Phytoplankton, Fish oil or Raw Fish? Safe Ways to Give Your Dog Omega 3

NOTE: If you are using fish oil: Using just any fish oil truly is not safe. Rancid fish oil is a huge problem in the industry and this can have life threatening effects on a dog. Source is extremely important when using fish oil.

As our society changes and scientific progress is being made, we now have an abundance of information available to us about ways to improve the lives of our pets. This can be overwhelming, but one thing that has become abundantly apparent, is that dog’s need Omega 3’s in their diet. One reason for this, is that they get an abundance (or over-abundance) of Omega 6 and 9 in the food that they eat. Too much omega 6 and 9 can lead to inflammation, chronic disease, faster aging and slower healing. This was not an issue for the dog’s ancestors, because their diets were not nearly as laden with these oils as they are today. There are many contributing reasons for this, but one simple reason is livestock feed. Today our meats contain drastically higher amounts of omega 6 and 9 due to what these animals are fed. The most effective solution for the overabundance of these oils and the diseases they create, is introducing Omega 3. This balances the omega 6 and 9, reduces inflammation, promotes healthy healing and eliminates many causes for chronic disease. Omega 3’s (EPA and DHA) also improve brain function, prevent dementia, slow aging, promote skin, coat and hair growth, improve joint health and reproductive health. We can help reduce the omega 6’s in the diet through feeding things such as raw, clean, grass-fed meats, avoiding vegetable oils and staying grain free, but for many dogs this simply is not enough. Dog’s can’t produce Omega 3’s on their own and this is what makes it such an important supplement for them to get. The best sources of these for our dogs, come from the ocean. This is because unlike people, dogs can’t convert plant based sources of omega 3 (such as flax) and therefore need the DHA and EPA in pure form. This translates to meaning marine animals and algae. This brings me to the main point of this article: trying to decide which source of marine omega 3 is best.

*Note: Always stay within feeding guidelines for all types of omega 3 supplements. Too much of any of these may cause very adverse effects including difficulty clotting blood, slower would healing and proper immunity responses where inflammation is necessary to trigger the body’s appropriate response.

After an exhausting amount of research, I basically came to the conclusion that there is no easy answer to this. Each and every leading source available today has pros and cons. It mostly boils down to just what works best for each individual. I personally try to do a combination because it is what works for us.

Raw Fish

Pros:

  • Whole food is the most natural way for a dog to receive nutrients – I try to always go here first
  • The Omega oils are much less likely to be affected by oxidation or getting rancid
  • Parasites can be easily eliminated by freezing
  • Many fish contain additional nutrients including high quality protein, amino acids and vitamin D. This can be very beneficial when fed in moderation because dog’s can’t absorb vitamin D from the sun. (Amounts should be limited here and depend on what else the dog is eating because vitamin D is fat-soluble. Too much can be toxic and too little can cause damage as well. It’s always best to be moderate and ask a vet.)
  • Extra sourcing precautions should be taken with shellfish, (very clean water only) but certain shellfish such as mussels and oysters can be fed safely. They don’t have bones. They contain less omega 3 but still provide some. Mussels for example, contain approximately 665mg per 3 oz serving.  Green Lipped mussels from New Zealand, also make great joint supplements and also provide an array of other nutrients that make them beneficial including manganese, amino acids, antioxidants and enzymes. Oysters contain about 558 mg omega 3 per 3 oz serving and also have B12, iron, copper, calcium, phosphorus, selenium and zinc.
  • Fats contained in fish help your dog’s body absorb nutrients, fat-soluble vitamins and minerals
  • Most Fatty fish contain approximately 1-2 grams of omega 3 per 3 oz serving, but this varies greatly between fish (this example was taken from salmon). Sardines contain approximately 1.8 g of omega 3 per 4 oz serving.

Cons:

  • A lot of dog’s refuse to eat fish
  • Toxins are stored in fish skin and fat
  • Fish bones can be a danger if swallowed whole instead of chewed (but processed fish is only considered safe for humans)
  • Salmon from the pacific northwest is not safe due to the presence of a particular parasite that can be deadly, its just not worth the risk.
  • Many people choose Sardines and Hearing because they are both high, well-balanced sources of DHA and EPA and dogs seem to eat them more easily. The downside is that even though these fish don’t contain high levels of mercury, they DO very often come from the contaminated waters of the pacific. This means they may have been contaminated by radiation poisoning and contain high levels of strontium, among other things. Whats worse is that MOST sardines come from Japan (where the radiation levels are the highest) and even companies that have no indications on their label, may be sourcing their sardines from these contaminated waters. There are ways to find safe sardines, it just takes a little work. And you can get them boneless.
  • Small fish either eaten whole or processed contain the bones. This means when eating fish from the contaminated waters, the dog is eating the toxic selenium directly because it is stored in the bones. (This also makes fish oil made from small fish more risky.)
  • They carry the same risk of heavy metal toxins as fish oil does including mercury poisoning.
  • Because our oceans are so heavily contaminated we also have to be concerned about industrial chemicals such as PCB’s, dioxins and pesticides
  • Some fish contain high amounts of omega 6’s (such as catfish and tilapia) this could cause more harm to an animal who is already eating a diet high in omega 6. They are also not high enough in omega 3 to provide a benefit.
  • Even wild and sustainably caught fish pose a risk. Many larger fish are simply too high in toxins to ever be safe including, tuna, mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish and grouper to name just a few.
  • Farm raised fish often contain growth hormones and residue of drugs meant to prevent diseases.
  • You can research the fish source, but it is not as easy to be confident it has been tested for purity (and you can’t do this at all with fresh fish)

