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Supplements for Dogs with Epilepsy: How Fish/Salmon Oil Can Help

Boost Your Dog's Brain: How Salmon Oil Can Help Dogs with Epilepsy

If you have a dog with epilepsy, you might be searching for natural ways to manage and potentially reduce the frequency of seizures as a adjunct therapy to veterinary care. One promising option is the supplementation of salmon oil, rich in DHA and EPA, which can offer substantial benefits for canine epilepsy. Let's explore why salmon oil is a great choice for dogs with epilepsy and how DHA and EPA support brain health.

Understanding DHA and EPA: The Brain Boosters

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) are essential fatty acids found predominantly in marine oils. These Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for the structure and function of cell membranes, particularly in the brain. Without these fatty acids, cell membranes would fall apart, disrupting the production of energy in the mitochondria and impairing essential cellular functions.

DHA and EPA are integral to maintaining the fluidity and flexibility of cell membranes. This fluidity is essential for the proper functioning of neurons, the cells responsible for transmitting signals in the brain. By ensuring that cell membranes are healthy and functioning correctly, DHA and EPA support overall brain health and cognitive function.

Over the last 20 years, there has been increasing evidence of the role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain development in dogs. Omega-3 deficient diets are not optimal for early neuronal development, and essential fatty acids are necessary for the normal development and function of the brain. A deficiency in these fatty acids can lead to functional abnormalities of the neural system, emphasizing the need for these nutrients to be obtained directly from food.


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Why Salmon Oil Supplementation is Essential

Dogs cannot produce essential fatty acids on their own; they must obtain them through their diet. Unfortunately, the essential fatty acids in processed pet food are often destroyed during high-heat processing. This is where salmon oil supplements come in, providing the necessary DHA and EPA to support your dog’s health.

Salmon oil is a preferred source of Omega-3 fatty acids for dogs because it contains high levels of DHA and EPA. These compounds not only reduce inflammation but also promote brain regeneration. Unlike other oils such as hemp, chia, and flaxseed oil, salmon oil contains resolvins, which help block and resolve inflammation.

The role of resolvins in inflammation is particularly important for dogs with epilepsy. Inflammation in the brain can exacerbate the frequency and severity of seizures. By reducing inflammation, resolvins help create a more stable environment in the brain, potentially lowering the likelihood of seizures.

Fish Oil Myths: Dispelling the Confusion

Fish oil supplementation has faced scrutiny due to concerns over the refined forms of fish oil, like ethyl ester, which can oxidise rapidly and deplete antioxidants in the body. To avoid these issues, it's important to choose fish oil in its natural triglyceride or phospholipid form, sourced from salmon, krill, anchovy, mussels, or squid.

Natural triglyceride fish oil is more easily absorbed by the body compared to ethyl ester forms. This means your dog can benefit more from the DHA and EPA present in the oil. Moreover, phospholipid forms, such as those found in krill oil, offer additional benefits due to their unique structure, which can enhance the delivery of fatty acids to the brain.

For dogs allergic to ocean-sourced fish oils, high-DHA microalgae oil can serve as an excellent vegetarian alternative. This ensures your dog still receives the benefits of DHA without the risk of allergies.


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Fish Oil and Epilepsy: The Science Speaks

Research supports the use of fish oil for managing epilepsy in dogs. In an open-label clinical trial with dogs suffering from idiopathic epilepsy, DHA supplementation resulted in a significant decrease in seizure frequency. Over 2-3 months, all dogs in the study showed a reduction in seizures by 50% or more, with some experiencing as few as 0-1 seizures per month by the end of the study. Another study found that feeding fish fat from dietary sources at least once a week during puppyhood was inversely associated with epilepsy later in life. This suggests that early dietary interventions with Omega-3 fatty acids can have long-term benefits for brain health and reduce the risk of developing epilepsy.

These findings suggest that DHA can be a valuable supplement in the treatment plan for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy, helping to manage and reduce seizure frequency in conjunction with veterinary therapy. The anti-inflammatory properties of DHA, combined with its ability to support cell membrane health, make it an essential component of a holistic approach to managing epilepsy in dogs.

Practical Tips for Supplementing with Salmon Oil

When adding salmon oil to your dog’s diet, it’s important to choose a high-quality product. Look for salmon oil that is sustainably sourced and free from contaminants such as heavy metals and PCBs. The oil should be cold-pressed to preserve the integrity of the DHA and EPA.

Start with a small dosage and gradually increase it, observing your dog for any adverse reactions. Consult your veterinarian to determine the appropriate dosage for your dog's specific needs, as it can vary based on size, age, and overall health.

Dogs That Should Not Have Salmon Oil

While salmon oil can offer many health benefits for dogs, it is not suitable for every canine. Here are some situations where salmon oil should be avoided:

1. Dogs with Fish Allergies

If your dog has a known allergy to fish or seafood, salmon oil should be avoided. Allergic reactions can range from mild itching and gastrointestinal upset to severe symptoms like swelling, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis. If you suspect your dog has a fish allergy, consult your veterinarian for alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Dogs on Blood-Thinning Medication

Salmon oil has natural blood-thinning properties, which can enhance the effects of anticoagulant medications such as warfarin or aspirin. This can increase the risk of bleeding and complicate conditions where blood clotting is critical. Dogs on these medications should not be given salmon oil without veterinary supervision.

3. Dogs with Bleeding Disorders

For dogs with bleeding disorders such as hemophilia or von Willebrand disease, the blood-thinning effects of salmon oil can exacerbate their condition. It's essential to avoid giving these dogs salmon oil unless specifically advised by a veterinarian.

4. Dogs with Pancreatitis or High Fat Sensitivity

Dogs with a history of pancreatitis or those sensitive to high-fat diets may not tolerate salmon oil well. The high-fat content can trigger flare-ups of pancreatitis. It's important to consult with your veterinarian before adding salmon oil to the diet of a dog with such conditions.

5. Dogs with Liver Disease

In cases of liver disease, the liver's ability to process fats and certain vitamins may be compromised. Salmon oil, which is high in fat and can contain significant levels of vitamin A, might put additional strain on the liver. Dogs with liver disease should only be given salmon oil under close veterinary supervision.

Conclusion: Boost Your Dog's Brain: How Salmon Oil Can Help Dogs with Epilepsy

Incorporating salmon oil rich in DHA and EPA into your dog’s diet can provide substantial health benefits, especially for dogs with epilepsy. By choosing high-quality, natural forms of fish oil, you can support your dog's brain health, reduce inflammation, and potentially lower the frequency of seizures. Always consult with your vet before starting any new supplementation to ensure it’s the best choice for your furry friend.

References Yonezawa, Tomohiro, et al. “Effects of High-Dose Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation as an Add-on Therapy for Canine Idiopathic Epilepsy: A Pilot Study.” Open Veterinary

Journal, Accessed 3 July 2024. Helen Matthews, et al. “Effects of Essential Fatty Acid Supplementation in Dogs with Idiopathic Epilepsy: A Clinical Trial.” The Veterinary Journal, W.B. Saunders, 3 June 2011,

DeGiorgio, C. M., & Taha, A. Y. (2016). Omega-3 fatty acids (ῳ-3 fatty acids) in epilepsy: animal models and human clinical trials. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 16(10), 1141–1145.

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