dal, he used to scratch consistently. Once we started the Derm caps, it pretty much stopped. Then my husband came home with Cod Liver Oil, we tried that for a while, but I wasn't sure that's what we needed. I finally discovered Fish Oil caps, you can get them in any grocery store. All my dogs get one a day. We have great shiny coats. Anyone that has ever seen our black lab has ALWAYS commented on howwonderful his coat looks. His coat shines so nice, it looks blue. This dog is on a lite diet, which can sometimes dull a shiny coat. He has always maintained his beautiful coat as long as he was getting his EFAs.

  • Currently, each dog gets a third of a 400 IU capsule of vitamin E and a T of olive oil with the morning meal. The EFA breakout for olive oil is 9 gm of omega-6 and 0.7 gm of omega-3 (alpha linolenic) per 100 gm portion. This is a better ratio than many vegetable oils though flaxseed and perilla oils are far better for omega-3. I like the high monounsaturated levels provided by olive oil, its modest cost and its availability.

    Supplementing with vegetable oils can add a significant amount of calories. Each tablespoon of vegetable oil (regardless of type) contains about 120 calories. An 8-oz cup of dry kibble typically provides between 350 and 480 calories. Therefore a tablespoon of added oil can calorically replace 1/4 cup of kibble -- owners of overweight dogs take note!

  • Funny you should ask - I am a firm believer in supplements and have often joked I should buy stock in Derm Caps with as many people as I have converted to using them! I have found, in addition to making the coat softer and silkier, it greatly reduces shedding. There have been times when my male's coat would just feel like velvet. On one occasion we ran out and couldn't get to the store for over a week and even in that short of time I found a difference. I started the puppy on them as soon as I took her off puppy food. I have not tried some of the other oils and supplements as with only one dog the cost is not really a factor and I like the convenience of dropping one caplet in her food every morning. I am anxious to see whatother responses you get as there really aren't many articles written on this but yet it is such an important part of condition.

  • I use "LIPIDERM",it comes in both liquid and capsule forms. As far as I know, at least among us the club members here in this area seem to prefer it to any others. I think it's much better than those...flax seed oil, sunflower oil, or even fish oil. Because Lipiderm has all the three omega fatty acids: 3, 6, 9 and vitamin A & E, Linoleic and Alpha-Linolenic... all the good stuff, formulated just for dogs. It's kind of expensive but after using it, I think it's worth every penny!! The dogs have wonderful soft coats, velvet feeling to the touch, with glossy and shiny coat. Besides, dogs tend to have less dandruff on the coat and less shedding. I always get compliments from passer-by at the park when they pet my dals, they would exclaim in surprise how soft their coats are, feel like velvet...

    I think a few years back, in the GAZETTE magazine or so, had an article about "Lipiderm" in it. The other interesting find on this is that, besides Lipiderm being a natural supplements, it is water soluble which makes it different than most fatty acids which are oil-base. It also does act like a natural anti-inflammatory of the skin, due to allergy, itchy skin, and what not.

    I usually would tell people to try Lipiderm on their dogs at least a month to really see a good result. Just follow the instruction on the bottle. With the regular formula (capsules): with dals weigh between 31-70 lbs. = recommended 2-3 caps/day (under normal condition to maintain good coat), but I see a breeder friend who would give her pregnant and nursing bitches double their normal dosage. They also come in concentrated formula for large breed, so you don't have to give them that many capsules as you would with the regular formula (for small and medium breeds). So far, I see pet stores like PetsMart and Petco carry them. Most mail-order stores have them as well.

    And.. NO, we've never had a loose stool or soft stool problem from giving Lipiderm. My dal girl likes to pop the fish oil capsules in her mouth, she'll eat it plain but Lipiderm has a bit bitter taste than fish oil, I just put it in with her food. She doesn't like the liquid kind (guess it's because of the bitterness), but then my older boy doesn't like the capsules, always left them behind... Sure enough, I have to get both kinds just to suit his and her royal highness's' likings!!!

  • My Dals get a Vit E in the AM and a Fish oil cap in the PM. I've been doing it for about 2 years. Much cheaper way to do it than the Derm Caps I did for about 4 years. I buy them at Costco. cheep cheep. My bitch has NEVER had a skin bump of any kind, not even fleas... and the male only had a few on his head when he was on the road with a handler many, many years ago. Their coats are soooo lush (not long...) I have to strip it out when they are blowing!

  • I use cod liver oil pills with my guys. $5.00 for a big bottle at Costco. They were all getting one a day and I noticed a decrease in shedding. One dog still had dander and excess shedding so I increased his dosage to 2 a day and saw a dramatic change in his coat after about a month. No dander and little shedding. My weim also has a much softer coat than her litter mates and her parents. I'm sure that is due to cod liver oil.

  • I too use the fish oil once a day and get more compliments on the dogs' coats. It works great for my four-legged ones.

  • I have been cooking for my dals for over 30 years..yes..I said "COOKING"..I know a lot of "dog people" believe in feeding raw food to their dogs..but my dog get plenty of raw fruits, vegetables, and fresh ground lamb as well. The only oil used in this house is OLIVE oil ..did you ever hear of an Italian cooking with any other kind???? so I cook for the dogs with it as well..they also get vit E, primrose oil, flaxseed oil and cod liver oil but NEVER all together..every day they get a different one..Too much oil will prevent absorption of other vitamins . My dogs coat are great including my two terriers..and vet bill???! The only vet bill I have is when I take my two vets out for dinner!

  • You should keep in mind if you are feeding EFA the gel caps usually contain Vit E, too much vitamin E will cause the body to shed the excess and your Dal may end up with a Vit E deficiency.

  • I have also found olive oil to be great. I use it every other day as part of the PM meal. On the days I don't use olive oil I rotate through flax, peanut, sesame, and corn(from the health food store). The dogs also get the fats that naturally occur in their raw meat.

  • We have used several different supplements over the years. Can honestly say, we have not found one superior to another. In fact, coats stay about the same no matter what we use or DON'T use. Seems that either the dog has a soft, fine, dense coat - or the harder, less dense easy-to-keep-clean, coat.

  • I use Derm caps on the bitch and Nutra coat on the dog - reason - I don't have one. Was interested in the the fish oil caps that someone mentioned. I may give them a try The standard calls for a hard coat, but like many others, I prefer a nice soft coat.

  • I'm feeding my adult dogs Innova + 1tsp ACV (apple cider vinegar) + 1 tsp flax oil. Pups start out on California Natural for Puppies and now are on Innova.

  • Dog #1 Holistic Vet recommend: 2 Cod Liver Oil Cap a day. He has not had any coat problems, with only minimal daily shedding. He does a major shed when the seasons change, otherwise, not too bad - really. Dog #2 has only had one problem, after tangling with some kind of weed in a friends yard. Seems to be recovering without medication, just a bath and 2 cod liver oil caps per day. Coat is already coming back. (It was looking like a adolescent male with the midwest crud)

  • I only have two Dals, so cost in a factor but not as much as for those with ten or twelve dogs. I have used Show Winner in the past and got very good results. However, I can't find it anymore. I have a friend who prefers Pilgrims' Pride EFA products. She buys them over the Internet and the company often runs 2 for 1 specials.

  • We've been using fish oil for several years. We feed ProPlan, and the dogs' coats were always good, but they are softer with the fish oil, and I like that. Since its so dry here, all the dogs get one twice a day with their food. We get the large bottles (with big capsules) at Costco. I've only seen a problem when a dog got into the bottle, loose stools. Used to use Lipiderm on select dogs, but the fish oil seems to do as well at less cost. With 12 dogs, Lipiderm could get REAL expensive....

  • I have used fish oil in the past, but have found that the dogs urine and the dogs themselves start to smell strongly of FISH. It's definitely less expensive then Derm Caps, but being the picky guy I am I prefer my dogs to not reek of fish. I have also found that once my dogs retire from the ring their coats are always soft and glossy without any supplements. This makes me wonder if there is a hormonal link to coat problems in Dals. I don't think its stress it least in my guys because I only show about 25 to 30 times a year. I also see less coat problems in bitches then in the boys and coat problems usually start with my guys at adolescence. So maybe it is the increase in testosterone and the decrease in estrogen levels that effect the coat.

