Q: Are skin and coat supplements essential for pets?
A: Pets may require certain nutrients that help in maintenance of healthy skin and coat. Moreover, some pets may need more supplements of nutrients than other dogs. Usually, most of the skin and coat supplements contain essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals to support and maintain a shiny coat and healthy skin.
Q: What are essential fatty acids?
A: Essential fatty acids are types of polyunsaturated fats that cannot be produced within the body of pets. Therefore, they must be obtained through their diets or supplements. However, the essential fatty acid, which is essential for one species of animal, may not necessarily be essential for another. For example, one of the fatty acids, arachidonic acid is essential for cats but not for dogs.
Q: Which essential fatty acids are necessary for skin and coat health?
A: The two main classes of essential fatty acids necessary for maintaining the skin and coat condition are the Omega-3s and the Omega-6s.
Q: What are the sources of essential fatty acids?
A: Essential fatty acids may be found in many plants and cold-water fish with varying quantities of Omega 6 and Omega 3. Fish oils are good sources of Omega 3 (Eicosapentaenoic acid and Docosahexanoic acid) while certain plants and grains may also contain essential fatty acids like sunflower oil and safflower oil contain high quantity of Omega 6 (Linoleic acid).
Q: What is an appropriate ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet?
A: It is difficult to say the exact ratio of Omega 6 and Omega 3 as there may be variation related to the individual pets. Based on the research report, the current recommendations of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids are for ratios of 10:1 to 5:1 in the daily diet. Maintaining a proper ratio of Omega 6 fatty acid and Omega 3 fatty acid is very crucial as they share a common enzyme. Otherwise, improper ratio of these fatty acids may enhance itching, oozing and swelling instead of reducing them.
Q: How do fatty acids help in reducing inflammation?
A: Essential fatty acids are naturally found in the cell membranes. When a cell is damaged there is release of inflammatory agents that can cause inflammation and itching. Essential fatty acids help to reduce the harmful effects of these inflammatory agents, thus reducing the inflammation and itching.
Q: How long fatty acid supplements are to be given?
A: Essential fatty acids supplementation may take a minimum period of 3-4 weeks and as long as 12 weeks to elicit the beneficial effects.
Q: Can essential fatty acid supplements be given with other medications?
A: Even though there is very low risk of incompatibility between essential fatty acid supplementation with other medications, it is always advised to consult your veterinarian first. Depending on the condition of your pet and the type of medication, veterinarian can tell you whether to give essential fatty acid supplements along with other medications or not.
Q: Are there any side effects from essential fatty acid supplements?
A: The side effects are very less or negligible. They may cause loose stool when used in high doses. If that occurs, stop and start again with a very low dose and gradually increase the dose so that your pet will get used to it.
Q: Are there any other indications for supplemental fatty acids?
A: Fatty acids are necessary for the normal function of many systems of the body and not all fatty acids have the same function. Because different fatty acids have different effects, the choice of a fatty acid supplement needs to be based on the specific condition we are trying to manage.
In addition to improving skin and coat health, many scientific articles reported the beneficial effects of fatty acid supplementation in different conditions such as allergies, autoimmune conditions, arthritis, inflammatory conditions of kidney and intestine, yeast infections, eye disorders, heart diseases, epilepsy and cancer.
(The authors belong to Product Management Team, PetCare).