Omega-3 is a collective term used to describe a certain set of fatty acids, most notably EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), substances which are abundant in fish and seaweed. The other Omega-3 fatty acid known as ALA (alpha-Linolenic acid) can be found in dark-leafed plants. Supplementing your dog with Omega-3 promotes healthy heart function, healthy joints and a healthy immune system as well as many other benefits!

When do vets recommend it?

If your vet has recommended the use of Omega-3 it will usually be for the treatment of itching. Fish oils are also sometimes used with glucosamine to relieve pain associated with joint conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia.

What’s the best formulation for dogs?

There are lots of Omega-3 supplements for dogs, but we recommend Omega 3/6/9 by VETiONX. This formula contains all three types of essential fatty acid which can help reduce the symptoms of inflammation and itching, and promote the health of your dog’s immune system, skin, heart and more!

What is EPA?

EPA is a precursor to a hormone-like substance (prostaglandin-3) which has anti-inflammatory properties. When it is converted to prostaglandin-3 in the dog’s body it helps to reduce inflammation. EPA also provides several other key benefits, and can help to keep the heart healthy. Click here for more.

What is DHA?

DHA is a structurally important substance which plays an important role in the development of the nervous system and eyesight. It’s also believed that puppies receiving high amounts of DHA are easier to train, easier to socialize and display less destructive behavior. Young puppies often get their required levels of DHA from their mother’s milk. Click here for more.

How Much Does A Dog Need?

Note: Even though essential fatty acids are rarely harmful you should always talk to the vet before beginning treatment. This will also give you an opportunity to discuss other possible methods of treating your pet’s condition (if any condition is present).

The recommended dosage of Omega-3 (EPA and DHA) for dogs is as follows:


When advised for use by vets for the treatment of itching (pruritus), 10 mg/lb of EPA each day is recommended. This amount is also commonly used for treating other conditions. Refer to the chart below to find the recommended dosage for your dog’s weight:

EPA canine dosage chart

EPA is rarely sold by itself, it is usually combined in supplements with DHA. In fact, the two substances are rarely differentiated from each other.


In most cases you should focus on the target EPA dosage when supplementing your dog, as the recommended DHA dosage often matches this. In certain cases the recommended dosage may be just over half the dose of EPA, for example, during cases of heart failure dogs can be given around 18 mg/lb EPA and 11 mg/lb DHA per day. Most fish oil products contain equal amounts of both ingredients (1:1 ratio).

In young dogs DHA supplementation is recommended if for any reason they are unable to get an adequate amount through their food or mother’s milk.

Note: When choosing a supplement we recommend one that has been made specifically for dogs. These should exclude any irrelevant ingredients.

Accessibility Of Ingredients:

Fatty acids from certain sources (for example, plant sources) can not be used as readily by a dog’s body because they need to be converted first. For this reason it’s preferable to use supplements which source their fatty acids from cold water fish.


How Safe Is It?

Omega-3 fatty acids are safe and helpful for dogs when used correctly, and when your vet approves of treatment. However, there are several health concerns associated with their use in dogs, mainly related to platelet aggregation/blood clotting.

The effects of supplementation during canine pregnancy have not yet been established, therefore we advise pet owners to avoid giving these supplements to pregnant dogs. Treatment may also be unsuitable if your dog:

  • Has blood clotting problems
  • Has type 2 diabetes
  • Has diarrhea
  • Has pancreatitis (or has had it in the past)
  • Is receiving anticoagulant medicine

Aspirin, warfarin and heparin are all drugs with anticoagulant properties. These effects could be intensified by the supplement.

Safety Guidelines

If you believe your dog will benefit from supplementation you should make a quick call to the vet for his/her opinion.

You should balance the amount of Omega-3 your dog is receiving with the amount of Omega-6 in their diet. A good ratio is 9:1 where Omega-6 is 9 times more abundant than Omega-3. Some experiments have suggested a ratio of 4:1 but these studies used injectable solutions instead of feeding the supplements orally. Studies into the “golden ratio” are still ongoing.

Important: Because it is seen as harmless many owners give their dogs larger amounts of supplement than is needed based on the perceived severity of their pet’s condition. Avoid making this mistake, as these supplements do have adverse effects and large amounts can cause clotting issues and increase the risk of gastric effects (i.e. diarrhea and vomiting).

Common Uses In Dogs

Omega-3 has a wide range of physical, mental and aesthetic benefits when given to dogs. Here are just some of the conditions which it can be used to improve:

  • Itching
  • Arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Neoplasia

Aside from treating medical conditions, supplementation can have many positive effects on a dog’s general well-being, helping to promote the health and/or function of the:

  • Immune system
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Coat
  • Temperament (when given to younger dogs)

The coat will often become healthier and shiny during supplementation. This can be especially helpful for competition dogs, with many owners supplementing their pets with fish oil in the weeks leading up to a show.

Side Effects

Even though Omega-3 is often seen as harmless, there are some adverse effects owners should be aware of before beginning treatment. The incidence of these side effects is not yet known:

  • Inhibited blood-clotting
  • Inhibited inflammatory response
  • Altered glycemic control
  • Weight gain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

In rare cases dogs may experience drowsiness, or those with itching may experience a worsening of symptoms.

Bad Reactions:

Though unusual, if your dog experiences any side effects you should call your vet for advice on how to proceed. In most cases there are alternate treatment routes available.