Omega fatty acids and how they boost pet health

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 Omega fatty acids and how they boost pet health

Enrich your dog or cat’s well-being, inside and out, by serving up these recipes rich in Omega fatty acids.

Omega fatty acids have been making health headlines for a while now, thanks to the many wellness benefits they offer both us and our companion animals. Understanding something about these fatty acids — the differences between them and how they work in the body — can help ensure you use them to best advantage for your dog or cat’s health. Find out more about Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids and try some tasty recipes to enhance your companion’s overall wellness.

An Omega fatty acids primer

Omega fatty acids have an impact on every cell in your dog or cat’s body. They contribute to healthy skin and coat, brain function and eye health, as well as gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and immune support. They can even affect how quickly a wound heals.

Essential fatty acids – Omegas 3 and 6

Essential fatty acids are broken down into two basic groups. The alpha-linolenic acid group is made up of the Omega 3 fatty acids while the linoleic acid group encompasses the Omega 6 fatty acids.

Linolenic acid (Omega 3) along with linoleic acid and arachidonic acid (both Omega 6s), are the key essential fatty acids our dogs and cats need. Hemp, flax and pumpkin seeds are examples of whole foods that produce linoleic acid and some linolenic acid, though most come from high-fat cold water fish. Except for cats, animals can produce arachidonic acid, which plays an important role in the control of blood clotting, pain and inflammation.

  • Linoleic acid is essential for all animals. This Omega 6 fatty acid is found in a variety of oils, such as canola, safflower and sunflower oils, while gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) is found in evening primrose, black currant and borage oils. Most Omega 6 fatty acids are readily available in our animals’ diets, and don’t require supplementation, although GLA, which is helpful for conditions like arthritis, flaky skin and even panosteitis, may need to be supplemented. Cats also need a source of arachidonic acid, and must eat meat to meet this dietary requirement, or get it in the form of fish oil. There are a few exceptions to this rule, because borage, red currant seed and evening primrose oils also contain arachidonic acid.

Veterinarian Dr. Donald R. Strombeck, author of Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets: The Healthful Alternative, says that a normal dog or cat requires linoleic acid at a dietary level of about 1%, which translates to about 2% of a day’s total calories.

  • Linolenic acid is the source of Omega 3 fatty acids, found in cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut and herring. Freshly ground wheat germ, flax seeds and walnuts also contain linolenic acid. The two crucial Omega 3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

The Merck Veterinary Manual states that “The National Research Council (NRC) recommends a level of 0.025g/1,000kcal ME of a combination of DHA and EPA for both kittens and adult cats. The NRC recommends levels of DHA and EPA in the diet of 0.13g/1,000kcal ME for puppies and 0.11g/1,000kcal ME for adult dogs.”

Oleic fatty acid – Omega 9

Although regarded as a “non-essential” fatty acid, Omega 9 oleic acid offers several health benefits. Unlike Omegas 3 and 6, which are polyunsaturated fats, Omega 9 is a monounsaturated fat that protects the heart and supports skin health. It’s found in olive oil and cranberry seed oil, as well as canola, peanut and sunflower oils.

9 oils that add Omega fatty acids to your animal’s diet

Olive oil

Rich in Omega 9 oleic acid, extra virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of the olives. It has the highest nutritional value and less than 1% acidity.  Olive oil is also very high in vitamins A, E, D and K.  If your cat has hairballs, one teaspoon of olive oil added to his food each day may be the perfect solution. Olive oil is also great for making your own herbal infusions, and used topically, it is effective for calming inflamed ears.

Hemp seed oil

When I first began to introduce hemp to my animals’ diets many years ago, there was only one product available. Now, store shelves are packed with hemp products.  Hemp seeds contain 25% high quality protein and 40% fat. Hemp seed oil is rich in linoleic, linolenic and gamma-linolenic acid.

Cranberry seed oil

Cranberry seeds are only the size of a pinhead, but they are loaded with nutrients.  They contain Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and Omega 9 oleic acid.  Cranberry seed oil also contains heart-healthy phytosterols and powerful antioxidants, including eight isomers of vitamin E. The carotenoids that give cranberries their beautiful deep red color protect cells from free radical damage. Cranberry seed oil is unique because it contains natural antioxidants that keep it fresh for two years; you can even add a little to vegetable oils to extend their shelf life by preventing oxidation.

Chia seed oil

Chia can be found on many of today’s “world’s healthiest foods” lists. It is a member of the mint family and has a long history, going all the way back to Aztec and Mayan times when it was used to help relieve joint pain and skin conditions. Chia seeds are a valuable source of alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based form of Omega 3.

Camelina oil

Camelina oil is similar to almond oil in texture and flavor. It’s a rich source of Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids, and supports healthy skin and coat. Camelina seeds are an excellent source of phytosterolsm, including campesterol, which helps prevent the inflammation that can result from cartilage damage; and stigmasterol, a potent antioxidant that helps reduce cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Camelina oil has a high smoke point of 475°F, which makes it a great alternative for baking.  It also has a very long shelf life and is not prone to becoming rancid like other oils, due in large part to its high levels of vitamin E.

