How much Omega 3 fatty acids should I give my dog?

What are Omega 3s?

Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to provide a wide range of beneficial effects in humans and animals. They are a powerful, natural method of decreasing the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. However, studies in dogs and cats have found that when used for arthritis management, our pets may need higher doses than what most over-the-counter products recommend.

To further complicate matters, there are three types of Omega 3s. They include EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA). Dogs specifically need EPA and DHA to decrease inflammation due to arthritis.

The most potent source of EPA and DHA is fish oil.  You can provide EPA and DHA by giving fish oil supplements, whole fish (anchovies, sardines), or feeding a prescription food contains high levels of fish oil.

Did you know: Dogs cannot metabolize ALA (flaxseed, linseed or canola oil) sufficiently to help treat arthritis.

How much Omega 3s does my dog need daily?

The recommended dose of fish oil is 75-100 mg/ kg total EPA/DHA. CARE typically recommends about 100 mg/kg.

Your dog’s maximum daily dose is 310(kg)¾

Please note that there is an upper limit on how much Omega 3 is good. Overdosing with Omega 3s can lead to: vomiting and diarrhea, altered platelet function (and therefore the potential for reduced blood clotting), delayed wound healing, weight gain, altered immune function, and more. It is important that your veterinarian knows that your pet is taking Omega 3 supplements and that you do not give more than the recommended amount. 

To figure out your dog’s body weight in kilograms (kg), divide their weight in pounds by 2.2. For example, 50 lbs = 22.7 kg.  A 50-lb dog would need about 2,000 mg (2 grams) of fish oil per day. The maximum dose for a 50-lb dog would be 3,200 mg/ day.

Don’t like having to make calculations? Here are charts to determine your dog’s recommended daily dose.

Omega 3 Dosing (for dogs under 50 lbs)

Body weight (lbs)Body weight (Kg)Recommended Daily Dose (100 mg/kg)Maximum Daily Dose
52.3230 mg574 mg
104.5 450 mg965 mg
156.8680 mg1308 mg
209.1910 mg1623 mg
2511.41140 mg1919 mg
3013.61360 mg 2200 mg
3515.91590 mg 2469 mg
4018.21820 mg 2730 mg
4520.52050 mg 2982 mg
5022.72270 mg 3227
Recommended and maximum daily doses of Omega 3s (50lbs and under)

Omega 3 Dosing (51-100 lbs)

Bodyweight (lbs)Bodyweight (Kg)Recommended Daily Dose (100 mg/kg)Maximum Daily Dose
50 lbs22.72270 mg3227 mg
55252500 mg3466 mg
6027.32730 mg3700 mg
6529.52950 mg3924 mg
7031.83180 mg 4153 mg
7534.1 3410 mg 4374 mg
8036.43640 mg4590 mg
8538.63860 mg 4804 mg
9041 4100 mg 5014 mg
9543.24320 mg5222 mg
10045.54550 mg 5427 mg
Recommended and Maximum Daily Dosing (51-100 lbs)

Omega 3 Dosing (101-150 lbs)

Bodyweight (lbs)Bodyweight (Kg)Recommended Daily Dose (100 mg/kg)Maximum Daily Dose
100 lbs 45.54550 mg5427 mg
105 47.74770 mg5629 mg
110 505000 mg 5829 mg
11552.3 5230 mg 6027 mg
120 54.55450 mg 6222 mg
12556.85680 mg 6415 mg
13059.15910 mg 6607 mg
13561.36130 mg 6797 mg
14063.66360 mg 6985 mg
145 65.9 6590 mg 7171 mg
15068.26820 mg 7356 mg
Recommended and Maximum Daily Doses (101-150 lbs)

Natural sources of Omega 3s

EPA and DHA can be found naturally in salmon, sardines, and anchovies, and your dog will probably find this to be a tasty treat!

In a 6 oz serving, this is how much Omega 3s your dog would get from each source:

  • Anchovies, 3400 mg of EPA/DHA
  • Sardines, 2800 mg of EPA/DHA (about 100 mg per small sardine)
  • Salmon, between 2200- 3800 mg of EPA/DHA
    • NOTE: CARE does not recommend using salmon or salmon oil as a daily source of Omega 3s in dogs as it is not the most environmentally sustainable source.

Where else can I find Omega 3s?

There are many Omega 3 supplements available today. Most products will list the amount of EPA, DHA, and total Omega 3s. The total number will be larger than the sum of EPA and DHA due to “other” Omega 3s.

The ideal dose should be the total of EPA + DHA, not necessarily the total Omega 3 content. However, it is OK to determine what dose to give your dog using the total Omega 3 content listed on the supplement package.

Common supplements CARE recommends

Nordic Naturals Omega- 3 Pet

  • Liquid: One teaspoon contains 782 mg EPA/460 mg DHA, for a total of 1426 mg Omega 3s per teaspoon.
  • Soft gels: 1 capsule = 1000 mg fish oil

Just Food for Dogs Omega Plus

  • 1 Tsp contains 800 mg EPA/525 mg DHA

What are other things to consider?

When taken at the right dose, Omega 3s have relatively few side effects. If a dog takes Omega 3s with aspirin, they might experience blood thinning. NOTE: Aspirin is NOT recommended for dogs.

The most common side effect is diarrhea, particularly at higher doses. CARE recommends gradually increasing your dog’s daily dose of Omega 3s until they reach the recommended dose for their weight.

Fish oils are highly prone to oxidation, so it’s important you store them away from light. The formula should also contain adequate levels of Vitamin E or other antioxidants as preservatives; if preservatives are not added (such as JFFD Omega Plus), the product must be kept refrigerated.

Flaxseed (and other Omega 3 fatty acids) are not readily converted to the active forms EPA & DHA in pets and CARE does not recommend using flaxseed as a source of Omega 3s.