good or bad supplement? – In the Name of the Dog

un bon ou mauvais supplément? – Au Nom du Chien


Fish oil is probably the most common natural supplement we give our dog. But is it really a good supplement to give?

This is the question I will try to answer in this article by explaining the advantages, disadvantages and above all, how to choose a quality product by observing a few specific points. Finally, I will tell you what product I use…if I use any of course!

Some of you may remember your mother giving us cod liver oil when we were young. It tasted awful…but supposedly it was good for us! Fortunately, things have changed a lot since then…some for the better and some for the worse.

Essential Fatty Acids

Before talking specifically about fish oil, it is important to understand the different types of fatty acids that exist.

There are two types of fats: facilitating fats and functional fats.

  • Facilitating fats(or saturated fats) serve several purposes in our dog’s food. First of all, they improve the taste of the kibbles (the last production step before packaging is in fact to spray the kibbles with fat to increase their palatability to the dog). In addition, these fats are also transformed into energy and they help in the digestion and absorption of certain vitamins which are soluble in fat. Fat is therefore necessary for the health of the dog and we should not see a negative connotation in it as when we think of fat for us humans. We must not forget that the dog needs only two macronutrients to live: protein and fat. The 3rd macronutrient, carbohydrates,
  • Functional fats (or polyunsaturated fats) on the other hand are actually essential fatty acids and as their name suggests, they are essential to your dog’s health. The downside is that your dog’s body cannot produce them on its own. They will therefore have to be in his food… or in addition.

There are two types of essential fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6.

Omega 3:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid ( EPA )
  • Docosahexaenoic acid ( DHA )


  • Arachidonic acid (AA)
  • Dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA)
  • Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA)
  • Linoleic acid (LA)


The difference between omega-3 and omega-6

Your dog’s health benefits from both types (omega-3 and omega-6) to ensure good growth and development, in addition to ensuring the best possible immune system.

Both omega 3 and 6 have the ability to control hormones and the hormones they control have very different roles:

Omega -6s produce hormones that increase inflammation which in itself is an important immune system response. They also aid in blood clotting and cell reproduction .

Omega -3s , on the other hand, will reduce inflammation and act mainly on the immune system .

But the most important thing to remember is that:

  • Omega-6s INCREASE inflammation
  • Omega-3s REDUCE inflammation

omega 3 vs omega 6

Omega-3/6 and inflammation

If omega-6s increase inflammation while omega-3s reduce it, it is therefore essential for your dog to receive the right balance  (ratio) between the two types of essential fatty acids.

It should be noted that not all types of inflammation are negative. For example, if your dog is exposed to a virus or bacteria, the inflammation will bring more white blood cells to fight the enemy so the immune system can do its job of protecting the animal.

The problem comes when the dog will be in chronic inflammation, day after day, for several months or even for several years. This chronic inflammation , due to an overload of omega-6 for not enough omega-3 will cause the following problems:

  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Heart problems
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney or liver problems
  • Cancer

You now understand why the importance of a good balance between the two types of omega is so important!

The problem comes from the fact that his food (whether he eats kibble or fresh/raw food) contains far too many omega-6s for not enough omega-3s ! That’s why the only supplement we should give our dog is an omega-3. We will not add omega-6 to him since his body already has too much!

In fact, everything is a question of ratio. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be between 2:1 (i.e. 2 times more omega-6 than omega-3) and 4:1 (4 times more omega -6 than omega-3).

But I imagine that my dog’s kibble has exactly the right level of omega 3 and 6?

Unfortunately no! This is far from being the case when looking at the analysis on a bag of kibble, where the ratios are often in the range of between 10:1 and 5:1 !

But what is the ratio that the kibble industry (AAFCO) tolerates from manufacturers so that their food is accepted and can be advertised as “ complete and balanced” ?

This  is 15 times more than what the dog should be getting for good health (almost 2:1)! Here is the page of the book of the AAFCO (entity regulating the production of kibbles) which stipulates the 30:1

AAFCO omega 6:3 ratio

Full and balanced? My eye…

To give you an idea, if I fed my dog ​​only chicken skin (we agree that this is not what seems to be the most balanced animal nutrition), I would pass the AAFCO tests for m display as complete and balanced because the chicken skin has a ratio of 24:1, which is under the maximum of 30:1!

If I rely on the customers I see every week, the majority of them believe that if they feed a good quality kibble, their dog will have all the essential fatty acids it needs. After all, food is “balanced”? However, this is quite false as you have just seen and if this is your way of thinking, your dog is most likely in a situation of imbalance.

