- There are many benefits of fish oil for dogs — Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can promote healthy skin, silky coats, and improve mobility and cognitive function in dogs, among other things.
- Natural fish oil supplements are best — Dogs may have trouble absorbing the nutrients of synthetic fish oils.
- Be aware of side effects — Too much fish oil can make dogs sick, as can heavy metal contamination in lower-quality products.
There’s nothing fishy about fish oil. Providing benefits to the heart, brain, skin, and joints, fish oil has quickly become one of the most popular dietary supplements around — and it’s not just good for humans. It turns out our canine companions can also reap the same rewards from this nutritional powerhouse.
Before you start shopping for the best fish oil supplement for your dog, it’s important to know what to look for. Here’s what you need to know about fish oil for dogs.
What is fish oil?
You may already be familiar with fish oil supplements — or those yellow gel capsules you take for a boost of healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. As it turns out, fish oil is also available as a supplement for dogs and can support your dog’s general health.
For example: Fish oil supplements, like salmon oil, contain omega-3s to improve your dog’s coat and skin issues — which is great if your pet is looking for relief from conditions like dry skin or dandruff.
Fish oil for dogs dosage chart
While you should always consult a professional before starting your dog on any amount of fish oil, these are the recommended amounts for dogs to take daily per the Canine Arthritis Foundation.
Keep in mind that other sources may recommend different dosage levels, and that in general the right dosage of fish oil for your dog depends on factors including their breed, diet, and overall health.
To avoid gastrointestinal upset, we recommend starting your dog on a quarter of the recommended dosage and slowly working your way up to the full amount.
👉 Don’t double up if you miss a dose — just skip it and resume the normal regimen come the next dosage time.
|Body weight (lbs)
|Recommended daily dose
|5 to 20 pounds
|230 to 910 mg
|574 to 1623 mg
|25 to 40 pounds
|1140 to 1820 mg
|1919 to 2730 mg
|45 to 60 pounds
|2050 to 2730 mg
|2982 to 3700 mg
|65 to 80 pounds
|2950 to 3640 mg
|3924 to 4590 mg
|85 to 100 pounds
|3680 to 4550 mg
|4804 to 5427 mg
🚨 Too much fish oil can result in sleepiness, oily coat, and other health complications. Consult your veterinarian for proper dosing recommendations.
Benefits of fish oil for dogs
Dogs need omega-3 fatty acids in their diets daily. From helping with proper development as young pups to easing joint inflammation or symptoms of osteoarthritis in senior dogs, fish oil has numerous benefits when used in conjunction with other forms of treatment.
Dogs naturally get omega-3s in their diet, as long as it is complete and balanced. However, they may need fish oil supplements to help meet their needs or manage specific medical conditions. If you’re not sure if your pet needs a fish oil supplement, consider connecting with your veterinarian.
The general benefits of fish oil include:
1. Allergy support
The omega-3s in fish oil can help alleviate the itchy, inflamed skin some dogs experience in response to allergens and irritants. They do this by decreasing the body’s production of cytokines, or small proteins that trigger inflammation, to protect the body from potentially harmful pathogens.
2. Sore joint relief
Omega-3’s anti-inflammatory properties block enzymes that break down cartilage and curb the production of harmful lipids that cause joint inflammation. Pets with osteoarthritis are commonly given fish oil supplements to improve their agility, weight-bearing ability, and overall comfort level.
Fish oil supplements don’t offer pain relief, however, and shouldn’t be used in place of prescription medications for dogs experiencing chronic joint pain.
3. Coat and skin support
Fatty acids help restore both dry, flaky, or itchy skin and the shine in your dog’s coat. By strengthening the skin barrier, omega-3’s help protect your dog from harmful environmental irritants like UV rays.
Other studies have linked fatty acids to hair growth in mammals, which makes them especially beneficial to dogs with thinning or patchy coats caused by age or underlying health conditions.
4. Cancer risk reduction
Fish oil may help strengthen your dog’s immune system to inhibit cell growth or minimize metastasis of some types of canine cancer , including lymphoma.
Curious about the science behind this? Tumors use inflammation as a mechanism to destroy healthy tissues around them so they can form their own blood vessels and steal nutrients from the body. Omega-3s help slow the spread by counteracting that inflammation.
