Humans are obsessed with fat! Low fat food alternatives swamp the human grocery shelves and arguably this is for good reason as too much animal fat can be unhealthy. But is it OK to feed dogs fat? Dogs digest and metabolise fat more efficiently than their two-legged friends. Plus, they naturally have more good cholesterol (HDL) than bad (LDL) and cannot develop high blood cholesterol or thickening of the arteries from fat in their diet – lucky them! In this blog I discuss which fats are essential to a dog’s diet and why they’re important for their health.
Why is fat healthy for dogs?
Feeding the right balance of fats supports a dog’s mental ability, behaviour, eye and heart health. Dietary fat supplies the most concentrated and digestible form of energy to dogs (more than twice the calories per gram than protein or carbs). Plus, it’s a source of vital essential fatty acids (EFAs), like Omega-3 fatty acids, which play a key role in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and promote a healthy nervous system. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids provided in the right balance via diet is essential, as dogs cannot naturally manufacture them.
What are EFAs?
There are five essential fatty acids. They are all polyunsaturated fats – known as PUFAs:
- Linoleic Acid (LA) is an Omega-6 fat found in flaxseed, hempseed, starflower, sunflower and corn oils. Lack of LA is associated with skin and coat issues and can make your dog sluggish
- Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA) is an Omega-3 fat found in flaxseed, hempseed, chia seeds, and walnut oils. Dogs primarily use ALA to manufacture EPA and DHA – both vital for healthy brains, eyes, and joints
- Arachidonic Acid (AA) is an Omega-6 fat that’s found in meat, poultry, and eggs. AA is a brain fat and studies concur that a lack of AA in a puppy’s diet affects mental ability
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) is an Omega-3 fat that’s found in oily fish, and marine sources like green lipped mussels. EPA is considered an anti-inflammatory fat and is good for healthy joints
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): DHA is an Omega-3 fat found in oily fish. It is essential for the brain and the eyes. Studies show that dogs with a lack of DHA don’t remember, see or hear as well as dogs consuming enough fresh, natural and bio-available DHA.
Should all dogs consume fat?
Every dog is an individual and some breeds are more ‘genetically’ prone to storing fat like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Labradors. Unless your dog has a health condition like pancreatitis, there is no need to restrict fats. As carnivores, dogs are pre-programmed to biologically and physiologically eat meat, which is comprised of protein and fat. Dogs metabolise fat for energy and protein to rebuild muscle, but they have no requirement for carbohydrates from grains or starch.
Does dry dog food contain the right fats?
The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association Obesity Report 2019 reveals that 51% of Britain’s dogs are now overweight or obese – a rise of six per cent in only five years. Could the obesity epidemic be caused by a lack of fats in processed diets? Fats need to be served fresh as the delicate nature of essential fatty acids means they oxidise and go rancid quickly. Oxidised oil can do more harm than good over time, promoting chronic health conditions. When fats added to kibble are exposed to extreme heat during the production process, they oxidise and therefore have no longer have any nutritional benefit. It is also often stored in airy warehouses for weeks, facilitating the oxidation process.
What is the right balance of fats?
Dogs can eat a smaller portion of high fat foods and still obtain the energy they need. It’s all about feeding as naturally as possible and keeping your dog’s diet close to its ancestral diet. In the wild, dogs would eat 85% whole wild prey with small amounts of fish and eggs and about 15% plants and berries. Wild prey contains less fat in its meat than domesticated farm animals, which can affect the balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Adding the right fat to complement the meat you’re feeding helps to achieve the right balance. Poppy’s Picnic adds flaxseed oil to all its meals to ensure sufficient Omega-6 fatty acids. Opting for a biologically appropriate raw food diet gives peace of mind that your dog is eating a healthy variety of fresh, natural and balanced fats.
Which dog food diet is best for delivering essential fats?
As dogs metabolise fats for their energy source, they are quickly burned through during the natural carnivorous process. However highly processed kibble containing 30-70% grain isn’t ideal and can promote fat storage as dogs cannot process grains efficiently. Their starch content can promote fat cells through a pro-inflammatory response at a cellular level and the sugar content is inappropriate for dogs.
Poppy’s Picnic’s raw dog food meals enhance digestion, absorption and nutrient transfer at a cellular level. A raw dog food diet also promotes natural weight loss as raw fed dogs do not store empty calories from indigestible ingredients found in highly processed dry food. Dogs can eat a smaller portion of natural fat found in a raw food diet and still obtain the energy they need. Sound good? Click here to shop Poppy’s Picnic raw dog food.
Anna Webb – Broadcaster, Author, has studied natural nutrition and therapies with the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies (CIVT). She lives in London and is owned by Prudence a Miniature Bull Terrier and Mr Binks, a re-homed English Toy Terrier. www.annawebb.co.uk