6 Healthy Fats to Feed Your Dog
When it comes to fat, there are good fats and unhealthy fats. Good fats in appropriate amounts don't make you fat, so you don't have to stress about giving your dog appropriate amounts of healthy fats in their diet. Pancreatitis Healthy fats in appropriate amounts do not trigger pancretitis in healthy dogs! Did you know that high (healthy) fat diets are commonly used in cancer diets for dogs by the KetoPet Sanctuary and have not yet triggered a case of pancretitis? Pancreatitis is an unfortunate fear some pet parents have which stops them feeding amazing healthy foods to their dogs. Unless a dog is genetically predisposed to the condition such as Miniature Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, and some terrier breeds, pancreatitis is often triggered by an extra consumption of rendered fat, that's why you see some dogs at Christmas come down with the condition after being given Christmas ham and very fatty foods.
The healthy fats we're chasing are primarily the omega-3's. Omega-3's come in 3 main forms but there are 11 in total, EPA, DHA and ALA are the ones you have probably heard of before and these are the ones we'll mainly talk about. ALA's are mostly plant based such as Chia seeds but they don't convert well to EPA and DHA, ALA's are stored and used as energy like other fats. EPA and DHA are mostly found in marine based foods such as fatty fish and algae. Micro algae such as what is found in My Doggie Sea Sprinkles are a great addition.
Rotating through these different omega-3's is the goal and if you tried to include a healthy fat in every meal you would be positively affecting your dogs skin and coat condition, eye health, brain health and general health and wellbeing. Giving puppies foods with omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA is especially important because when fed to dogs, it improves cognitive and neurological development (1). "The brain itself is composed of 50 percent fat, and DHA makes up 10-20 percent of all fats and more than 90 percent of the long-chain PUFAs found in the brain. This explains why DHA is widely believed to play an integral role in the proper development and functioning of the brain, impacting attention, memory, and trainability"(4). In 2012, a study looked at the effects of foods fortified with DHA rich fish oil on cognitive, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal function and other measures of development in 48 healthy Beagle puppies and you bet ya, they found that neurocognitive development following weaning improved cognitive, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions in growing dogs (5). And just to cement that omega-3 (DHA) is positive in cognitive development, a 2017 study conducted by IAMS which is a pet food company found that puppies fed a higher-DHA diet outperformed puppies that were fed a diet lower in DHA in trainability, using a T-maze with a treat in only one arm of the maze (6). In humans, omega-3 is also seen to reduced anger, anxiety and depression states (2). Breeders should also take note because giving human mothers omega-3 during the last semester when omega-3 levels are low can avoid low birth weights (3). Giving omega-3 during pregnancy in dogs was been studied in relation to hip development and no adverse effects were found (1). We personally love Antinol Rapid which is a full spectrum omega-3 supplement whose primary use is to treat dogs with joint disease such as arthritis but it is also used as a joint disease preventative in young dogs. Because it is such an amazing omega-3 supplement, I put puppies on it as soon as they come home. If you would like the details of an online supplier with free shipping, shoot me a message through my contact page.
How much to feed? In most cases, it is a common sense approach, just like how you can take a good guess at what is and isn't an appropriate amount of food for yourself. Where there are existing "guidelines", I have included them. Your dogs poos are a good indicator of how your dog is digesting fat, if they get sloppy poos after adding healthy fats, then back it off to an amount that keeps their digestive system stable. If you find that you cannot add healthy fats even in small amount without upsetting your dogs digestive system, you may need to consider adding a digestive enzyme such as Enzyplex, a visit to your Vet is a good idea as your dog may have a malabsorption issue.
#1 - Avocado
It's ok!!!! It's not going to kill your dog, I promise. Unfortunately a misunderstanding due to a single report of toxicity lead to people believing avocados were unsafe for dogs but the great news is that Proctor and Gamble did a study to put this myth to bed and proved that it is perfectly safe. Feed your dog the flesh of the Avocado just the same as what you would eat yourself, this is the yummy and beneficial part. Rodney Habib and Dr Karen Becker put out a lovely easy to understand video explaining this topic - fast forward to around 1 minute into the video.
If you're feeding a kibble based diet, 1/2 a teaspoon for a small dog, 1/2-1 teaspoon for a medium dog, 1-2 teaspoons for a large+ dog would likely be well tolerated, increase/decrease based on your dogs individual constitution (how their handle different foods). Remember to reduce your dogs kibble on the days you are adding other foods to it so you don't end up with a porky dog. For fresh food feeders, include it in your plant matter ratio at whatever portion of that you feel is appropriate for your dog. Learn about more health benefits of Avocado here
#2 - Nut & Seed Butters
There are so many nut butters on the market today so you don't just have to be restricted to boring peanut butter! Avoid macadamia nuts, they're not safe for dogs.
Read the ingredient label, the less ingredients the better without added sugar, try for an organic nut butter. Many health food stores have nut machines that grind the nuts into 100% nut butters. You do not want see xylitol in the ingredients, this is a common sweetener in America that we do not really see in nut butters in Australia and it is not safe for dogs. Seed butters such as tahini & hemp are also a great addition.
1/4 of a teaspoon for small dogs, 1/2-1 for medium, 1-2 for large+ would be a rough guideline.
#3 - Plant Oils
Not all plant oils are made the same, vegetable oils such as Canola are often regarded as unhealthy. Choose extra virgin cold pressed oils such as Olive, avocado, flaxseed, hempseed etc. A little dash in the bowl based on the size of your dog works well. Oils can oxidize quickly once open and exposed to light, so choose smaller bottles where possible and keep in the fridge or dark cupboard. Coconut oil is one of those more controversial oils, there is always research for and against it as it is technically a saturated fat. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCT's are what healthy people are chasing and you can purchase MCT oils on their own - careful though, start with very small amounts and build up as they can upset tummies if you go hard early. Coconut oil is high in calories, so careful when giving larger amounts.
