Supplementing your dog's diet. Part 1: Oils

November 03, 2023   |   By David Jackson

Supplementing your dog’s diet. Part 1: Oils

Adding oil supplements to your dog's diet is a decision that should be made thoughtfully and with consideration of your pet's individual needs. While high-quality commercial dog foods are formulated to be nutritionally complete and balanced, there are several reasons why some pet owners may choose to include oil supplements:

Specific Health Concerns:
Dogs with specific health issues, such as joint problems, skin conditions, or allergies, may benefit from oil supplements that contain targeted nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids. These supplements can provide additional support for managing these conditions.

Improved Coat and Skin Health:
Certain oils, like fish oil, can enhance the condition of your dog's skin and coat, making it shinier and healthier. This can be especially beneficial for breeds prone to skin issues or those with dry, flaky skin.

Weight Management:
Coconut oil, for example, contains medium-chain fatty acids that can help with weight management by promoting a feeling of fullness and boosting metabolism. This can be useful for dogs that need to lose or maintain weight.
dog eating
Overall Well-Being:
Oil supplements can offer additional vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that may support your dog's overall health and immune system.

Tailoring to Individual Needs:
Every dog is unique, and their nutritional needs can vary based on factors like age, breed, activity level, and health status. Adding supplements allows you to tailor your dog's diet to meet their specific requirements.

Before we get into examples of different oils available.

Let's talk oil terminology. Understanding the difference between Saturated fats vs Unsaturated fats, Omega oils and Essential oils can be a little confusing at first. Here's a quick explanation of common oil-related terminology for dogs:

  • Saturated Fat: This is a kind of fat that can be solid at room temperature. It's not commonly found in dog oils, but some like coconut oil have it. Dogs can use it for energy in moderation.

  • Unsaturated Fat: These fats are usually liquid and include healthy types like omega-3 and omega-6. They're good for dogs and help with various aspects of their health.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These are healthy fats that fight inflammation and support skin, coat, joints, and more. Dogs need them, and they come from sources like fish oil and flaxseed oil.

  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids: These fats are vital for skin health and the immune system. Dogs also need them and get them from sources like soybean and sunflower oil.

  • Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs): These are fats that dogs must get from their diet because their bodies can't make them. Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are examples of EFAs that keep dogs healthy.

  • MCT (Medium-Chain Triglycerides) Oil: MCT oil comes from coconut oil and gives dogs quick energy. It's useful, especially for certain medical conditions.

Now we've got some of the confusing terminologies out of the way, let's explore some of the commonly utilised and advantageous oils for dogs:

Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acids):

Fish oil, derived from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can support overall health, including joint health, skin and coat health, and heart health. Some Omega-3 oils, specifically EPA and DHA, have demonstrated effectiveness comparable to many prescription medications in providing joint support.

In fact, they often outperform supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin in delivering these benefits. Other, alternative forms of Omega- 3's include Chia Seeds and Walnut Oil. But while these plant-based sources have some benefits, marine-based sources like fish oil or algal oil with EPA and DHA are often more effective for overall health in dogs.

In general, the recommended fish oil dosage for dogs or cats is 1 ml for every 3 kg of your pet's weight.[1] However, if you are buying a pre-prepared product, you should follow the dosage instructions on the packet. Proper dosing is extremely important since too much salmon or fish oil might lead to some potentially serious side effects. Online you can find various fish oil dosage calculators for both dogs and cats. It's also worth noting high-grade omega 3 oils need to be stored in the fridge as it keeps them fresh and effective for longer.

Coconut Oil:

Coconut Oil

At first, coconut oil might seem confusing because it's solid at room temperature, but when you heat it, it transforms into a liquid oil. (Note: it's not necessary to heat up coconut oil for it be to beneficial for your dog.) Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), such as lauric acid, which can promote skin and coat health, aid digestion, support the immune system, and potentially aid in weight management. It can also be used topically for skin conditions and to improve coat condition.[2]

You can typically incorporate coconut oil into your dog's diet 1-2 times daily, ideally during mealtime. The appropriate amount to give your dog is determined by their size. Many veterinarians recommend a gradual introduction of coconut oil. A sensible starting point is 1/4 teaspoon daily for small dogs, and for larger dogs, you can begin with 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon daily. However, if your dog is overweight or obese, it's advisable to limit coconut oil to no more than once a day due to its high-fat content. Always closely monitor any dog receiving coconut oil to keep track of their weight and overall health.

Olive Oil:

Olive oil is a source of healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. It can help improve skin and coat health, support the immune system, and provide a source of healthy calories for active dogs. Use extra virgin olive oil for the best results. The doses of olive oil that you should give to your dog will vary according to its size and weight. Below we'll show you a simple conversion chart: Small dogs (10 kg) > 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil per day. Medium-sized dogs (11 to 30 kg) > 1 teaspoon of olive oil per day. Large dogs (over 30 kg) > 1 and a half teaspoons of olive oil per day.[3]

Hemp Seed Oil:

Hemp seed oil is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It can promote skin and coat health and may help with joint inflammation and mobility. When it comes to dosage, for pre-prepared products it's advised you follow the instructions on the label. However, if you are unsure of how much hemp seed oil your dog needs there are many online calculators which can help. According to Innovet, a standard serving of hemp oil for dogs is 1ml for every ten pounds of weight. Typically it is best to try the minimum quantity for an extended period, about one or two weeks, to see how your dog is affected by hemp oil. If you don't notice any difference in your dog's demeanour after an extended period of use, you can increase the serving by a small amount.[4]

Other oils that have shown to be beneficial to dogs include:

several oils
  • -Flaxseed Oil.

  • -Sunflower Oil.

  • -Safflower Oil.

  • -Pumpkin Seed Oil.

  • -Primrose Oil.

When incorporating oils into your dog's diet, it's important to seek guidance from your veterinarian. The appropriate dosage and type of oil can differ significantly, depending on your dog's specific requirements and any pre-existing health conditions they may have. Furthermore, it is imperative to select oils of the highest quality that are intended for consumption, known as food-grade oils. It's essential to avoid oils with added flavours or additives that could potentially pose harm to your dog's health. Prioritising these considerations ensures the safe and effective use of oils in your pet's diet.


We used several sources for this article, to make sure you received certified information

  • Brilliant pet-cares Fish Oil calculator Link
  • PetMDs Guide to Coconut Oil Link
  • Animalwised Olive Oil guide Link
  • Pet honesty's comprehensive guide on Hemp Oil Link


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