Reasons to Give Your Dog Fish Oil featured image

If there's one dog supplement worth its hype, it's fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids and EPA/DHA found in fish oil have been proven to aid dogs in more than one way. From brain function to shiny coat, from joint health to digestion issues, there are many science-based benefits of fish oil for dogs.

You can buy fish oil for dogs in a liquid or capsule form. The liquid is easy to administer by pouring over your dog's kibble or adding to homemade dog food. Fish oil pills are more convenient if your pooch is fine with taking them, either by themselves or using pill pockets.

When administering fish oil to dogs, it's best to give them the purest forms of fish oil. Dosing should always be established by your veterinarian, particularly if you're adding omega-3s due to some health condition of your dog.

The chart below gives basic dosage limits of fish oil for dogs:

Weight in Lbs MG of Omega-3 Daily
10 250
20 550
30 800
40 1100
50 1350
60 1650
70 1900
80 2200
90 2500
100 2700
110 3000
120 3200

Note: Pay attention to the quantity of Omega-3s (EPA/DHA) in your dog's fish oil supplements. Just because a supplement is 1200mg fish oil, it may be that only 360mg of that is omega-3s. These are usually indicated on the label, sometimes under asterisk.

20 Benefits of Fish Oil for Dogs

1. It's Anti-Inflammatory

Omega-3s, and in particular Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) found in omega-3 fatty acids, is a powerful anti-inflammatory (1). Their addition in the diet was shown to reduce the production of molecules that contribute to inflammation (2, 3).

This means that fish oil supplements can benefit dogs with a wide variety of inflammation related conditions such as auto-immune diseases, arthritis, hip dysplasia, and muscle strain or injury, among others (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).

Inflammation is also associated with post-surgical recovery, and fish oil can speed up dog's recovery following surgical procedures (10, 11, 12).

2. It's Great for a Dog’s Coat

EPA in fish oil will improve a dog's coat, making it shinier and healthier overall (13, 14). It helps manage hydration and production of oils in a dog's coat and prevents hair follicle hyperkeratinization.

Dogs that were fed omega-3s showed improvements in their skin and coat, and it was particularly beneficial for dogs with atopic dermatitis and other skin related conditions (15, 16, 17, 18).

Combine regular fish oil supplementation with daily or weekly brushing (depending on the breed) and your dog’s coat will look better than ever.

3. It Aids in Anxiety Relief

Benefits of fish oil for dogs aren't just physical. Studies have shown that omega-3’s found in fish oil can decrease anxiety and improve anxiety related symptoms (19, 20, 21).

This is due to the fact that omega-3’s promote healthy brain activity. The specifics of why omega-3’s help with anxiety is still a mystery, but studies confirm lower levels of omega-3’s in individuals displaying anxiety and higher levels in those without anxiety.

4. It Benefits Brain Development and Function

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are one of the major building blocks of the brain, and are crucial for proper brain function (22, 23, 24).

Adult dogs and senior dogs can benefit from fish oil because it helps to stave off depression, anxiety, and cognitive dysfunction (25, 26). Fish oil has also been shown to improve memory, improve learning, and promote better behavior (27, 28).

Just like human babies, it's possible that puppies may also benefit from fish oil which promotes healthy brain development, especially if given to gestating mothers (29, 30).

5. It Helps a Dog’s Eyesight

DHA is not only beneficial to the brain, but it has eyesight benefits as well (31).

In puppies, DHA can promote healthy eye development. In adults, studies have shown that DHA can help prevent or slow deterioration from glaucoma, dry eye syndrome, and macular degeneration (32, 33).

6. It Slows Down Cancer Growth

Research has shown that an excess of omega-6, which is frequently found in abundance in dog foods, can stimulate the growth of certain types of canine cancers, whereas addition of omega-3s will decrease the risks (34, 35, 36).

This over-consumption of omega-6 can be offset by supplementing with the omega 3’s found in fish oil. Omega-3’s decrease the negative effects of the omega-6’s so that they are less likely to set the stage for cancer development in dogs (37, 38, 39, 40).

It’s important to supplement your dog's diet with healthy sources of omega-3 when fighting cancer. It means either using fish oil supplements or healthy foods high in omega-3s such as krill oil, sardines, mackerel, salmon, and menhaden.

7. It Will Boost a Dog’s Immune System

Recent research has found that the DHA in fish oil can increase B cell activity (41). B cells are a type of white blood cell that plays an important role in the dog's body’s immune response.

B cells are specialized immune cells that make antibodies. Antibodies affix themselves to the antigens on germs. This stops germs and makes them recognizable as invaders that must be destroyed.

8. It Remedies Skin Conditions

Whether your dog has itchy skin, allergies, dry skin or dandruff, fish oil can help (42).

There are two reasons for this. First, fish oil is hydrating, which means that dry skin receives the injection of moisture it needs to repair and recover. Second, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are anti-inflammatory.

Many skin conditions in dogs result in inflammation and redness that can be bothersome and cause more scratching. Reducing inflammation stops the cycle of scratching and damaging skin, and studies show that adding fish oil into a dog's diet will reduce symptoms of many different skin conditions, including psoriasis (43, 44, 45, 46).

9. It Can Be Used as a Food Topper

Benefits of fish oil for dogs can also be practical. Fish oil has a very fishy scent and a fishy taste which is particularly appealing to some dogs. Adding a little of this stinky, tasty treat to your dog’s kibble can tempt them to eat when they are being extra picky.

Fish oil on food can also help to get your dog to eat when they are sick or experiencing anorexia due to medication side effects. This is particularly common with chronic illnesses.