Why do meats have such a bad ratio?

Mainly because farmed meats (animals) now eat junk compared to wild animals.

The meats, poultry and fish that our dogs eat (directly or after processing) are very high in omega-6 at the base and low in omega-3. If you are also feeding a poor quality kibble (Hill’s, Royal Canin, Iams, Purina, etc.) the other kibble ingredients will likely be corn, soy, canola oil and chicken fat…which are also very high. in omega-6 and low in omega-3. You then worsen the problem of imbalance even more by feeding with bad kibbles, including those of the veterinarian because they contain the same ingredients.

Ultimately, even if the kibble manufacturer tries as hard as they can to create the best omega ratio possible, the cooking process will destroy most of your dog’s health benefits from omega-3s .

This is the part I forgot to tell you about: omega-3s are VERY sensitive to two things: heat and oxygen . For heat, let’s say the cooking process doesn’t help…and what happens when you open a bag of kibble? Oxygen enters it…every time…and then forms micro-fungi called mycotoxins on each kibble. Why do you think that with each end of the bag, your dog loses a little interest in his kibble? They are full of (micro) mushrooms! You then buy him a new bag (of the same type) and suddenly he starts to eat again… Now you understand why!

rich in omega 3

You will probably be surprised that I tell you this but for me, fish oil in a kibble ingredient list is NOT a good thing . Fish oil is just too sensitive (to air and heat) to be added to a kibble. Despite this, many manufacturers (of good or bad kibble) continue to add it… because YOU like to think it’s a good thing!

If you feed raw, you are essentially in the same boat. Your dog’s meals are made mostly of meat (usually around 80-95%) which is also high in omega-6 and low in omega-3.

Here are some examples of meats and their ratio of omega 6 and 3:

  • Venison (wild meat): 3:1 (which is excellent)
  • Elk (wild meat): 3:1
  • Beef: 7:1 (which isn’t too bad)
  • Chicken: 28:1 (which is awful)

In short, to put it simply: Your dog lacks omega-3s . More specifically, it lacks DHA and EPA, which are the two types of omega-3s that will have the most positive impact on its health.

How to add omega-3 fatty acids to it?

By far the best source of omega-3s (or at least the easiest to give) for dogs (and cats) is fish oil. That said, not all fish are equal and some come with disadvantages that you need to be aware of. Fish rich in EPA and DHA are: krill, salmon, sardines, squid, anchovies, cod and mackerel.

Vegetable oils (such as olive oil or flaxseed oil) do not contain EPA and DHA and are of little use to dogs, at least not for the supply of omega-3 and to reduce inflammation caused by too much omega-6.

The Benefits of Adding Fish Oil to Your Dog

  • Improvement of skin and hair

In 1994 a study proved the reduction of itching, the improvement of the quality of the coat and the reduction of the hair loss for dogs supplemented with omega-3 (EPA). In 2014, another study showed this time in Germany that dogs supplemented with EPA had more than 50% improvement in their condition.

Fish oil also helps skin conditions such as pruritus and alopecia as demonstrated by another study from 1994.

Adding omega-3s to a dog’s diet has long been used to help reduce allergies (dermatitis), as noted in this 1998 study.

  • Improved heart functions

A 1998 study in dogs with cardiomyopathy showed improved heart health by reducing muscle loss and inflammation and reducing lipids (fats) in the blood.

Another study in 2008 showed an increase in life expectancy when adding omega-3s to the diet of cardiac dogs.

  • Improved cognitive functions and neurological development (puppies)

A study in 2006 proved that DHA supplementation in puppies improves their memory and learning ability.

Another 2012 study published in the American Veterinary Medical Association Journal showed that puppies given an omega-3 (DHA) supplement showed significantly better results in general learning, visual differentiation of contrasts and psychomotor performance. Moreover, these same puppies had significantly more antibodies present in their bodies following their vaccination against rabies, a sign of a healthier immune system.

Other benefits of adding omega-3s in dogs:

  • Improved development of the retina and visual cortex
  • Reduction of osteoarthritis and improvement of joint functions (study)
  • Improved kidney functions
  • Reduction of fungal infections
  • Coagulation regulation
  • Slowing the development of cancer

The problem with fish oils

The problem with fish oils is that the vast majority of fish oils for dogs on the market are of poor quality. Why? Because many are made with oil from large fish such as salmon.

