Every veterinary dermatologist (skin specialist) enthusiastically agrees that every itchy pet should be on Omega-3 Fatty Acids (FA)! And for dogs and cats, that means marine/fish oils. Omega-3 FA have a number of health benefits throughout the body (joints, kidneys, skin, eyes, nervous system), but for our purposes, we will just talk about the skin benefits. The most significant benefits are the anti-inflammatory properties of Omega-3s. Proper dosing is crucial to providing any itching relief, and far too many products recommend an inadequate dose.
The Proper Way to Dose Omega-3s:
– First, look for the “NASC” (National Animal Supplement Council) seal on a container to insure proper quality control. If there is no “NASC” seal, I would not trust the quality in this unregulated supplement industry ~ let the buyer beware.
– Rather than looking at how many mg of Fish Oil are in a product, look at the amount of EPA + the amount of DHA. They should be listed on the nutrition label. Simply add the EPA + DHA. If you don’t see DHA and EPA listed, don’t buy the product!
– DOSE: Give 30 to 35 mg of combined EPA + DHA per pound of the pet’s body weight… give daily.
– Example: An itchy dog weighs 20 lbs. The proper dose for a 20 lb dog is 600 to 700 mg per day (20 lbs x 30mg = 600 mg… 20 lbs x 35 mg = 700 mg). So, if a bottle lists EPA = 400mg/DHA = 300 mg… Add them together and you get 700 mg. 700 mg per day would just right for a 20 lb dog. Likewise a 10 lb dog needs ~300 mg… a 30 lb dog needs ~900-1000 mg… a 40 lb dog gets ~1250 mg… a 50 lb dog gets ~1500 mg… and so on.
Our Products (all of which, of course, have the NASC seal of Guaranteed Quality):
EZ-CHEW 450 mg Max Strength Omega-3 for Small & Medium Dogs and Cats – 60 chewable tablets – $20 (If your order online or via telephone, there is a $7 mailing fee due to the heavy weight of the EZ Chews)
EZ-CHEW 900 mg Max Strength Omega-3 for Large & Extra Large Dogs – 90 chewable tablets – $36 (If your order online or via telephone, there is a $7 mailing fee due to the heavy weight of the EZ Chews)
FreeForm Snip Tips Omega 3 – Small Dogs & Cats – 60 twist off gel caps – $18
FreeForm Snip Tips Omega 3 – Medium & Large Dogs – 60 twist off gel caps – $26
Why Omega-3s May Not Work:
It could be from incorrect dosing or poor quality control of product (very true for both human supplements as well as pet supplements). While flax seeds and chia are sources of Omega-3s, they are virtually unusable for dogs (and not usable at all for cats), so do not waste your money providing a flax seed supplement to your pet thinking it will get Omega-3 benefit. Also, definitely do not waste your money on krill oil ~ it has shown no additional benefit over fish oil in human studies + it costs about 10 x more than fish oil + krill is consumed by whales, so best not to remove a significant food source from endangered whales.
What About Coconut Oil ???
Many pet owners add coconut oil to their pets’ food. Keep in mind that coconut oil is an Omega-6 fatty acid (it is NOT an Omega-3 fatty acid like fish oil), so for an itchy pet, it does not help with the itchy. In fact, because Omega-6 fatty acids are what we call pro-inflammatory (the opposite of anti-inflammatory), coconut oil can actually aggravate/worsen the itchiness of an itchy pet. If you want to use coconut oil, it is best used on the surface of the skin of a pet… not taken internally.
FOR ITCHY DOGS: APOQUEL
We finally have Apoquel… after 3+ years of waiting! It’s been a huge challenge for all veterinarians to get it, but for now, it’s available. Apoquel (tablets given by mouth) has proven to be a great benefit for itchy dogs. We especially like it for 2 reasons: 1) it does a great job of helping itchy dogs. And 2) it does not have an adverse effect on the adrenal glands in the body (which steroids / cortisone do). It is recommended for dogs 1 year or older, and it cannot be used in breeding, pregnant or nursing dogs. The most common side effects are vomiting and diarrhea. It can be used safely with heartworm medications and flea products. It is available in 3 different dosages, and the price is $2.10 per tablet. But the dosage given depends on the weight of the dog.
NEW FOR ITCHY DOGS: Cytopoint/CADI = Canine Atopic Dermatitis Immunotherapy
This is the newest treatment available in veterinary medicine for skin allergies (dogs only)… and we have it available. In my handout on Allergies, I discuss briefly allergy testing and hypo-sensitization to ‘de-sensitize’ your pet to specific allergens (things that cause your pet to break out and itch, such as grass, weeds, dust, fleas, etc.). With CADI, it is not selective… it does not target just dust or weeds or fleas, etc. I hate to call it a ‘shotgun’ approach to de-sensitizing your pet, but that’s sort of what it is. In one sense, it de-sensitizes to your pet to ANY environmental allergen that may cause allergies. It is given as an injection once a month, with the expected benefit of 3 to 5 weeks. There are virtually no side-effects (a small number of dogs may experience intestinal upset). The cost depends on the weight of the pet as it comes in 4 different dosages. While available for any size dog, it gets pretty pricey for dogs more than 40 lbs.
5-10# = $27/injection
10-20# = $33/injection
20-30# = $38/injection
30-40# = $44/injection