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For as long as I’ve been in the pet supply business, some 27 years now, Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids have been prominent players in pet foods and treats. These polyunsaturated fats are the main classes of fatty acids.

Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids have long been touted for their benefits to a pet’s skin and coat, but they offer other benefits as well.

High levels of Omega 3’s, for example, can slow down the progress of kidney disease, compromise the development of certain cancer cells, aid joint stiffness, ease allergic dermatitis, and benefit the heart and blood vessels. All this while supporting the immune system and fighting inflammatory diseases.

Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids are essential because your pet’s body can’t produce them on its own. They must be absorbed from food. And, what is an essential fatty acid for one species may not be essential for another, as different species’ have different nutritional requirements.

Omega 6 fatty acid is made up of 4 acids:

• Linoleic acid (LA)

• Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)

• Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA)

• Arachidonic acid (AA), which is essential for cats, but not dogs.

Omega 3 fatty acid is made up of 3 acids:

• Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

• Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

• Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

The life of a fatty acid takes a lot of twists and turns, which illustrates, in part, why nutrition is such a complex science. Nutritionists, whether for humans or animals, must know how individual ingredients react to, and interact with, other ingredients.

For example, certain enzymes can convert one fatty acid to another one. One minute you’re Linoleic acid (LA) and, poof, along comes some enzyme and now you’re gamma linoleic acid (GLA), not that that’s a bad thing.

In fact, various health issues can be encountered when those conversions don’t occur because of a deficiency in certain enzymes.

Fatty acids also face certain dangers. Overcooking can destroy them, formulating a food with insufficient antioxidants can cause them to go rancid, and improper storage in warehouses and by the end user can cause them to spoil.

Fatty acids can be found in both plant and animal sources. One would expect fat to contain an abundance of fatty acids, but that’s not necessarily the case. Beef fat has small amounts of fatty acids, for example, while the body fat of poultry is rich in linoleic and arachidonic acids.

Other sources of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids include whole grains, organ meats, lean meats, and egg yolks.

Pet food manufacturers use sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, safflower oil, canola oil, soybean oil and other oils sourced from plants, as well as cold water fish and their oils. Some products will specify which fish the oil is derived from while others use various species’ of fish, depending upon what’s available to them, and use the anonymous term fish oil.

Nutritionists haven’t come up with an optimal ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. It was thought that a ratio of 15:1 was best, but contemporary wisdom reduces that by up to two-thirds. Now they say between 10:1 and 5:1, with lower ratios deemed better by some.

With winter’s dry air, you might talk to your veterinarian about fatty acid supplements for dogs and cats, available wherever pet supplies are sold.

Tongfang Health Technology (Beijing) Co.,Ltd