Like humans, dogs need to ingest certain types of essential fatty acids.
Yet conflicting advice exists about what types of essential fatty acids dogs need. I decided to look it up myself in the online Merck Veterinary Manual --- an excellent source for information on animal health and nutrition.
[Note: To minimize confusion, mention of omega-6 fatty acids are color-coded in red. Mention of omega-3 fatty acids are color-coded in blue.]
According to Merck, dogs need linoleic acid; an omega-6 essential fatty acid found, “in appreciable amounts,” in corn and soy oil.
The Merck Manual further states, “Recent studies suggest that α-linolenic acid is also essential in dogs...” A-linolenic acid (ALA) is alpha linolenic acid, the omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, flax and other oils.
It's important for Doggie Chefs to know HOW MUCH of these fatty acids to feed a dog.
The Merck Manual states the amount of dietary ALA (alpha linolenic acid, omega-3) a dog needs depends on the diet’s LA (linoleic acid, omega-6) content. It’s important a dog consumes the correct balance (ratio) of omega-3s to omega-6s to avoid health problems.
So in addition to getting the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio right (click here for my post about that), Doggie Chefs must also be careful to give their dogs the right omega-3 to omega-6 ratio!
It sounds difficult, but it’s easy to do.
According to the Merck Manual, the required amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are presently unknown but the current MINIMAL recommendation for an adult dog is, "0.44 g/kg diet ALA (omega-3) when linoleic acid (omega-6) is 11 g/kg diet (dry-matter basis)."
*** To put it plainly, it's recommeded an adult dog consume a ratio of AT LEAST .44 alpha linolenic acid (omega-3) to 11.0 linoleic acid (omega-6) ratio. Which is:
AT LEAST 1 part omega-3 fats: 25 parts omega-6 fats
Gracie's diet contains both omega-6 and omega-3 fats.
Most of the foods I feed her contain a lot of omega-6 fats. I cook her eggs and meats in vegetable oils high in omega-6 fats, such as corn or canola (which also contains omega-3 fats). I also add ¼ teaspoon of cold pressed sunflower oil (high in omega-6 fats) to Gracie’s food once a week.
To provide omega-3 fats I feed Gracie fish, two to four days a week. I also sprinkle about 1/8 teaspoon of ground flax seed on her food once a week although I'm not convinced it's a great nutritional benefit. I think fish is a better source of omega-3 essential fatty acids than flax. One time I took a vet's advice For a while and supplemented Gracie's meals with small amounts of flax oil. I did that for a few months. Another time I gave Gracie a fish oil supplement for extra omega-3 fats for a few months. I added about 3/4 of the liquid contained in one fish gel oil capsule to a meal once of twice a week. Now I prefer Gracie get most of her omega-3 fats from whole foods, like fish; rather than from oil supplements or from ground flax seeds.