  • In reference to your query on the EFAs: I've used olive, peanut, grapeseed (although a little pricey), oils for several years. I also use a fish oil capsule a couple times a week. The girls get 1 T. of the oils with their breakfast each day. I give a T. of the flaxseed oil with their dinner.I've also used ground flaxseed on occasion. The coat on my liver bitch is a little soft-but she has always had a softer coat. The two black girls have thick coats, but they have the proper texture. All have intense pigment and the coats are always glossy. I do not know if I can attribute their coat condition exclusively to the oils. I do feed the BARF diet and think it makes a big difference in now they look, feel, etc. BTW - they really do not shed much!

  • I've used Derm Caps extra strength for years...ever since we had our first Dal with the allergy problems. The UW Vet School recommended them and they work great. I give 1 capsule a day to everyone except one Dal who likes to lick her feet and has lots of black nails and another who seems to have some allergy problems that have not been a big issue this summer (Thank goodness!). They each get 2 a day. The UW dermatologist recommended three extra strength caps a day -- apparently at this dosage level it also acts as an anti-inflammatory. I use them with everyone, particularly those dogs with lots of black nails, . Whenever I run out, I see those black nails become ragged and splintery. For some reason, they are harder than the white? Seems to help their coats, too, and I rarely have problems with split ears. Least expensive source for DermCaps I've found is Revival Animal Health (have things for all sorts of animals) in Iowa... Even shipping UPS ground, I get my order next day. They offer breeders discounts, too.

  • I always use Flax Seed Oil from the Health Food Store. It needs to be the cold processed kind in the black bottle in a refrigerated section. I have had great luck with that. I have used in on bitches when they start doing that horrible shedding after nursing puppies. The difference in coat texture shows up in a few short days.

More general information

  • (Used with permission from the Veterinary Professional list:)

    Therapy now leans toward high n-3 fatty acids, and sources high in fish oil seem to be preferred (we use generic menhaden or salmon oil in our practice, although 3-V caps are one veterinary source). Vegetable and other meat fats are too high in n-6 and other fatty acids. A very good review of commercial products containing omega-3 and -6 fatty acids can be found in an older review paper published in one of the smaller veterinary journals a few years ago, by Phil Roudebush. I can't find the reference on this computer, but your Hill's rep could probably get it for you.

    Fish oil contains pre-formed EPA and DHA, and fish oil is what has been used in most studies showing benefit of fatty acid supplementation. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil, as contained in Missing Link, contain another n-3 fatty acid - ALA. In humans, ALA is converted to EPA and DHA at 10% efficiency, and in cats, it isn't converted at all. In dogs, a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that supplementation with ALA did not raise blood DHA levels. Although Missing Link and flaxseed products may actually help some animals and improve coats, I suspect that it's because it's a general nutritional supplements with a little extra good quality fat and a lot of vitamins and minerals. If there are real inflammatory processes involved, such as atopy leading to skin lesions described by the original poster, I think fish oil will be the most effective, least expensive and most available supplement to try. My dose is one regular strength (1000mg fish oil, 300mg of DHA and EPA) per 10-15 pounds of dog or cat.

    Susan G. Wynn, DVM
    Marietta, GA

  • This came from the K9Kidneys list and is used with permission. It contains lots of great information.

    Where I live, fish oil supplements (including fish body oils, salmon oil and cod liver oil commonly do not contain omega 6. Omega 6 supplements are usually separate in the form of evening primrose oil, or included in general omega supplements which include omegas 3, 6 and 9.

    Some other notes on omega 3 and 6:

    "The omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are degraded to different eicosanoids. Preliminary studies suggest that diets high in omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids preserve renal function in dogs with induced renal failure whereas diets high in omega 6 fatty acids hasten decline." When I questioned my vet about omega 3 and 6, he advised that omegas 3 and 6 work in a complementary manner. A certain amount of omega 6 is necessary. Our natural diet contains much more omega 6 than 3, and that is why we need to supplement it with omega 3, especially for renal failure. Dietary sources of omega-6 fatty acids include animal tissue and plant seeds, while cold water marine fish oils, flax seed and plant leaves contain omega-3 fatty acids."

