Our 14-year-old dog has arthritis in his front legs and muscle atrophy in his back legs. We were thinking about putting him on a fish oil supplement to see if that helps. What should we look for when shopping for a fish oil supplement?
Senior Doggie in Shepherd Park
Dear Senior Doggie,
Clearly, you’re doing something right to have a happy and (mostly) healthy 14-year-old dog, so kudos to you for your care and compassion! And you’re right to look into a fish oil supplement. Fish oil is one of the best supplements to add to a dog’s diet and it has myriad health benefits — plus, in my experience, dogs enjoy the taste of it, so it’s not typically a struggle to get a dog to consume it.
Benefits of fish oil
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which dogs (just like humans) cannot produce on their own. So, diet is the only way to take in these vital nutrients. The omega-3 fatty acids are considered the “good” kind of fat as they protect your dog’s heart, promote a healthier coat and skin, and boost their immune system. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil also are known to help with arthritis and other joint disorders.
How to choose a supplement
As with most changes to your dog’s diet, it wouldn’t hurt to call your vet for a little guidance in choosing the right fish oil supplement for your pet. Your vet will take into consideration your dog’s breed, age and level of health when advising you on a supplement.
The good news is that fish oil supplements come in several different forms. A popular one is a liquid form. For the liquid fish oil supplement, you simply squirt it on top of your dog’s food. Some liquid supplements smell strongly of fish (and this could be a good or bad thing, depending on your dog’s palate and your sense of smell), but some do not. If you decide to try the liquid form, it might take a few tries to find the formula that works best for you and your dog. Also, a reported downside of liquid fish oil is that it might be a bit greasy and messy. So, if your dog has long hair–especially around the mouth–this could present a problem.
For ease of use, many people choose to go with a fish oil capsule. This can typically be placed in your dog’s bowl and he might woof it right up, or you might need to hide it in cheese. Either way, a capsule is good because you know that your dog is consuming the appropriate dosage and there is no odor or mess.
Storing your supplement
One last tip: Pay close attention to the advisories on the bottle for how to properly store your supplement. Fish oil can “oxidize” and go bad if not stored properly. So, be sure to have space available in the fridge, if need be, or purchase only as much as you’ll need for a finite amount of time, so that you don’t over-purchase and get stuck with a bunch of bad fish oil.
While the jury is still out on whether or not you’ll see any real improvements in your dog’s arthritis or muscle atrophy, one thing is for sure: The addition of fish oil to his diet will make life a bit easier for him and might even add some pep to his step as well.
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