Krill oil

Fish and krill oils contain both EPA and DHA, but they are different because of the way the Omegas are bonded. Fish oils are bonded to triglycerides, and krill oil is predominantly bonded to phospholipids. Krill also contains a high level of astaxanthin. Pure krill oil is a natural extract whose health benefits are strongly dependent on maintaining its natural integrity with minimal chemical and physical intervention. The essential elements of  krill oil extract, such as Omega 3 bound phospholipids and astazanthin, are highly potent yet extremely sensitive to degradation if not handled properly. Beware of supplements that include fillers.

Canola oil

Canola oil is not bad for our animals; in fact, it has a lot to offer. Not only does it contain linoleic acid, it also contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an Omega 3 fatty acid that is also found in flax seeds, walnuts, and red and black currant seeds. Canola oil is also a source of Omega 9 oleic acid.

Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil is made from oil-type sunflower seeds and contains more vitamin E than any other vegetable oil. It’s another source of Omega 9 oleic acid. Sunflower seeds are included in gluten-free diets.

Peanut oil

Another source of Omega 9 oleic acid, unrefined and organic peanut oil and butter is fine for our animals. I haven’t met a dog yet who doesn’t adore a Kong stuffed with a big dollop of frozen organic peanut butter. Just keep in mind that peanuts are one of the most common food allergens in children.

When you shop for Omega oils, try to choose very high quality products that are packaged in dark bottles to keep out the light. Also try to purchase organically-produced oils that are unrefined and processed without the use of solvents. One of the key phrases to look for is “expeller pressed”. Always check the expiration dates before you head for the checkout counter! Oil should not taste bitter or have a sour smell. It should be stored with special care, away from direct light and heat.

RECIPES

Magic mash

This recipe can be prepared as a raw or cooked meal topper or side dish. Try to use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Ingredients for raw mash

4 to 6 cups brightly-colored fruits and vegetables, including kale, broccoli, carrots, and spring greens

½ cup filtered water

Cold pressed oil of your choice

Instructions

Simply whirl all the ingredients in a food processor. Drizzle with cold pressed oil before serving.

Ingredients for cooked mash

4 to 6 cups brightly-colored fruits and vegetables

6 cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons first pressed extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

Chop vegetables by hand or use a food processor. Transfer to a medium-sized sauce pan, add olive oil and salt. Turn stove on high until bubbles begin to form, then turn the heat down to simmer. Gently cook the mash for 15 minutes.

Cool, then serve with sardines packed in spring water, or another cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, cod or haddock.

Krispy Kale

Ingredients

1 bunch kale or large leafed spring greens

1 tablespoon first pressed extra virgin olive oil or camelina oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon hemp hearts

Instructions

Try to use organic ingredients. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove the leaves from the thick outer stems of the kale, then cut or tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Wash the leaves with filtered water, then dry in a salad spinner or pat them dry with a tea towel.

Spread the bite-sized pieces of kale on the cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt and hemp hearts, if you like. Bake for ten to 15 minutes, until the edges of the leaves are turning golden in color  Remove from oven, cool and serve – this is a treat the whole family can enjoy.

Store Krispy Kale in an open container; if they lose their crunch, simply pop them back in a pre-heated oven for a few minutes.

Sweet Potato Chips

Ingredients

3 sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)

¼ cup first pressed extra virgin olive oil or other first pressed oil of your choice

1½ teaspoons local honey

1 tablespoon (or more to taste) of a sweet or savory herb blend

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Combine the olive oil and honey, and baste the sweet potatoes with the blend — gently warming the oil and honey first will make basting very easy. Sprinkle sweet potatoes with selected seasoning blend.

Bake for 15 minutes, then take the cookie sheets out of the oven, gently turn over the sweet potatoes, sprinkle with a little extra seasoning, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel, let them cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the fridge. This is another treat you can share with your whole family.

Note: For extra crisp, let oven cool to 250°F, then return the sweet potatoes to the oven for a further 20 minutes, checking them regularly to ensure that they don’t burn. Store as above.

Chia Coconut Crunch

Ingredients

1½ cups rolled oats

½ cup coconut flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1½ tablespoons chia seeds

1 cup almond butter

¼ cup coconut oil or ¼ cup camelina oil

1 teaspoon whole vanilla bean extract

2 whole eggs

Instructions

Cover a large cookie sheet with edges, with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Press mixture into cookie sheet and flatten gently with a wooden spoon or fork. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely before serving. Store in the refrigerator, in an airtight container or Ziploc bag.

Soothing Salve

Here’s a really easy recipe for a soothing salve for your animal’s paws and pads. And you don’t have to worry if your dog or cat sneaks in a lick or two, because it contains only contains natural wholesome ingredients.

Ingredients

1/3 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon grated beeswax

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon of shea butter

Instructions

Mix all ingredients in a small pot, over low heat, until they have just melted. Make sure you stir well. Pour the mixture into a small dark or opaque glass container, and allow it to cool completely.

If you want to make your salve extra special and soothing, add some chamomile and lavender flowers, fresh from the garden. You can also add ten drops of vitamin E oil as a natural antioxidant preservative. Double or triple the recipe, and you’ll have enough to package up for gifts!