Fish Oil for Dogs: Everything You Need To Know

Fish Oil for Dogs: Everything You Need To Know

Fish oil for dogs can be incredibly beneficial -- from supporting skin health and brain health to immune support. Finn covers everything you need to know below!

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Fish oil is perhaps one of the most well-known supplements in human and veterinary markets alike. But, before you spend your money, is fish oil for dogs a good investment for your pet’s health? Does your dog need it? 

Finn has everything you need to know about this dietary supplement.

What Is Fish Oil?

Fish oil is a liquid supplement extracted from the tissue of various types of coldwater fish, including anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon, and tuna. While it consists of many different compounds, it is especially rich in two fatty acids — docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). While those names may not sound familiar, you may have heard of them in their broader description: omega-3s.

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Essentially, omega-3s are one of the good types of fat. That concept may sound strange, but certain types of fat can help support various bodily functions instead of creating more problems. Omega-3s, a kind of polyunsaturated fat, also work to balance out omega-6 fatty acids, a less healthy type of fat commonly found in commercial dog foods. 

One of the most critical ways that omega-3s work is by helping to create cell membranes. If you remember high school biology, cell membranes are the protective coating around the outside of the cell. It is the part of the cell that protects everything on the inside and keeps the outside environment from damaging or negatively impacting it. 

What Are the Benefits of Fish Oil for Dogs?

When you give your dog fish oil, you’re helping them in a variety of different but equally important ways. Here are just a few of the benefits you can expect to see in your dog. 

Keep in mind that supplements should always be given in addition to a balanced diet, and should not act as your dog’s primary source of health and wellness.

Supports Heart Health

One of the most well-studied aspects of the benefits of fish oil for dogs is its impact on the heart. Your dog’s cardiovascular health is vital for their quality of life and longevity. While you can’t always stop heart issues from occurring (some are genetic), you can better support your dog’s heart health with heart-healthy ingredients. 

Fish oil can also help dogs with pre-existing heart conditions as long as you verify its safety with your veterinarian.

Fish oil may also help support healthy circulation. This ties in with another benefit of the supplement — supporting regular heart function. While this isn’t a replacement for prescribed heart medications, it can help support heart health in combination with those medications (under a veterinarian’s supervision). 

Supports Healthy Skin and Coat 

A frequently overlooked benefit to supporting your dog’s skin health with supplementation is keeping them comfortable. If your dog deals with dry skin, they may not let on how uncomfortable they really are. 

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Dogs are excellent at hiding their feelings, a self-preservation instinct that goes back to their ancestors. Unfortunately, that means you have to be far more aware of your dog’s behavior and look into anything that seems out of the ordinary. 

On top of having healthy, nourished skin, fish oil’s benefits also extend to their coats. A healthy coat not only looks gorgeous, but can also play a role in waterproofing and weather resistance for some dogs!

Supports Healthy Joints

Due to omega-3 fatty acid properties that help maintain inflammation pathways in the body, they have proven beneficial for joint concerns. They can be even more helpful when combined with another supplement with proven ingredients, like glucosamine and MSM, to provide optimal joint support

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If your dog is experiencing swelling or discomfort, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian first before supplementing to help identify the root cause. 

Helps Support Healthy Eyesight

One final benefit of fish oil in dogs is that it can help support healthy eyesight in your pet, no matter their age. Specifically, the DHA component of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil is the same as the DHA naturally present in your dog’s retina. Supplementing your dog’s natural DHA stores can help keep their retinas healthy.

Fish Oil For Each Stage of Your Dog’s Life

One of the most exciting parts of using fish oil to supplement your dog’s diet is that it can help provide support in each stage of their life. 

The benefits are the most obvious when your dog is a puppy. Studies on one of the main components of fish oil, DHA, have shown many benefits in the healthy development of young dogs' brains and eyes. Regular supplementation of omega-3s in puppies may also help support their trainability by helping to support cognitive function. 

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If you don’t start your dog on fish oil when they are puppies, you can still make sure they experience all of the benefits we discussed if you supplement them as adults. In most cases, you’ll still be able to get ahead of supporting their health. 

Senior dogs can also massively benefit from fish oil supplementation.

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Older dogs are more prone to injury and illness and tend to have difficulty when just getting up from the couch or their bed. Supporting their joints with fish oil (and glucosamine) supplements can help keep them feeling comfortable in their day to day activities for as long as possible.

Is Fish Oil For Dogs Necessary?

While it’s always a good idea to scrutinize any supplement before purchasing or adding it to your dog’s routine, fish oil for dogs passes the test with flying colors. Although omega-3 fatty acids provide many impressive health benefits, they are not compounds that dogs can make on their own.


Don’t be fooled by dog foods that claim that they can give your dog all of the fish oil they need. While there are plenty of excellent, nutritious, balanced dog foods out there (both over-the-counter and prescription), omega-3 is usually an afterthought ingredient. 

With how expensive and time-consuming it is to provide your dog with an all-natural diet, supplementing with fish oil can be just what your dog needs.

Are There Any Side Effects of Fish Oil for Dogs?

Even though fish oil is generally well-tolerated in dogs of all ages, no supplement is without its potential risks. However, you can negate the vast majority of this risk by making sure to give your dog only the proper amount of fish oil.

If your dog does get too much fish oil or develops an adverse reaction to the supplement, the follow side effects are possible: 

  • Nausea and vomiting (especially when first starting your pet out on fish oil)
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea (especially at higher doses)

Fish oil should also be used cautiously with pets with a few pre-existing conditions, including blood clotting disorders, diabetes, and a history of pancreatitis. 

