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Essential fatty acids for dog and cat food

The intestinal flora in dogs and cats Reading Essential fatty acids for dog and cat food 4 minutes Next Anemia in dogs and cats

Veterinarian Dr. Karin Schlotterbeck explains:

Fats are not automatically bad for our four-legged friends, but can make an essential contribution to their well-being. In this article by our veterinarian Dr. Schlotterbeck you can read what you should pay attention to when it comes to fats in order to best support your animal's health. 

What are fats? 
Along with proteins and carbohydrates, fats are one of the three basic nutrients and take on many important tasks in the bodies of dogs and cats. They are made up of glycerin and various fatty acids. 

Basically there are saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. They differ in their chemical structure; saturated fatty acids do not have so-called carbon atom double bonds, whereas polyunsaturated fatty acids have multiple double bonds in their chemical structure. 

What fats are there and what foods can they be found in? 

Saturated fatty acids are found in meat, cheese, eggs, butter and also in coconut oil and should only be consumed to a limited extent in the diet because they can lead to an increased risk of vascular calcification (arteriosclerosis) by increasing cholesterol, which in turn leads to many heart and circulatory diseases can cause. 

Unsaturated fatty acids are divided into omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The difference between the two lies in their chemical structure. In omega-6 fatty acids, the sixth to last bond in a chain of carbon atoms is a double bond; in omega-3 fatty acids it is the third to last. 

The most important omega-6 fatty acids are linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid and arachidonic acid. Linoleic acid is a so-called essential fatty acid that the body cannot produce itself and therefore has to be absorbed through food. The body can then form the other two important omega-6 fatty acids from linoleic acid. 

What functions do fatty acids have? 
The functions of the omega-6 fatty acid include:
  1. Promote blood clotting 

  2. Blood pressure regulation 

  3. Lowering cholesterol levels 

  4. Supporting growth and repair processes 

  5. Regulation of the water balance 

  6. Supporting skin metabolism 

  7. Supporting the immune system, among other things 


    All omega-3 fatty acids are vital (essential) and must be supplied through food as the body cannot produce them itself. 

    The tasks of omega-3 fatty acids include: 

    1. Supporting brain metabolism 

    2. Support in growth/delaying the aging processes 

    3. Improving the performance and resilience of muscles and joints 

    4. Supporting the healing process of injuries through anti-inflammatory effects 

    5. Supporting skin metabolism 

    6. Supporting kidney function 

    7. Immune system support 

    8. Anticoagulant effect 

    9. Vasodilating effect, among other things 

    Thus, these essential fatty acids have both common and opposing mechanisms of action in the body. While omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant and vasodilating effect, omega-6 fatty acids have exactly the opposite effect. 

    Therefore, attention must be paid to a balanced ratio between the two unsaturated fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are 10x more common in food than omega-3 fatty acids. As a rule of thumb, no more than 4 times the amount of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids. 


    How can dogs and cats eat more unsaturated fatty acids? 

    Omega-3 fatty acid suppliers include: 
    • Fatty fish (salmon, cod, cod oil) 

    • Cod liver oil 

    • Algae 

    • Wild 

    • Rapeseed, sunflower, hemp, linseed and walnut oil 

    Omega-6 fatty acid suppliers include: 
    • Rapeseed, sunflower, soybean and linseed oil 

    • chicken fat, 

    • Red meat, 

    • milk 

    When supplementing omega-3 fatty acids in food, a distinction must be made between animal and plant fatty acids. 

    As already mentioned above, animal fatty acids are mainly contained in fish oil from salmon, cod and cod and can be metabolized directly in the organism. 

    The plant-based alternatives also mentioned above, such as hemp, rapeseed and linseed oil, are not quite as effective because they first have to be converted in the organism, which means that a certain part is lost.