The magic attraction of cats to fish is not only due to their richness in Omega-3…

Omega-6 and Omega-3 are two families of PolyUnsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) – as their structure includes more double bonds between the carbon atoms that build up the structure – and that differ from each other because of the position of double bonds. The main fatty acids of the two series are the following:

OMEGA-6

●      Linoleic Acid (LA)

●      Arachidonic Acid (AA)

OMEGA-3

●      Alfa-Linolenic Acid (ALA)

●      EicosaPentaenoic Acid (EPA)

●      DocosaHexaenoic Acid (DHA)

 

What foods are rich in Omega-6 & Omega-3

The richest sources of Omega-6 are sunflower and corn oils for Linoleic Acid, while animal fat in general is rich in Arachidonic Acid. Also for Omega-3 there is a clear distinction between ALA (whose main sources are vegetables, such as linseed, hemp and currant oil) and EPA and DHA, of which are particularly rich the ingredients of marine origin – fish, fish oils and crustaceans. They all are molecules that are very susceptible to oxidation and therefore, to preserve them as much as possible, the ingredients that are rich in them should be protected as much as possible from contact with air, light and heat.

What Omega-3 and Omega-6 are for

These molecules are also called Essential Fatty Acids, as the metabolic pathways in the body of dogs and cats do not allow their synthesis, and therefore they must necessarily be introduced with food (the only distinction must be made for Acid Arachidonic, which is essential for cats but not for dogs): for this reason the PUFA are of considerable importance in the nutrition of our four-legged companions. More specifically, EPA and DHA are easier to use for dogs and cats rather than ALA and LA, that require specific enzymes which our animals are actually lacking.

In recent decades, their involvement in biochemical processes at body level has been investigated and it has been found that they intervene in numerous vital or primary functions. Just to name a few:

  • Smooth muscle function (especially the heart)
  • Skin and coat health (and as prevention or treatment of atopic dermatitis)
  • Reduction of allergic reactions and inflammatory processes
  • Protection of liver cells
  • Defense from free radicals and from aging processes
  • Reduction of damage from kidney failure
  • Prevention and treatment of some types of tumors
  • Development of sense organs in growing puppies & kittens

Optimal Ratio Omega-6 : Omega-3

It is very difficult to establish minimum intake levels to obtain the aforementioned benefits, also due to the fact that absorption rates vary considerably depending on the source used and therefore on the level of bioavailability of the nutrient [for your information, the National Research Council indicates as an optimal range, as for EPA + DHA, a quantity between 30 and 370 mg / kg0.75 of dog weight].

Much more important – and definitely easier to evaluate – is the ratio between Omega-6 and Omega-3 in food, which should not be unbalanced in favor of the first one (of which richer ingredients are more readily available such as vegetable oils and fats animals) and should be, according to many studies, on values between 6: 1 and 4: 1, up to 2: 1 in products with specific indications to reduce problems such as atopies, etc.

Keeping an eye on the diet

Although it should not be used as the first parameter of evaluation of nutritional overall value of the diet we are providing to our four-legged partner, always take into account the levels of Omega-6 and Omega-3 in the bowl, letting the specialist veterinarian help us, calculating them with the available nutritional tables on the internet or referring, as far as commercial foods are concerned, to the values indicated on the bag (quality, complete dry and wet foods always contain optimal levels and proportions). It is possible however, in situations of increased need, such as in the presence of pathological conditions referring to the above list, to increase their supply with rich ingredients (salmon oil, blackcurrant pearls just to name a couple) or with specially formulated supplements.

Photo by Hannah Reding on Unsplash