Is fat important to my dog’s health and, if so, what’s the best kind?
Dietary fat is the most concentrated source of energy for the dog. It also provides essential fatty acids and aids in nutrient utilization and transportation. Fat is involved in cell integrity and metabolic regulation. So, yes, fat is important to your dog’s overall health!
Saturated fat is found primarily in animal sources while polyunsaturated fat is found mostly in plant sources. Saturated fat provides greater energy for the dog than carbohydrates. In fact, as long as the diet provides sufficient glucose precursors (amino acids, fats, etc.), dietary carbohydrates are not needed for growth and maintenance.
Fats (and oils) are composed of fatty acids, sometimes referred to as vitamin F. Fatty acids are found in both animal and plant sources. The two types of essential fatty acids (EFAs) most recognized as important to canine health are omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3s include alpha-linolenic (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-6s include linoleic acid (LA) and gamma-linolenic acids (GLA). Trans-fatty acids, dangerous free radicals, are formed when unsaturated oils are exposed to heat, light, or oxygen. Omega-3s are the most sensitive and are often deficient in cooked or processed pet food products. Thus, some dog guardians choose to add supplemental Omega-3 oils to their dog’s diet to replace those that have been destroyed during heat processing.
There are many types of oils available, but most dogs do best on one from an animal source such as fish oil. There are plant sources of omega-3s, but some dogs do not make the conversion within their bodies that is needed to make the plant form usable. If you choose to add EFAs to your dog’s food, please remember to choose the highest quality available. The oil label should state that it’s been tested free of heavy metals, PCBs, and other contaminants. Even though fats and EFAs are important to good health, too much can put a strain on organs such as your dog’s liver and pancreas. Avoid cooked fats (grease) or poor quality products. And remember that a little goes a long way!