If you’ve been following trends in human and animal nutrition, you’ve probably seen more and more information about fish oil in recent years. Like many other dietary supplements, fish oil is discussed almost everywhere, extolling its many benefits for humans and animals.
However, when it comes to nutritional trends, it’s often difficult to separate fact from fiction and determine whether a product is beneficial. Fortunately, fish oil is one of those supplements whose use in humans and pets has been scientifically proven!
What is fish oil?
Fish oil is a dietary supplement derived from the tissues of oily fish. Salmon is the most common source of fish oil, but other cold-water fish such as sardines, anchovies, and menhaden can also be used. The oil is removed from the fish tissue during processing. It is then purified and antioxidants are added as preservatives.
What are the benefits of fish oil for cats?
Fish oil contains large amounts of two omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Each of these omega-3 fatty acids has unique effects on the body and can be used to treat many diseases.
EPA’s main action is to reduce inflammation in the body. Therefore, fish oil is often used to treat inflammatory diseases such as skin allergies, osteoarthritis, and some types of heart disease. In addition, EPA can be useful in treating seizures and kidney disease.
DHA mainly affects the nervous system. It plays an important role in promoting brain growth during kitten development and can also help improve cognitive function in older cats.
Are there any health risks associated with fish oil?
Some cats experience gastrointestinal effects when taking fish oil, such as mild nausea or diarrhea. If this is the case, make sure your cat takes the supplement with a full meal. Taking fish oil on an empty stomach may exacerbate gastrointestinal effects. Also, start with a smaller dose and gradually increase to the recommended dose for your cat. This allows the cat’s digestive system to gradually become accustomed to the supplement.
Fish oil may cause a slightly fishy odor in your cat. The smell from the mouth or skin is not a problem for the cat, but it may take some getting used to! In addition, some cats develop an oily or flaky coat when taking fish oil supplements.
Serious side effects can occur with too high doses of fish oil. High doses of fish oil can lead to pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition associated with pancreatitis. High doses of fish oil can also lead to bleeding disorders, delayed wound healing, and heavy metal poisoning.
If your cat has a history of bleeding disorders, pancreatitis, gastrointestinal disease, or diabetes, consult your veterinarian before giving fish oil.
How much fish oil is safe to give my cat?
The maximum safe dose for fish oil in cats is not known. The use of fish oil in dogs has been extensively studied, but fewer studies have been conducted on cats.
To minimize the risk of overdose, stick to products recommended by your veterinarian. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations exactly. More supplementation is not always better; exceeding the recommended dose can have potentially serious consequences for your cat.
What form of fish oil is best for cats?
There are two forms of fish oil used in cats: Liquid or capsules.
Liquid fish oil supplements often come in a bottle with a pump. Instructions on the label indicate how many pumps of fish oil should be given daily with the cat’s food. Although liquid fish oil can be added to dry or canned food, it may be easier to mix it with canned food.
Capsules are more convenient for some owners, but many cats prefer not to swallow large capsules. Instead, you can cut a hole in the top of the capsule and squeeze the liquid contents of the capsule directly onto the cat’s food.
It may require some experimentation to find out which form of fish oil your cat prefers.
Which fish oil is best?
Supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the same way as drugs. Therefore, there can be significant differences between brands. It is important to make sure you buy a good quality brand of fish oil to ensure your cat gets enough EPA and DHA.
If possible, it is best to buy a fish oil supplement from your veterinarian. Many veterinary clinics carry Eicosaderm®, Bayer FreeForm Snip Tips®, or other prescription fish oil supplements. These formulations are from reputable veterinary drug manufacturers and offer greater assurance of quality and safety.
If your veterinarian does not have a prescription formulation, you may need to purchase an over-the-counter fish oil formulation. Ask your veterinarian which brand he or she recommends. Commonly recommended brands include Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet® and Ascenta Feline Omega 3®.
Fish oil can have many benefits in cats: it minimizes inflammation and contributes to brain development. The most common side effects of fish oil are mild nausea or diarrhea, but these can often be controlled by giving the supplement with food. If you want to give your cat a fish oil supplement, talk to your veterinarian to determine if it is safe for your cat and discuss brand recommendations.