What are EFAs and How Do They Help Pets?

Guest Post: Elliot Harvey’s Natural Health Column:

Essential nutrients are those that must be supplied in the diet. This tells us that “essential fatty acids” (or EFAs, also known as unsaturated fatty acids), must be supplied to your dog through its diet. There are two types: omega-3 and omega-6, and you can find them sold by their acronyms:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Omega-6 Fatty Acids:

Cis-linoleic acid (LA)
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA)
Arachidonic acid

Omega-3 is derived from fish oils and flax seed oil, and omega-6 is available from vegetable and seed sources like sunflower, safflower, primrose, borage and black current. EFAs are important in the diet of dogs because they serve as powerful protection against degenerative diseases. They have been linked to proper retinal development, they help protect and build liver cells, maintain healthy skin and coat, assist in the maintenance of strong joints, and modulate an amazing number of cellular processes from one end of the dog to the other!
EPA and DHA also have anti-inflammatory effects which are believed to ward off age-related muscle loss.  Anti-inflammatory supplements, more importantly, are protective against some cancers.  Chronic inflammation has been linked to chronic diseases and maintaining your dog on supplements that reduce inflammation is an aid to good health.

What is so bad about inflammation?

When injuries occur, the body responds with a cascade of events that increase blood cells, heat the surrounding tissue causing swelling and pain.  That is inflammation, but in the case of injury, it can help to heal.  The real concern is another type of inflammation deep within cells; once this type of inflammation occurs, it causes disruption within the cell and continues at a low level.  That is a cause of chronic inflammation resulting in chronic diseases.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 ratios:

The ideal ratio for EFAs in the diet of your dog is 4:1 omega-6 to omega-3, yet commercial foods are often found in ratios of 20:1 (or higher).  Studies have shown that omega-6 EFAs form products that inhibit immunity and promote inflammation, the very effects you should avoid!  Clinical and experimental studies suggest that individuals genetically predisposed to chronic inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus, psoriasis, and allergies can reduce the genetic incidence of these diseases by 40% with the addition of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3, on the other hand, reduces inflammation, supports immune function, promotes healthy skin and coat and is important for proper development of the retina and visual cortex. Omega-3 EFAs appear to protect the brain against environmental pollutants, making it an essential supplement for the aging dog.

Although the alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) in flax seed oil offers numerous benefits on its own, many of the beneficial effects of ALA in flaxseed oil are due to its metabolic conversion to EPA. However, some studies show that, even under ideal conditions, only 20% of the ALA ingested can be converted to EPA. This percentage can be much smaller in many individual dogs. Many factors may impair the conversion of ALA to EPA, including stress, vitamin deficiencies, and high levels of saturated fat and trans-fatty acids in the diet. Some disease states, such as diabetes and eczema, are also associated with impairment of the enzyme needed to convert ALA to EPA.

Chia Seeds:

That same green plant that grows like hair on Chia Pets is rich in omega-3 EFAs, fiber, high quality protein and offers other amazing health benefits. Only Great Life and Pioneer pet foods are including Chia seeds (oil) in their formulas- it is a great addition to the diet of dogs. Did you hear about the new super antioxidant vegetable that has higher antioxidant values then blueberries or acai berries? Great Life Pet Products will be announcing this soon….

If you have any questions- please e-mail me at pethealer@gmail.com

**Recommended Reading: “The Healthy Wholistic Dog” book will give the reader a greater insight into natural remedies and the truth behind many ailments and simply ways to relieve problems.

Did you find this article interesting? Share it with your pet-loving friends!

This post was written by Elliot Harvey MH of www.doctorsfinest.com. (Pet Assure customers receive a 20% discount on products at doctorsfinest.com by entering coupon code PA-01.)  Author of “The Healthy Wholistic Dog,” Elliot has years of experience in animal health and wellness. Pet Assure is not affiliated with and does not endorse Great Life Performance Pet Products. Pet Assure is presenting this guest post for the benefit of its readers and retains no financial interest in any future transactions.

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