The supplement is also high in calories and fat, so giving too much can result in both the above-mentioned side effects and an increased risk of obesity. 

It’s also crucial to ensure that you’re giving your pet fish oil meant for dogs. Many of us are also taking fish oil or omega-3 supplements (for many of the same reasons), so we often have extra supplements lying around the house. 

Unfortunately, the capsules and gels that we take are not created or dosed for our furry friends, and it can be dangerous to give them to your dog. Make sure to stick to pet supplements only, and resist the temptation just toss your pup one of yours. 

How Should I Store Fish Oil?

Fish oil for dogs is beneficial, but it can also be made ineffective by not storing it properly. 

The first rule of storing fish oil supplements is to keep them cool and dry. They contain polyunsaturated fats, which can spoil if they get too warm. Some supplements, like our beef liver-flavored Skin & Coat soft chews, contain naturally preserving vitamin E, which can help reduce the risk of spoiling. You should still store them out of the heat. 

The other rule with safely storing fish oil supplements is keeping them out of direct sunlight. While sunlight won’t spoil them, it can cause them to break down and be far less effective. 

In addition, although most cool, dry areas without direct sunlight are up and out of the way, make sure that you store your supplements away from places your dog can reach. Although fish oil supplements are great for your dog, they can get too much of a good thing. 

Dogs aren’t capable of reading labels, and supplements can be pretty tasty, so they may end up eating the entire container. If this happens, make sure to call Animal Poison Control (through the ASPCA) for advice about what to do next. 

How Much Fish Oil Should I Give My Dog?

Fish oil can be an incredibly beneficial supplement to add to your dog’s diet. But part of that benefit hinges on knowing how much to give them. The best resource for finding the answer is to talk to your veterinarian, who can give you an idea of what is healthy for your specific dog. 

The amount of fish oil you give your dog should be directly related to their age, size, and weight. Don’t be tempted to give your dog more than that amount. It not only doesn’t add to the benefit; it can also be dangerous to your dog’s health. Follow the directions provided on the bottle and check with your vet before starting to be as safe as possible. 

Are There Alternatives To Fish Oil?

Fish oils are usually a combination of some of the oils below, which you can also give individually to get a lot of the same benefits!

  • Salmon oil — The terms fish oil and salmon oil can be used interchangeably, as fish oil is commonly made from salmon (often, wild Alaskan salmon).
  • Krill oil — One alternative to fish oil in dogs that has gained popularity is krill oil. Krill, which are small, shrimp-like creatures, are also full of EPA and DHA. They also contain an additional compound, astaxanthin, an antioxidant that may help keep the oil stable. However, there is some concern over the environmental impact of using krill oil for dogs (especially in Antarctica, where most krill are sourced), and safe dosage has not yet been determined. 
  • Cod liver oil — Cod liver oil for dogs and fish oil are similar in both benefit and application. The main difference between the two is where the oil comes from. With fish oil, the oil comes from the tissue of the fish. With cod liver oil, the oil is extracted from the liver of the codfish. 
  • Flaxseed oil — Although dogs don’t care much about what they eat, some people would prefer not to deal with the sometimes fishy breath that fish oil can create. While fish oil is the best choice, flaxseed oil also has many of the same benefits. 

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Other Ways To Keep Your Pet Healthy

Fish oil is only one part of helping your dog lead a healthy life. A nutritious, well-balanced diet and any necessary supplements are key components of keeping your dog healthy and happy. 

Exercise is another factor to consider for your pet’s health — no matter their age. Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your dog at any life stage. Although you may need to alter the type and amount of exercise as they age, keeping your dog active can increase their quality of life both mentally and physically. 

Dogs, even the oldest and most snuggly varieties, were not meant to just stay in the house. They need stimulation to keep them happy and often have excess energy that they need to burn off.

Keep these tips in mind when planning an exercise routine for your dog:

  • Puppy stage — Even as puppies, dogs need to get some activity to feel happy and fulfilled. While your puppy may not have a lot of stamina and will likely wear out quickly, even just a short walk or a few minutes throwing the ball in the backyard is essential. Keeping your dog active will also help them sleep better at night and minimize the number of times you need to wake up with them. Win-win!
  • Adult stage — When your dog moves into adulthood, exercise options open up! Most dogs will happily do what you like to do, mainly because they just want to spend as much time with you as possible. Take your dog for a hike (don’t forget the flea and tick medication first!), go for a run, or teach your dog how to play frisbee!  Most dogs will happily do what you like to do, mainly because they just want to spend as much time with you as possible.
  • Senior stage — Once your dog reaches their wise years, you’ll probably have already noticed them slowing down (at least a little bit). That doesn’t mean that you have to stop spending time outside with them — make a few adjustments, like shortening your walks or hikes, or throwing a softer ball around for a few minutes. 

In Summary

Fish oil is one of the most beneficial supplements you can provide for your pet. Its benefits extend from puppyhood through the golden years and are helpful at every stage in between. 

Looking for more guidance on which supplements can help your dog live their best, longest, happiest life? Take Finn’s free supplement consultation here


Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for Dogs and Cats with Heart Disease Omega-3 fatty acids have a number of potential benefits | Tufts 

Boosting Puppy Brains for Trainability With Omega-3 Fatty Acids | American Kennel Club 

Animal Poison Control | (888) 426-4435 | ASPCA



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