    "Functions of essential fatty acids

    • Failure to provide essential omega-6 fatty acids in the diet results in poor growth, failure of sexual maturation, weight loss, poor wound healing, increased susceptibility to infections, hair loss and scaly dermatitis.

    Safety issues

    • Dietary supplementation with large doses of polyunsaturated fatty acids is potentially harmful, as they are inherently unstable and require antioxidant protection in the form of extra provision of vitamin E. Oxidation of fatty acids can occur during prolonged storage (over 6 months) or if insufficient anti-oxidant is present in the diet, impairing their function (Buffington, 1987).

    • The toxicity of omega-3 fatty acid sources is another area of concern. Cold water marine fish oils are often contaminated by heavy metals and pesticides, and are also very rich in vitamin A and D, so large doses carry the potential for intoxication with these substances.

    • There are also concerns that long-term supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids may induce partial omega-6 fatty acid deficiency and reduce the anti-inflammatory potential of linoleic acid and its metabolites.

    • High doses of omega-3 fatty acids may also alter platelet function to the extent that haemostasis is impaired. Significant increases in bleeding times have been recorded in some studies on fish oil supplements in dogs and cats (Landhmore et al., 1986). Other side effects reported include lethargy, pruritis, diarrhoea and urticaria.

    • Depression of normal immune function is also a potential side-effect. Until new data have been published in this area, omega-3 fatty acid supplements should be used with caution."

  • A most useful posting from one of the list members states:

    "A number of years ago we had a discussion on an earlier Dal list on the use of EFA supplementation. Digging into my archives I located some comments I made at that time.

    I have looked at the potential benefits and economy of supplementing with polyunsaturated oils of various types and for various purposes. First, as most of you know, Donald Collins, "The Collins Guide to Dog Nutrition", was probably the earliest proponent of fatty acid supplementation, primarily for the additional concentrated calories. He states (p 179), "[Corn Oil] the best fatty acid supplementation, at a price any dog feeder can afford." However, his primary reason for pushing corn oil was the problem with rancidity of the oils prepackaged in kibbled rations.

    It later became obvious to nutritionists, human and canine, alike, that most vegetable oils contain virtually all of the so-called Omega-6 oils and very little of the Omega-3 oils, (also known as linoleic and linolenic fatty acids, FAs, respectively). Both Omega-6 and Omega-3 FAs are essential to the human diet, that is, they cannot be derived from other sources. I read recently that canines do not require linolenic Fas, AAFCO Nutrient profiles as quoted in TODAY'S BREEDER, issue 20, p 5, but I feel that this may well change as the benefits of balanced EFAs become apparent.

    Oil of Evening Primrose does contain a reasonable balance of both FAs: 72 g/100g of linoleic and 8.6 g/100g of gamma linolenic, but I have found it to be fairly expensive at the health food stores that carry it. OTOH, flaxseed (linseed) oil is reasonably priced and contains the mix: 18 g/100g of linoleic and a whopping 45 g/100g of linolenic. Only perilla oil has a higher linolenic percentage, and I haven't found any affordable sources for it. It would seem that if FA supplementation is to be done to the degree that is dietarily significant, flaxseed oil would seem to be the way to go (unless there are some other benefits to be found in the more expensive oil of evening primrose). By dietarily significant I would assume nominally 0.5 to 1 Tbsp per day which amounts to 7 to 15 g (and about 70 to 135 calories). Capsules are often formulated in 1 g sizes which means about 7 - 15 capsules/day.

    As far as the oil, corn oil isn't all that digestible and doesn't contain the fatty acids necessary for boosting the immune system or making any kind of marked difference in your [dog], but any oil is better than no oil! You may want to try and find some fish oil, even cod liver, rather than corn.

