All about DHA

There has been a lot of awareness among pet owners about the diet of their pets. The use of nutraceuticals has proven improved quality of life in pets. DHA is one such anti-oxidant which is critical for the development of vision and the central nervous system in pets. With more and more pets living to a ripe old age, nutritional supplements for pets have become a fast growing business, as pet owners seek out health products for their furry friends that mimic those they use for themselves.

What are nutraceuticals?

The North American Veterinary Nutraceutical Council now defines a veterinary nutraceutical as a “non-drug substance that is produced in a purified or extracted form and administered orally to provide agents required for normal body structure and function with the intent of improving the health and well being of animals.”

Several years ago, veterinarians began using glucosamine and other nutritional supplements in the treatment of arthritis in the same way we use drugs or other pharmaceuticals. These “nutraceuticals” can make a huge difference in the long-term mobility and comfort of both animals and people. Thereafter more studies were conducted in search of these elements (nutraceuticals) which improve the quality of life by being organ specific and that to specifically influence vital organs. These are Taurine, Carnitine and group of antioxidants namely antioxidants (DHA, EPA, Vitamin E, Omega-3 fatty acids). There is a lot of ongoing work on the effects of antioxidants like DHA, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), Vitamin E, Omega-3 fatty acids etc.

What is DHA?

DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) is natural Omega-3 fatty acid. It is a major structural component of the brain as well as the most abundant fatty acids in the brain. It plays a vital role in the development of the central nervous system and retinal function in young mammals.

Where is DHA found?

DHA is abundant in seafood and sea plant, but it is not found in terrestrial plant. We take DHA first from the milk of mothers and later from some food that we eat. Certain animals like cow or mice can convert precursor of DHA found in grass and seeds into DHA, but dogs and humans cannot do this efficiently so we have to include in their diet for immediate accessible form.

What does it do?

DHA is a major building block of the brain and is a critical element in the development of vision and the central nervous system.

Why does my puppy or kitten need it?

The primary source of DHA is milk from your puppy’s or kitten’s mother. New generation of puppy and kitten diets keep supplying this brain-building element long after weaning.

What are the sources of DHA?

Common dietary DHA sources include fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna and other seafood, eggs, and organ meat. In pet foods, sources of DHA include fish, fish meal and fish oil. Prior to weaning, puppies get DHA from their mothers. Mothers, both human and canine, transfer DHA from their body tissues to their offspring during pregnancy and lactation.

What are the advantages of DHA?

Nutritional experts recommend having a one-to-one ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids to maintain optimal mental and physical function, because that is the exact ratio of those fatty acids in the brain. These antioxidants seem to promote joint health, general well being and most interestingly, mental alertness in older individuals.

There is an excellent controlled study showing that feeding a diet enriched with DHA, EPS and other nutritional supplements results in a substantial and measurable improvement in young dogs’ and arresting the rapid ageing process in older dogs’ improving their memory. Again, it’s impossible to make specific recommendations, but it seems safe to say that we can help our pets by insuring an adequate intake of these antioxidants.

Further several studies have shown that enhanced levels of DHA help with brain and vision development. All the new generation of premium brands of pet food has an enhanced level of DHA. The inclusion of DHA into various brands of pet foods shows commitment to enhancing and enriching your pet’s life by pet food manufacturer.

To get your pet off to the best start in life, the enhanced level of DHA in puppies and kittens diets can now meet their potential for body and mind development.

Studies have also shown that female dogs fed a diet with a 5:1 Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio (enriched in Omega-3 fatty acids including DHA) produced larger litters with fewer stillbirths. In addition, their puppies weighed more at weaning compared with pups from female dogs fed diets lower in Omega-3 fatty acids.

(Dr. Umesh Karkare has been practicing small animal medicine in Mumbai for last 20 years. He got his degree of Master of Veterinary Science from Bombay Veterinary College (gold medallist). He is member of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (VECCS), USA and a representative in India for World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) and Honorary Secretary of Federation of Small Animal Practitioners in India. Apart from the routine treatment, he advises the owner on general management of their pet, with special emphasis on pet nutrition. He has keen interest in nutritional management of the clinically ill patients. He can be contacted at 9820147546.)

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