This is part of an ongoing series on supplements recommended on the internet for reactive dogs. I am not a vet, nor have I personally tried most of these supplements with my dog, which means that I cannot tell you if you should or shouldn’t use them with your own. I’m also a lazy researcher, and used Wikipedia for my starting point. Google filled in the rest, and while I think I’m pretty good at separating the good sites from the propaganda, I cannot verify the accuracy of their claims. If you want to use a supplement with your dog, do your own research, and consult with your vet.
In other words: Use this information at your own risk.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
What is it? How does it work?
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential nutrients which must be obtained from food. There are three main types: ALA, which is derived primarily from seed oils, such as flaxseed, EPA, and DHA. The latter two are found primarily in fish oils.
Essential fatty acids potentially appear to be quite beneficial for a wide variety of mental conditions in humans, including memory impairment, schizophrenia, depression, and hyperactivity. This is because Omega 3s are thought to have membrane-enhancing capabilities in the brain, possibly by increasing the myelin sheaths, although there also appears to be some effect on dopamine levels as well.
What are the risks of using it?
There are few risks associated with Omega 3 fatty acids. Their use may be contraindicated for those with cardiovascular issues. Failure to take them balanced with Omega 6 fatty acids may result in altered metabolic function. A healthy ratio would be 1:1 to 4:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3. The reason you hear so much about Omega 3s is that the typical Western diet is heavily skewed from 10:1 to 30:1.
Availability and dosing considerations.
Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in flax seed oil, fish oil, and in grass-fed meat, especially beef.
Are there any scientific studies supporting its use in canines?
This study found that the aggressive dogs they tested had low levels of Omega 3s, although the researchers cautioned that they could not say if supplementation with Omega 3s would reduce aggressive behaviors.
Since Omega 3s have been found to be effective in treating osteoarthritis, and may help dogs suffering from allergies. As a result, (and on the advice of our vet) I do give fish oil to my own dog. Maisy’s reactivity is steadily improving, but I have no idea if the Omega 3s are contributing to that or not.
Edit February 2015: Why I Chose Medication Instead of Supplements