10. It Benefits a Dog's Heart Health

One of the most well-known benefits of fish oil for dogs is that it can reduce blood pressure and triglyceride levels (47, 48, 49).

High triglycerides aren’t usually a concern for dogs, but blood pressure can be. For example, in some dogs with heart disease where the heart struggles to pump blood, a reduction in blood pressure can make this easier (50, 51).

Most of the time, this decrease in dog's blood pressure is achieved with prescription medications, but fish oil supplements can be beneficial too. In fact, regular omega-3s supplementation through fish oil can help to avoid the need for medications that come with a host of potential side effects.

11. It Decreases Shedding

Because healthy fats in fish oil contribute to stronger and healthier dog hair, dogs are likely to shed less. Although dogs tend to “blow their coat” once or twice a year, an unhealthy diet can cause increased shedding. Supplementing with fish oil means fewer dead and dull hairs, which means less hair falling out.

12. It Benefits Dogs with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is a natural result of aging in the dog's brain. Most dogs will experience some degree of CCD in their senior years. Fortunately, studies have shown that supplementation with fish oil can reduce the severity of dementia and even keep it at bay (52, 53, 54).

The reason behind fish oil’s benefit in CCD is thought to be the result of the anti-inflammatory, anti-tau, and anti-amyloid action of omega-3’s. Interestingly, supplementation with omega-3’s alone does not seem to have the same effect as supplementation with fish oil specifically.

13. It Helps to Control Diabetes in Dogs

Recent research studies have shown that fish oil supplements can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (55, 56, 57). This happens as a result of an increase in adiponectin hormone levels which play a role in insulin sensitivity.

For dogs with type 2 diabetes already, fish oil supplementation can help in the same way. Some dog owners have even found that with proper diet and fish oil supplements, their dogs eventually no longer need medications.

14. It Improves Circulation

There are many health conditions that can result in poor circulation, but supplementing with fish oil can improve this condition in dogs (58, 59).

Fish oil firstly reduces inflammation in a dog's body which can lead to poor circulation. Then, fish oil helps to clear plaques that may have built up in the dog's arteries (although this is uncommon in dogs) and allows for better blood flow (60, 61).

15. It's Beneficial for Thyroid Issues

Research has shown that fish oil may play a role in thyroid health by promoting the uptake of thyroid hormone (62, 63, 64). Studies compared the thyroid hormone receptor and enzyme levels in individuals supplementing with fish oil and those without.

Those taking fish oil had better thyroid hormone uptake. This is particularly good news for dogs with hypothyroidism. Additionally, since inflammation is a contributing factor to hyperthyroidism, fish oil has been beneficial in hyperthyroidism patients too.

16. It Improves Kidney Function

Researchers studying fish oil and its use in kidney failure patients have found that high doses of fish oil can slow kidney disease and renal failure in dogs (65, 66). Other studies with humans found even more evidence for this (67, 68).

In one study, 85% of kidney failure patients taking high doses of fish oil still had kidney function eight years later (69). This compares to 56% of patients who were not taking fish oil.

17. It Reduces Muscle Fatigue

Benefits of fish oil for dogs also extend to working breeds and sporting dogs. Studies have found that dietary supplementation of fish oil delays muscle fatigue (70, 71, 72). This happens because the DHA in fish oil cuts down the amount of oxygen used when muscles contract.

18. It's Great for Epileptic Dogs

In 2014, researchers released study results that showed a correlation between omega-3 fish oil intake and seizure activity (73). Individuals with epilepsy – particularly those who no longer respond to medications – experienced less seizure activity when they took fish oil supplements daily.

Other studies found similar results in how fish oil benefits epileptic dogs (74, 75, 76).

The theory here is that fish oil promotes brain health but it also helps to stabilize heart rhythm and reduces the excitability of brain cells. The culmination of these factors results in fewer seizures.

19. It Will Help Fight Depression in Dogs

Researchers believe that there is a link between low levels of EPA/DHA and depression. Although more research is needed, preliminary studies have shown that supplementation with fish oils can reduce levels of depression in both humans and animals (77, 78, 79).

Few of us consider that our dogs can become depressed, but they can. Depression in dogs is particularly common in dogs grieving the loss of a companion or human guardian. It can also develop from severe anxiety, too much stress or poor diet.

20. It Lowers a Dog's Blood Pressure

The role of omega-3 fatty acids in high blood pressure reduction is not known, but studies have proven that fish oil supplementation does cause a reduction in high blood pressure (80, 81, 82).

Although dogs and cats can both experience hypertension, it was only recently that vets began measuring blood pressure routinely because primary hypertension is quite uncommon.

Only between 0.5% and 10% of dog’s experience primary high blood pressure. High blood pressure can also be the result of another illness, disease or the side effect of a medication. Secondary hypertension is more prevalent than primary hypertension and makes up 80% of hypertension cases in dogs.

The Best Fish Oil for Dogs Supplements

Seeing how many benefits of fish oil for dogs there are, it's reasonably to start including this supplement in your pet's diet. You can do this either with liquid or pill-form fish oil. Here are the best dog fish oil supplements we've liked in the past.

READ NEXT: Top 5 Best Fish Oil Supplements

Disclosure: We may earn affiliate commissions at no cost to you from the links on this page. This did not affect our assessment of products. Read more here and find full disclosure here.

Want to share this?

Top 20 Benefits of Fish Oil for Dogs (Based on Science)

Diane has a PhD in Biology and has been teaching different angles of science for over 20 years. She's also a writer of all things scientific with a lot of passion for animal sciences and psychology, trying to make these topics easily understandable and accessible for everybody.