* A good reference guide for sardines is Here I buy coles or crown prince now

Fish Oil

Pros:

  • Extremely easy to administer
  • Easy to absorb
  • You don’t need a lot
  • Easy to measure amounts of DHA and EPA
  • The safest source seems to be cephalopods such as octopus and squid. They lack bones that store radioactive substances and have very short life spans that keep their mercury and other heavy metal toxin levels at a minimum. They also contained high and balanced levels of both DHA and EPA
  • When produced properly and stored in dark glass ONLY, oxidation levels are usually much less.
  • Rancid oils often have a smell to them. Even when oxidation is taking place, it can be avoided by using a reputable manufacturer combined with proper use and storage.
  • Fish oil is only as good as the amount of DHA and EPA that it contains. Each one is different, but you can tailor it to be the exact amount that your dog needs.

Cons:

  • Heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. Heavy metals can cause nervous system dysfunction, epilepsy, blindness, certain cancers, irreversible liver and kidney damage and even death.
  • Other toxins such as those from PCB’s, dioxins and furans may be present – same as with raw fish and most manufacturers will not disclose this.
  • Mixed oil blends often pose the highest risk of toxins
  • These toxins are stored in fat, so the oil is highly concentrated in them if they are present.
  • The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are extremely vulnerable to oxidative damage. This basically means when the oil mixes with oxygen, the fat particles break down into smaller compounds such as MDA (malondialdehyde) and contain free-radicals. Both of these damage proteins, DNA, other cellular structures and can lead to disease. Most fish oil has some of this before you even buy it. Sometimes its hard to tell if an oil is rancid but it is CRUCIAL information because rancid oil will do a lot more harm than good!
  • Fish oil stored in plastic (even dark plastic) is at a MUCH higher risk of oxidative damage. Dark glass is always a safer option. Opening the bottle does this damage also, so it is always best to keep this at a minimum.
  • A lot of fish oil comes from salmon sources in the pacific. These fish carry with them the extra threat of being contaminated with radiation poisoning. Fish from these waters are testing positive for radioactive particles such as cesium-37 and strontium-90 which can be deposited into bone marrow when ingested and cause innumerable problems including leukemia and cancer.
  • Krill is a good source of omega 3 but it is being over-fished and is not stable for the environment. Also, the added antioxidant “benefits” have absolutely no proof of making any type of effective difference.
  • For source transparency the oil must be third party tested. If it isn’t, it’s essential to ask for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) from the manufacturer before you know the analysis is legitimate.

*NOTE: When using fish oil it’s good to look for one with vitamin E in it. “It can help prevent the oxidative damage in omega-3 oil. Not only that, but it may also benefit your dog’s skin health, immune system, osteoarthritis, and more.” bncpet

Phytoplankton

Pros:

  • Easy to administer
  • Easily absorbed
  • You don’t need a lot
  • Easy to measure amounts of DHA and EPA
  • Marine Algae, plant based
  • Does not accumulate heavy metal toxins
  • Farm raising keeps harvesting them from affecting our oceans
  • Is rich and balanced in DHA and EPA
  • Most dogs are mineral deficient and it also contains extra added benefits including trace minerals, manganese, selenium, chlorophyll, magnesium, iodine, antioxidants (such as superoxide dismutase which removes toxins and heavy metals from the body), essential amino acids, protein, vitamins and carotenoids. These are extremely beneficial to overall heath and can prevent and reverse serious disease.
  • It already comes in an easily digestible source so these nutrients can be absorbed in to the system more easily than if they came from other plant based sources. This makes is very restorative and easy on the liver.
  • Phytoplankton contain approximately 14.4 mg of omega 3 per gram of powder

Cons:

  • Almost 100% of it is genetically modified (GMO)
  • Almost all of these producers are being controlled by Monsanto (despite what they advertise)
  • It must be sustainably grown on land and be without any fillers
  • It must be free of radiation, heavy metal and other toxins
  • It is difficult to find transparent sourcing information
  • Farm raised waters can still get contaminated
  • It contains no fat or the benefits that go along with it
  • Has benefits very similar to other algae (such as spirulina) that are easier to get source information on

For more info on this, or a purchasing reference, this article is a good start.

Conclusion:

The cons lists look much longer than the pros list on these. This is misleading though, because I listed the universal pros in the heading. I am in no way trying to discourage adding Omega 3’s into your dog’s diet! It is called an essential fatty acid for a reason! They really should have this in their diet. I’m just trying to present all the facts. So many people just find one source and stop, and I don’t think this produces very balanced view points. I do my best to look at every angle.

I choose to supplement with a fish oil that I’ve had years to research and trust, add occasional green lipped mussel powder and feed a small amount of raw fish, also from a trusted source. My dog doesn’t like most fish so, this is just what works for us right now.

I have not had enough time to properly source phytoplankton, so I will not purchase this supplement yet. I also already use spirulina. It contains the other benefits that phytoplankton has, and I have had time to source this correctly. Right now, I’m just using a muti-mineral supplement for this, but the way I found the last spirulina supplement that I used, was by reading articles such as this.  For this reason, I don’t find it necessary to add phytoplankton right now.

Having said that, our oceans are getting more contaminated, not less. If anything changes, and I find a source, I will update immediately.

The two supplants I currently use are:

Feel Good Omega which I also take myself, and for spirulina I use Green Min

These charts are a great resource and quick reference guide for selecting raw fish! I am still actively trying to get my dog to be more open minded, but when making a selection, I start my research here first.

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