The Importance of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) for Pets
Veterinarian Reviewed on August 17, 2011 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
EFA’s are just as important in our pet’s diet as they are in human diets. There has been much research on the importance of essential fatty acids in the daily diet and on the management of various degenerative disease. EFA’s function primarily as a natural anti-inflammatory and are therefore used extensively in the treatment of many skin conditions. EFA’s help reduce the inflammatory process that predisposes the initiation of many other disease processes as well. They have shown benefit in the treatment for cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cancer therapy and kidney disease.
The ratio of the types of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is important for the therapeutic benefits to occur. Commercial pet food manufacturers attempt to address this by adding poor quality chicken fat supplements to their food. These fat additives are often destroyed in the manufacturing process and as a result most commercially available pet foods are deficient in EFAs. Because of this it is essential to supplement the diet with a fresh source of omega-3 fatty acids. One of the best supplements is fish oil which contains high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which helps mediate the body’s response to cancer cells. Research shows it can slow tumor growth and improve the cell’s response to chemotherapy. There have also been reports of it slowing down the progression of heart disease and reducing inflammation associated with arthritis. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flax seed oil which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects; Evening Primrose oil contains omega-6 FA which has anti-inflammatory effects; Borage oil which has proven beneficial for skin conditions, and Hemp oil which may be beneficial in the treatment of cancer in animals.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan