Dogs need a variety of different things in their diet to remain healthy.
Some of these things, such as protein and an assortment of vitamins and minerals, are found in just about every decent dog food on the market. But there are plenty of other things your dog needs, which are only found in some of the very best (and often most expensive) foods.
Fortunately, modern dog owners have access to a variety of different supplemental products, including fish oils, which can help provide these hard-to-obtain needs, while still allowing you to feed your dog an affordable food.
Best Dog Fish Oil: Quick Pick
- Zesty Paws Pure Salmon Oil [Best Option]! A delicious and nutritious liquid food supplement made from wild-caught Alaskan salmon, packed with omega-6 fatty acids that are great for your pet’s skin and coat.
What Needs Do Fish Oil Supplements Satisfy For Dogs?
Dogs – like most other animals – require things called omega fatty acids to develop properly and remain in good health.
Dogs can make some types of these acids themselves, but others, called essential fatty acids, must be acquired from their food.
Two of the most important essential fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They each play a slightly different role in your dog’s body, but they are both considered omega-3 fatty acids. These important molecules are not especially easy to obtain, as they are only found in a relative handful of foods.
Chia seeds are one such example, and flaxseed is another. But some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids come from the ocean. Particularly, omeg-3 are found in a number of common fatty fish species, such as salmon, herring and anchovies.
Can’t quite stomach feeding your pooch sardines or salmon? No worries – you can simply supplement their food with oil processed from these fish.
Health Benefits Provided by Fish Oil Supplements
Some of the health benefits provided by fish oil supplements are relatively minor, but others can profoundly improve your pet’s quality of life.
The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils help to:
Improve coat condition and reduces shedding. Many owners are quite shocked at just how soft and shiny their dog’s fur becomes after providing fish oil supplements to their dog for a few months.
Soothe itchy skin. Along with improvements in your dog’s hair, omega-3s often improve your dog’s overall skin condition. This can be very helpful for at least partially helping dogs plagued by season or food allergies.
Promote proper brain and eye development in puppies. While omega-3 fatty acids only provide these benefits in very young puppies, pregnant pooches and lactating females provided with fish oil supplements can pass along the important chemicals to their young.
Reduce inflammation. Because the inflammation-reducing characteristics of omega-3 fatty acids work throughout your dog’s body, they can help in a variety of different ways. This means that no matter where your dog is experiencing inflammation – be it his heart, kidneys, joints or any number of other places – fish oil supplements may help.
Provide some pain relief. Because inflammation often causes pain, the inflammation-reducing traits of omega-3 fatty acids often reduce your dog’s pain too.
Potentially slow cancerous growth. Although much more research must be conducted before scientists will be able to say omega-3 fatty acids reduce the growth rate of tumors, there is some preliminary research that suggests that this is the case.
Potential Side Effects of Fish Oil Supplements
While fish oil supplements are generally regarded as safe, it is important to use them carefully and be aware of the potential problems that they can (rarely) cause. Some of the most noteworthy side effects include:
Some omega-3 fatty acids (including both EPA and DHA) can cause your dog’s body to stop clotting correctly. This can be especially problematic for dogs who suffer a laceration, are scheduled for surgery, or are prescribed any other medications that also reduce the blood’s ability to clot.
The inflammatory-reducing effects of omega-3 fatty acids slow the healing process and suppress the production of white blood cells, which your body uses to fight off infections. Accordingly, you may want to think twice about providing fish oils to dogs that are suffering from an injury or illness.
Some dogs are unable to properly digest fish oil supplements, which can lead to intestinal upset. Although these problems often resolve on their own with time, it certainly isn’t fun for your dog in the meantime.
Some fish oils can give dogs bad breath. This won’t really bother your dog, but you may not like fish-breath kisses from your pup. You can generally put a stop to this problem by simply reducing the amount of supplement you provide at each meal.
While these types of problems are relatively rare, it is always a good idea to discuss your use of supplements with your vet. Additionally, you’ll always want to be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the amount of supplement to provide your dog.
How to Pick a Good Fish Oil Supplement
There are countless fish oil supplements on the market, and owners are often overwhelmed by the number of options available. Aside from simply scrolling down to our list of five recommended products, you should try to keep the following considerations in mind:
Choose Supplements Made from Wild-Caught Fish
More and more of the seafood that makes its way into grocery stores and dog foods is coming from fish farms these days.
Commercially farmed fish often accumulate very high levels of heavy metals, toxins, and other potentially harmful ingredients, so it is best to avoid them in favor of wild-caught fish.
Select Products Made in a Country with Strict Quality-Control Standards
As with most other things you purchase for your dog, you want to be sure that the fish oil you provide your dog is not tainted with toxic chemicals or undesirable ingredients. The best way to do this is by purchasing products manufactured in a country with high health and safety standards, which includes the USA, Canada, Western Europe, and Australia.
Consider the Form You Want the Supplement to Take
Fish oil supplements come in both liquid and capsule form. While neither is inherently better than the other, many owners and dogs prefer one form over the other.
Capsules are easier to administer if your dog will swallow them voluntarily, but liquids are better if you need to mix them in with your dog’s food. In fact, many dogs love the taste of these oils.
The Five Best Fish Oil Supplements for Dogs
If you want to try a fish oil for your dog, give the following five serious consideration. All five are among the best-rated products by reviewers, and they meet most of the basic requirements you’d want in a good supplement.
1. Zesty Paws Pure Salmon Oil
Liquid pump salmon oil
All natural supplement made with wild-caught Alaskan salmon, packed with omega-6 fatty acids that’ll upgrade your pet’s skin and coat.
About: Zesty Paws Pure Salmon Oil is an all-natural, nutritious supplement designed to provide your pooch with the omega-3 fatty acids that he needs to stay healthy. Zesty Paws Pure comes in a handy pump bottle, which makes it easy to squirt onto your dog’s food.
- Made from wild-caught Alaskan salmon, rather than farmed fish
- Also contains omega-6 fatty acids
- Made in FDA-registered facilities in the USA
Most owners who tried Zesty Paws Pure Salmon Oil were very happy with their choice. It helped many dogs who were suffering from skin and coat problems, and most dogs seemed to like the taste of the oil. Additionally, many owners reported that the manufacturer was very responsive when addressing occasional problems, such as leaking bottles or dysfunctional pumps.
The most common problems dog owners experienced with Zesty Paws Salmon Oil related to broken or leaky pumps. It should be noted that a few dogs did not tolerate the oil well, which often led to minor gastrointestinal problems.
Ingredient List: 100% Salmon Oil
2. Grizzly Salmon Oil
Premium liquid salmon oil
A premium, rich salmon oil with 15 different omega-3, omega-6 and arachidonic acids.
About: Grizzly Salmon Oil is a premium product that serves as a great way to provide your dog with the omega fatty acids your dog needs. Grizzly Salmon Oil is packaged in a pump-style bottle, making it easy to administer to your dog (simply squirt the recommended dosage on your dog’s food).
- Made solely from wild-caught Alaskan salmon
- Contains more than 15 different omega-3, omega-6 and arachidonic acids
- All-natural recipe helps prevent allergic reactions and gastrointestinal distress
Many owners raved about the results provided by Grizzly Salmon Oil and most were very pleased with their purchase. In addition to improving the skin and coat condition of many dogs, several owners reported that this salmon oil also helped ease joint pain. The majority of dogs also appear to like the product’s flavor.
As with every other fish oil on the market, Grizzly Salmon Oil caused a small number of dogs to become ill. Some owners also expressed frustration with the product’s price tag, but it is priced comparably to most other high-quality salmon or fish oils on the market.
Ingredient List: 100% Salmon Oil
3. Pure Paw Pure Alaskan Salmon Oil
Tasty and easy to mix
This USA-made Alaskan salmon oil includes omega-3, omega-6 and omega-7 fatty acids, plus no mercury, BPA, or additives.
About: Pure Paw’s Pure Alaskan Salmon Oil is a great product that will help improve your pup’s skin health and coat condition. Thanks to the pump-bottle design, it is quick and easy to mix Pure Paw Alaskan Salmon Oil in with your dog’s food.
- Made from only wild-caught Alaskan salmon
- Contains no mercury, BPA, additives or preservatives
- Made entirely in the USA
- Also available in soft-gel form
Pure Paw Alaskan Salmon Oil is the best-reviewed fish oil in our review, and the vast majority of owners found that it was easy to dispense, helpful in alleviating skin and coat problems and palatable to dogs. Several owners were also pleased with the manufacturer’s customer service when addressing problems.
Most of the negative reviews for Pure Paw Alaskan Salmon Oil actually came from cat owners; most dog owners were thrilled with the product. A few customers experienced problems with shipping or packaging, but this was quite rare and can happen occasionally with any online product.
Ingredient List: 100% Salmon Oil
4. Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Soft Gels
Nordic-based gel tablets
Features a mix of quality oils derived from wild anchovies and sardines, with no artificial colors, flavors, or dyes added.
About: Unlike most other fish oil supplements in our review, which are salmon-based, Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Soft Gels derive their omega fatty acids from anchovies and sardines. Because it is made from the same oil that Nordic Naturals uses in their human products, you can rest assure your dog is getting the best quality possible.
Form: Gel tablets
- Made without any artificial colors, flavors or dyes
- The fish oil is processed in Norway, while the soft gels are manufactured in the USA
- The product remains effective for 2 years after opening
Many of the owners who tried Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Soft Gels were pleased with the results, which included softer fur and better skin condition. Many owners also reported that their dogs would take the soft gels voluntarily, without being placed in a treat.
While most owners found Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Soft Gels to be effective and easy to administer, some large dog owners felt that the soft gel form was not a very cost-effective method for providing their pup with omega fatty acids.
Ingredient List: Anchovy oil, sardine oil, gelatin, water, glycerin, and d-alpha tocopherol
5. Nutramax Welactin Canine Softgel Capsules
Minty fish-oil gel capsules
These minty fresh soft-gel capsules contain omega fatty acids and DHA from wild-caught, cold-water fish.
About: Nutramax Welactin Softgels are premium, salmon-oil-filled capsules that are a more flexible alternative to the more common pump-dispensed oils. You can offer them to your dog as a treat, you can tuck the softgels into something tasty, or you can simply puncture the capsule and squirt the liquid out onto your dog’s food.
Form: Gel Capsules
- Made with more omega-3 fatty acids and DHA than most other popular supplements
- Minty taste helps keep your pup from developing fish breath
- The fish oil is sourced from Peru and the softgels are manufactured in the USA
Nutramax Welactin Canine Softgel Capsules were very well-received by most owners and their dogs, and they delivered the health benefits fish oils typically provide. This included not only an improvement in skin and coat condition, but also a reduction in joint pain.
Some owners found the capsules to be too large for small dogs. Some owners had problems getting their dog to voluntarily swallow the capsules, which they attributed to the inclusion of peppermint oil in the formula.
Ingredient List: Fish oil, gelatin, glycerin, water, natural peppermint oil, and mixed tocopherols.
Do you have a fish oil that has worked well for you and your dog? Have you found soft gels or liquid oil easier to administer? Have you seen the kind of results you expected?
Let us know all about your experiences in the comments below.