#4 - Whole Eggs
Not just any egg though, you want pastured hens and this is because they have higher amounts of healthy fats. Eggs are one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, they are a complete protein - if you forget to get your dogs meat out of the freezer, you can offer eggs. There are no guidelines for how many eggs to give, there are only opinions. Many fresh food feeders simply feed eggs when they can get their hands on ethically sourced eggs from pastured hens - Facebook marketplace and Gumtree are good places to look for pastured and backyard hen/duck/quail eggs. For humans, one or more eggs per day (equivalent to 50 grams) increased their risk of diabetes by 60 percent in a study - this study contradicted another study that said to restrict to 7 eggs per week but only for people who had type 2 diabetes. At this time, we do not have those same concerns in dogs.
#5 - Fatty Fish
It is recommended that dogs consume at least 2 meals per week that include fatty fish and this is because these guys have superhero amounts of omega-3 and the average dog diet is quite deficient. Fatty fish include the likes of: Farmed & wild salmon, herring, mussels, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, trout, pollock, cod, bass. Tuna is also a good source but just feed it every now and then if at all as it has higher levels of heavy metals.
If you have concerns about sustainability, then you will need to do another level of research so your buying hobbits match your vision. It doesn't have to get expensive. Get friendly with your local fish shop owner or fish monger and ask for scraps of fatty fish. Many shops have 'off cuts' available for just a few dollars per kilo. If fresh fish is not possible, head to the canned fish section of the supermarket and look for the ones with the lower sodium content. Red salmon has higher omega-3 content than pink so if you see it for a good price, grab it. Avoid tinned fish in oil unless it says "olive oil" otherwise you'll find that it will be a lower quality vegetable oil. Grabbing the fish in Springwater is a good option.
#6 - Seeds
Seeds are a great way of getting ALA omega-3 into your dogs diet.
Consider the likes of:
When giving seeds, they will need to be ground down into a powder otherwise they will just come out the other end whole. One of the coolest things I love about chia seeds, is that they're so full of anti-oxidants and this means you can ground them and not have to worry about the healthy fats becoming rancid like you do with other seeds and nuts you ground or come pre-ground. Eating rancid fats is super unhealthy so we want to avoid that wherever possible. If you're grinding seeds and nuts yourself, you can grind them and pop them in an airtight container then pop in the fridge and use within a week. I do not recommend you buy pre-ground nuts and seeds from the store due to the possibility of rancidity. A $20 coffee grinder from the appliance store will do the job just fine. Chia Seeds have a high soluble fiber content, this means they can absorb 10-12 times their weight in water! For this reason, it is preferred that when giving chia seeds to dogs that you pre-soak them if you want to give higher amounts. If you're only giving small amounts. i.e. a sprinkle then you can give ground or whole seeds sprinkled on your dogs food. To make Chia Seed jelly, take 1/4-1/5 cup of Chia Seeds and add them to 1 cup of water or liquid such as Kefir. Whisk and then let stand for 5 minutes, whisk again and then let stand for 10 minutes, whisk again and then store your Chia seed jelly or pudding in the fridge in an air tight container. You can give around 1/4 of a teaspoon per 5 kilos of body weight - just go with your gut. Start slow and build up as it's super high in fibre. You can freeze but beware, it does expand when frozen. I would not suggest freezing into ice cube moulds unflavoured as many dogs won't be interested, you might like to blend with some kefir and fruit/berries. Learn more about the health benefits of Chia seeds here.
#6 - Full Fat Yogurt
My general advice to all pet parents is to avoid any low fat human product as they contain excess levels of sugar...you know why? Because low fat tastes yuck.
Look for natural Greek yoghurts that are loaded with healthy fats and living bacteria. Always read the ingredient label, the less ingredients the better and without added sugar and sweeteners. Natural yoghurt can be a bit of an acquired taste so just take a small amount initially and mix it in to their meal and build from there.
Come and learn more about feeding fresh food ingredients at our fresh food feeding Facebook group --- (1) Oberbauer AM, Daniels R, Levy K, Famula TR, Mundell P, Kelley R. Maternal omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on offspring hip joint conformation. PLoS One. 2018;13(8):e0202157. Published 2018 Aug 9. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0202157 (2) Fontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Migliorini S, Lodi L. Cognitive and physiological effects of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Invest. 2005 Nov;35(11):691-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2362.2005.01570.x. PMID: 16269019. (3) Clandinin MT, Chappell JE, Leong S, Heim T, Swyer PR, Chance GW. Intrauterine fatty acid accretion rates in human brain: implications for fatty acid requirements. Early Hum Dev. 1980 Jun;4(2):121-9. doi: 10.1016/0378-3782(80)90015-8. PMID: 7408742. (4) American Kennel Club. 2020. Boosting Puppy Brains For Trainability With Omega-3 Fatty Acids – American Kennel Club. [online] Available at: <https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/boosting-puppy-brains-for-trainability-with-omega-3-fatty-acids/> [Accessed 20 November 2020]. (5) Evaluation of cognitive learning, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions in healthy puppies fed foods fortified with docosahexaenoic acid–rich fish oil from 8 to 52 weeks of age
Steven C. Zicker, Dennis E. Jewell, Ryan M. Yamka, and Norton W. Milgram
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, September 1, 2012, Vol. 241, No. 5 , Pages 583-594 (6) Beynen, Anton. (2017). Brain food for puppies. 10.13140/RG.2.2.35496.37126.