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Important and Essential Fats
Not All Fats are Bad, After All
Most people will agree that too much fat is bad, but fewer people may realize that the proper amount of fat contributes to health in many ways. Fats are the primary source of stored energy for animals. Fats are an energy reserve in the body and also function as insulation, protecting the body from sudden changes in temperature or harsh outside conditions (such as extreme cold). Fats help maintain the resilience of body skin and keep hair shiny and healthy. Fats transport nutrients such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K - fat soluble vitamins - through the body. Without fats, these vitamins can't function properly.

The value of proper supplementation using fatty acids (the major component of fats) in the diets of cats and dogs is becoming common knowledge. These nutrients can improve symptoms, such as allergies and arthritis in pets. There are three essential fatty acids pets need: Linoleic acid (Omega-6 fatty acid), linolenic acid (Omega-3 fatty acid), and arachidonic acid.

Omega-6 is good for normal growth, maintaining supple skin, and growing a healthy coat. Since dogs and cats cannot make linoleic acid in their bodies, it must be provided by their diets. (However, once Omega-6 is supplied, both dogs and cats can synthesize Omega-3 internally). Omega-6 is found abundantly in many plant sources, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, and seeds, oils from safflower, sunflower, corn, evening primrose oils, Borage oil.

Omega-3 aids in decreasing inflammation within the body and helps pets with allergic problems. Omega-3 is found in fish (cold-fish) oils like salmon, trout, mackerel, and herring. Omega-3 is also found in plants such as green leafy vegetables, grains, canola oil and flax seeds. As stated, dogs and cats can produce Omega-3 in their bodies provided they are getting enough Omega-6. (However, a little extra isn't going to hurt, as long as the source doesn't unbalance your pets' diets.)

Note that proper dietary ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is important - an incorrect ratio may result in vitamin deficiencies along with other problems. A ratio of about 5:1 is considered balanced for most pets.

Arachidonic acid is very important for cats in order to maintain healthy skin and a nice coat. Cats cannot synthesize this fatty acid in their bodies (unlike dogs, who can make it from linoleic acid). Cats must eat meat to get arachidonic acid.

Adult pets need at least 5% fat in their diets. Growing puppies, kittens, and lactating "mothers" will need more, as will extremely active dogs (police dogs, sled dogs, etc.).

In your efforts to address the health needs discussed here, please make sure that you do not feed your pets excessive amounts of fat. Taken to an unhealthy extreme, fats are the major cause of obesity in pets, which may eventually lead to additional disorders - just like with humans. Too much fat may cause digestive problems, loose stools, diarrhea, vomiting, and inflammation of the pancreas. Keep an eye on your pets' weights and give them lots of exercise. Fat deficiency is rare in pets (and this would usually mean an "essential fatty acid" deficiency), and can stem from an overdependence on cheaper, generic pet foods or possible digestive problems.

Special Note: Although every effort has been made to present healthy products and useful information to support your pets' health, the products and information contained within this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The contents of this site are not meant as a substitute for consultation with a trained veterinarian. If you are concerned about the health of your pets, you should ask your veterinarian for proper guidance suited to the specific condition of your pets. The owners of this website accept no liability for any consequences resulting from the use of products and/or information provided through this site. Please use your discretion when attending to your pets' health.
Special thanks to Fintan Darragh, Rich Bensen, Maggie, Jiji, and Mary Crissman for providing our pet pictures!
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