Unfortunately, at the risk of shattering your dreams, there aren’t many quality salmon left in the world . Most of what you buy at the grocery store or fishmonger is farm-raised salmon, which hasn’t been caught at sea but has been raised in pools or ponds . This fish just might be the dirtiest you could feed your dog (or eat yourself).

fish breeding ponds

Farmed fish are packed in tanks and fed dry kibble to promote rapid growth (fattening). Then, large quantities of antibiotics are released into the waters every day because otherwise the fish would catch diseases in such a confined and polluted environment, since they live in the excrement of their colleagues. Eventually, antibiotics increase the presence of toxic heavy metals in their body, such as: mercury, lead, arsenic and cadmium. All this means that these fish are enormously less rich in omega-3 in addition to being contaminated with heavy metals.

See here how different the two types of salmon are:

wild vs farmed salmon

Researchers recently analyzed and compared farmed and wild salmon from around the world and concluded that farmed salmon contain high levels of:

  • PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls): synthetic chemical product now banned from use but traces of which are still present in the environment.
  • Dioxins : a group of chemically related compounds that are persistent organic pollutants in the environment.
  • Dieldrin : an insecticide, however, prohibited for use in the agricultural environment.
  • Toxaphene : another insecticide banned in the United States since 1990 after being suspected carcinogen.

The presence of these contaminants can only be due to the commercial dry food offered to these farmed fish and the antibiotics released into their waters.

So, salmon oil…although it used to be a good source of omega-3, with the new breeding conditions for several years, I would now say no thank you for my dog!

fish farming

If salmon oil is not a good option, what to turn to?

Here are the different types of fish oils and their associated levels of EPA and DHA:

  • Goberge: 6% EPA, 12% DHA
  • Morue: 9% EPA, 11% DHA
  • Salmon: 10% EPA, 11% DHA
  • Krill: 11% EPA, 5% DHA
  • Sardines, herring, anchovies and mackerel (mixture): 18% EPA, 12% DHA

It is therefore easy to see that the ideal is therefore the mixture of small fish such as sardines, herring, anchovies and mackerel for their high concentration of EPA and DHA, which exceeds all other species of fish.

How to choose a good fish oil?

Here is what you should observe when choosing a fish oil:

1. The Source of the Fishes

Make sure the oil you buy is made from SMALL FISH, such as anchovies, sardines and mackerel. These fish will be more likely to have been caught in the sea instead of farmed (like salmon) and since they are smaller, they will contain fewer contaminants (therefore will be purer) than the large fish that live there. longer therefore accumulate more contaminants during their lifetime. These smaller fish have lower mercury levels and are therefore much safer to eat.

2. Where and when are the fish used processed?

Ideally, you want the fish used in the oil you give your dog to be processed as close to the fishing spot as possible to avoid transport (which would decrease freshness).

3. Taste and smell

Good fish oil should NOT smell like fish. If she smells…it’s because she’s no longer good! A quality product will have practically no odor.

4. How fish oil is distilled

Quality products will use a distillation process called three-stage molecular distillation . The fish oil is then placed under vacuum and boiled at a very low temperature in order to separate the pollutants (mercury, PCBs, etc.) from the omega-3s (EPA and DHA), molecule by molecule. The result is then converted back into triglyceride, an expensive process but which makes fish oil more stable and better assimilated by the dog’s body.

The other process (that of the bad oils) is the one called ethyl ester which is much easier and less expensive to produce, using ethanol. This process gives a higher concentration of EPA and DHA but makes the oil much more unstable and harder for the body to absorb. So don’t let the numbers influence you alone!

How do you know what process was used in your oil? Pour into a styrofoam cup. If the oil makes a hole in the styrofoam in 30 minutes or less, you have the oil that was distilled with ethanol! Personally, if it pierces the styrofoam, I don’t want it in my dog’s body…

5. The bottle

A good fish oil will be in an opaque bottle (which does not let light through). Fish oil being a very sensitive product, we want an opaque bottle. It is also essential to refrigerate the oil once the bottle has been opened in order to increase its lifespan.

Also, the vast majority of manufacturers, once the bottle is filled at the factory, will simply put the cap on top. This manufacturing method will have the effect of letting oxygen into each bottle (between the end of the oil and the top of the bottle). As I told you earlier, oxygen is the main enemy of fish oil and this way of doing things will cause the oil to be rancid (moldy) before you even open your new bottle freshly bought from store!