5. Kidney disease prevention
Because fish oil can reduce inflammation, it may also help minimize pain related to or the progression of chronic kidney disease. Fish oil supplementation can also help lower elevated blood pressure and treat glomerular disease, a kidney disorder associated with excessive protein loss through the urine. Studies have shown fish oil to significantly reduce acute and long-term kidney damage.
6. Cognitive support
From young pups to senior dogs, fish oil can help with cognitive development. In puppies, omega-3s may help young dogs learn and retain new skills quickly. For older dogs, fatty acids can help alleviate symptoms of cognitive dysfunction, a syndrome analogous to human dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Senior dogs given dietary supplementation show an increased ability to recognize loved ones and other dogs.
7. Cardiac support
Fish oil supplements can help boost a dog’s heart health by reducing inflammation and minimizing their risk of developing an irregular heartbeat, or an arrythmia such as atrial fibrillation.
Fish oil can also be beneficial to dogs with heart disease, simultaneously lowering harmful triglyceride levels in the blood and preventing the formation of blood clots by acting as an anticoagulant, or blood thinner.
Potential side effects of fish oil for dogs
As with any supplement, there are potential side effects and risks to giving your dog fish oil. If your dog is prone to gastrointestinal issues or they’re given high doses, they may experience lethargy, stomach upset, and accompanying symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Because fish oil is rich in the fat-soluble vitamin A, adverse reactions to fish oil supplements can also be the result of a vitamin A overdose.
Additional symptoms to watch for include:
- Skin issues. Specifically, issues with excessive oil production, itchiness, and flakiness.
- Foul smells. If your dog is consuming too much fish oil, they may have a fishy smell on their breath or skin.
- Abnormal bleeding or bruising. Due to the anti-clotting properties, an excess of fish oil can lead to slowed recovery — meaning that cuts, scrapes, and other wounds take longer to heal.
- Pancreatitis. This condition can be lethal if left untreated, typically presenting itself through symptoms like fever, abdominal pain, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
🚨Dogs experiencing a pancreatitis attack may assume a “praying” position by putting their backside up in the air with their front legs and head down on the floor.
What are the risk factors of fish oil for dogs?
Many of the risk factors of fish oil for dogs can extend to other supplement types, too. For example: some natural supplements can be contaminated with heavy metals and other harmful toxins.
This can result in a loss of appetite, loss of coordination, or seizures in extreme cases. You can avoid these risk factors by asking your vet for recommendations on reputable fish oil companies.
What are the possible drug interactions of fish oil?
Dogs on medications like anticoagulants, doxorubicin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be given fish oil with extreme caution. Anticoagulants are especially dangerous, as omega-3s can boost their anti-clotting effects and result in excessive, sometimes fatal bleeding.
🚨 If your dog shows any of these side effects after consuming a fish oil supplement, discontinue use immediately and visit the veterinarian.
Alternatives to fish oil
Flaxseed oil , hemp oil, rapeseed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts are great sources of plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Unfortunately, dog’s bodies aren’t very efficient at converting ALA into more active forms of omega 3 like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which means these alternatives won’t give them the full benefits of fish oil.
On the other hand, algal oil, seaweed, and kelp are all direct sources of DHA and EPA. Since algal oil contains the omega-3 levels closest to fish oil, it’s considered the best alternative for dogs who require a vegetarian diet, as well as dogs with fish allergies.
🚨 Only give your dog fish oil alternatives in dog-safe forms.
How to choose the right fish oil for your dog
Speak with your vet to determine the best fish oil supplement for your dog. When choosing a brand, make sure to take their age, breed, and other key factors in account. These include:
- Diet. Dogs can’t naturally produce omega-3s, so they need to get these essential fatty acids from their diet. Special vet-formulated diets for conditions like arthritis already contain omega-3s and shouldn’t require additional supplementation. On the other hand, if your dog’s food isn’t providing them with as many nutrients as they need, you’ll need to work with your veterinarian to find the best fish oil supplement based on the diet that they currently consume.
- Purity. Because fish oils can be contaminated with impurities or heavy metals, it’s important to find a quality supplement you can trust. Avoid fish oil that is made with synthetic ingredients or packed with preservatives and chemicals.
- Sensitivities. Consider an alternative source of omega-3s if your dog has a history of illnesses like diabetes or pancreatitis, or if they have trouble digesting fish products.
Types of fish oil for dogs
There are three main types of fish oil for dogs: natural triglyceride oil, ethyl ester oil, and synthetic triglyceride oil. These range from naturally sourced to synthetic, and the type of fish oil will determine how easy or difficult it is for the dog’s body to absorb the nutrients.
Natural triglyceride oil
As the name suggests, natural triglyceride oil is generally the most bio-available fish oil. While that means this type of oil is easier for a dog to absorb, it also goes through minimal processing — so natural triglyceride oil may contain contaminants like heavy metals. If you opt to buy this type, contact the manufacturer and look into how they filter their final product. What steps are taken?
Ethyl ester oil
This type of fish oil is sourced naturally as well, but is distilled to remove contaminants. Ethyl ester oil is a good source of two main types of omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Synthetic triglyceride oil
The synthetic version of triglyceride oil lacks bioavailability to dogs, meaning it is hard for a dog’s body to absorb this type of fish oil.
If you’re leaning toward a naturally or semi-naturally sourced fish oil, oils of high-quality products are typically sourced from wild-caught fish like salmon, cod, anchovies, sardines, and other types of non-threatened fish.
Another great source of fish oil is the green-lipped mussel, a bivalve mollusk native to New Zealand. Many supplements for dogs, including joint supplements, use the fatty acids found in green-lipped mussels to promote health.
👉Another thing to keep in mind when looking at types of fish oil for dogs is contamination levels — even naturally sourced oils may not be filtered for contaminants. Always do your research before offering an oil to your dog.
How to feed your dog fish oil
There are three ways to feed your pup fish oil:
- Liquid. If you have trouble giving your dog pills, you may want to try a liquid fish oil supplement. The liquid form can be added to their regular food for easier consumption. Liquid fish oil is generally easily absorbed by the body as well.
- Capsules. For less mess, consider fish oil capsules — which can be given to dogs like a treat or pill.
- Chews. Most fish oil supplements are available as liquids or soft gel capsules, but you can also find omega-3 chews. Chews may be easier for dogs to eat and may seem more like a treat to your pup.
🚨Check the product label for storage requirements, as some fish oil supplements may need to be refrigerated.
👉 Be sure to follow your vet’s instructions on how much to feed your dog based on their size and needs.
Fish oil supplements can make for a great nutritional addition to a commercial dog food diet, but like any kind of supplement, it’s not right for every dog. Consult your vet before starting your dog on fish oil, and go the extra mile to make sure you’re getting high-quality products. You might even look into getting some fish oil supplements for yourself while you’re at it!
Frequently asked questions
Is fish in oil good for dogs?
No. While fish oil may be good for dogs, fish in oil is a whole different story. Dogs can occasionally consume cooked pieces of boneless fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and whitefish, but it should never be given to them with additional oils or seasonings.
How long does it take for fish oil to help a dog?
It normally takes about 3 to 4 weeks of daily supplementation for omega-3 levels to adequately build up in your pet’s body. As a result, pet owners commonly report that their pups start looking and feeling better after a month of being on fish oil.
Can you give a dog human fish oil?
Only give your dog fish oil supplements created specifically for dogs. Fish oil capsules intended for human consumption often contain added ingredients that can be toxic to animals, like xylitol.
How much fish oil can I give to my dog?
For proper dosage, you should talk to your vet about your dog’s specific needs, as doses of omega-3s can range from 50 to 220 mg per kg of body weight. The exact amounts can depend on your dog’s breed, age, size, and overall health.
Can I give my dog fish oil every day?
Make sure to talk to your vet about how often to give your dog a fish oil supplement. While fatty acids in fish oil are beneficial to many dogs, too much fish oil can make your dog sick. If you are giving fish oil that is dog-specific at the appropriate dose, however, it is usually safe to give daily.
What are the side effects of fish oil for dogs?
Giving your dog too much fish oil may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, sleepiness, and a fish-like smell coming from their mouth or skin. Contaminated fish oil supplements may contain heavy metals, which can cause serious side effects including appetite loss or seizures.
What kind of fish oil is best for dogs?
While your vet can offer the best recommendations for your specific dog, in general, it’s best to choose reputable brands with high-quality fish oil. Avoid synthetic fish oil supplements, which are difficult for dogs to absorb.