    First, corn oil isn't that bad -- and cod liver oil isn't that good! The classic text on feeding your dog, "The Collins Guide to Dog Nutrition," Donald R. Collins, DVM, touts the benefits and economy of adding corn oil to the dog's diet. Collins states: "It is my opinion that fatty acid supplements constitute one of the biggest wastes of money made by the dog feeder. They are usually bought to improve the dog's haircoat or general condition. The only problem most dogs suffering from dull haircoat or poor condition have, is a lack of total digestible calories -- not a deficiency of fatty acids. Many dogs which appear to be responding to a fatty acid supplement are actually responding to the addition of calories to their diet, calories provided by ALL the fats in the supplement. ... [corn oil], the best fatty acid supplement, at a price any dog feeder can afford. Corn oil, fed at sufficient levels to provide a dog with the fat and energy itneeds, will also provide a dog with more than enough fatty acids." Collins fails to note that corn oil (as well as most other vegetable oils) is nearly all omega-6 with little or no omega-3 FAs.

    Next, cod liver oil, which has a better balance of linoleic (Omega-6) EFAs and linolenic (Omega-3) EFAs, is toxic at high doses ("The Omega-3 Phenomenon," by Donald Rudin, MD and Clara Felix). It also has a very high level of cholesterol (1000 mg per 100 g compared with 312 mg per 100 g for whole eggs). The toxicity of cod liver oil apparently arises because of the high levels of vitamin A that it contains. As is well known, vitamin A (and D) is fat soluble, stored in the liver, and is toxic if you OD. What constitutes an overdose for humans depends on the individual, but some people react to as little as a single 20,000 IU capsule, while others take 50,000 IU daily for years with no ill effects ("The Doctor's Vitamin & Mineral Encyclopedia," Sheldon S. Hendler, MD, PhD). I would suggest that, if you desire a balanced linolenic/linoleic EFA supplement, you choose flaxseed oil, oil of evening primrose, or fish body oils. It should be noted, however, that all these oils are highly perishable, have a short shelf life and need to be refrigerated; they are best preserved using vitamin E.

    According to my reference, "The Omega-3 Phenomenon", by Rudin & Felix, the linolenic (Omega-3) content of safflower oil is insignificant, as is the case with most other vegetable oils. To be specific, the safflower oil listing is as follows: linoleic 58g/100g, linolenic 0g/100g, total EFA 58g/100g, (non-essential FA) NEFA 33g/100g, overall fat content 100%. The only vegetable oils that are listed with any significant Omega-3 at all are: chestnut, hempseed, perilla, soybean, walnut, wheat germ all with alpha linoleic FA and evening primrose with gamma linoleic. The alpha - gamma distinction refers to the location of the unsaturated carbon-hydrogen bond in the molecule.

    Perhaps a quote from the referenced book (p 11) might help:
    "The work that is done by essential fatty acids (EFA) in our bodies - from assuring growth in children to maintaining cell membranes and producing special hormone-like substances (prostaglandins) - cannot be done by Omega-6 alone; Omega-3 EFA are also needed. It now appears that for many purposes Omega-3 EFA actually do a much better job than Omega-6. The best job is done when they are combined in the right proportions."

    Whether this applies equally to canines as it does to humans remains an unresolved question.

  • This posting poses an interesting question.

    I'll say off the top that I don't use supplements other than yoghurt and some vegies - not through any particular philosophy but more that I never seem to remember to give them (or take them myself for that matter).

    However, one thing I have noticed over the years of going to the various shows in the US, is that "in general" the coats on our dogs here in BC seem to be softer than many of the coats on dals I've seen at US shows. This has seemed to hold true even when the bloodlines were very close. I myself have dals with coats of varying lengths but all are very soft. I don't know if I'd call them plush. There are local people here with dogs from other lines as well. Although they feed a raw diet or half raw diet - their coats seem to be the same as mine.

    In the lower mainland here, the UV index tends to be quite low to medium low - even on hot days. We also don't get a huge temperature variation. And our water tends to be soft. I've been wondering if these three things might be factors in the softness of dal coats the way they are with human hair: UV index, temperature variation, and water.

    A dal person from New Zealand was up here last week and I had a chance to visit with her. She commented on how soft the dal coats were here compared to at home in New Zealand. The UV index in New Zealand and Australia is very severe these days even on cloudy days.

    I thought that might be true (though don't know for sure) for some of the southern states such as Florida and Texas.

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