How to avoid this? Injecting nitrogen (a gas) after the bottle is filled with oil, which will have the effect of preventing oxygen from entering and allowing enough time for the machines to install the cap on the bottle in order to obtain a product completely devoid of oxygen! But this process is expensive and too many companies don’t believe it’s important. After all…no one really knows about this…and the majority of people aren’t (wrongly) surprised that fish oil smells like fish.

6. Quality control

A company serious about its product won’t be afraid to show you tests to prove what’s really in the bottle, whether we’re talking about the levels of EPA or DHA as much as the presence of contaminants (mercury, lead, arsenic).

7. Vitamin E

When we give fish oil to our dog, it needs vitamin E to be absorbed . So if fish oil is given without a vitamin E supplement, the dog could then find itself with a vitamin E deficiency since the oil will fetch the one naturally present in its body. This is why a quality fish oil should contain vitamin E, ideally from a natural source. If the manufacturer opts for a synthetic vitamin E, he will need to add 50% more (IU) than if he had used a natural source.

The source of vitamin E is also important. The most common will be derived from soy, corn and wheat which are unfortunately all sources of GMOs. Since few people are aware of the difference and often want to cut costs, companies will too often opt for lower quality.

There are so many people who give fish oil without adding vitamin E…when in reality it’s a bit like throwing your money away…

How much should I give my dog?

It is very easy to calculate the dose to give to your dog. Take his weight (in pounds) and multiply by 20 . The result will be the right dose of EPA to give him.

If, for example, your dog weighs 30 pounds, the dose will therefore be 600 milligrams of EPA. When you look at the bottle to read the concentration, focus on the EPA level since this is the main thing that will help fight inflammation. The level of DHA will automatically follow at the right dosage because DHA is difficult to separate from EPA, regardless of the product.

How will I give the oil to my dog?

Simply by pouring it on his food, whether it’s kibble or fresh food. Fish oil will often increase the dog’s appetite for his meal! Tastes good and good for him!

Is there a danger of giving too much?

Although no matter the dose, fish oil cannot be toxic to the animal, there is no point in giving more than the recommended dose. If you have just started giving it to your dog and notice that his stools are loose or watery, decrease the dose and then gradually increase to the recommended dosage.

What product am I using?

I use and recommend Bonnie & Clyde fish oil, a high quality Quebec product.

Bonnie & Clyde fish oil logo

I chose this fish oil because it meets all my requirements:

  • Made from a mixture of small fish caught at sea and produced in Iceland: sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel (for a better concentration of omega-3 and less contaminants)
  • Distilled and deodorized the same day of fishing according to the best process (giving an odorless oil)
  • Supplemented with natural vitamin E (from sunflower oil)
  • Opaque bottle equipped with a quality pump (facilitates the portion to be given to the dog)
  • Two bottle sizes available (8oz and 16oz), depending on whether you have a small or larger dog
  • Injected with nitrogen during bottling to eliminate 100% the presence of oxygen in the bottle
  • GMO free
  • Produced from A to Z by a Canadian company (Quebec actually!)
  • Honest price for the quality of the product: $30 for the 8oz bottle and $40 for the 16oz bottle. A 16oz bottle will last 4 months for a 40 lb dog.
  • 5-star holder of the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) certification, where the company sends a sample of each production batch  to the independent bodyto be analyzed and made public here. You can then read a full analysis report like in this example where you can see that Bonnie & Clyde’s mercury level is 20 times below the acceptable limit, the lead level is 5 times below the limit and the arsenic level 2 times… which deserves its 5 star rating (the highest possible). Above all, these tests allow you to have proof that what the bottle contains is exactly (or even better) than what is written on the box! This transparency and quality control is not offered by any other company in the animal field for a fish oil.

For all these reasons, Bonnie & Clyde fish oil is, in my opinion, the best product on the market, by far!

But the main thing: my dog ​​loves it!

Bonnie & Clyde fish oil


Fish oil is an excellent supplement to give to our dog, provided we choose a quality product. It’s a simple way to improve our dog’s health, while making him happy!


Omega-3 for dogs: The ultimate guide

Ignore the bad rap…this helps heal many pet disorders – Dr. Karen Becker DMV

Could this be the missing ingredient in your pet’s optimal health? – Dr. Karen Becker DMV

Fish oil – the good, the bad and the ugly – Dr. Deva Khalsa DMV

The scary truth about fish oil for dogs

Fish oil for dogs and cats – The benefits of omega 3 for pets – Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag DMV

The benefits of fish oil for your dog

Everything you need to know about fish oil

Essential fatty acids



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