We all want our dog and/or cat to have shining fur, to be mentally bright and physically fit. We know that how we feed our furry family members has a huge impact on their health and well-being. We worry about protein levels to maintain muscles mass and to keep carbohydrate levels low for minimizing inflammation. We make sure the calcium and phosphorus levels are puppy and kitten appropriate. But do we pay enough attention to the fats in our pet foods?
Fats are a class of nutrients essential to life. While we all know fats contribute energy and are very calorie dense, are we aware that all the cells in the body are influenced by the balance of fats in our dog or cat diets and that certain fat-soluble vitamins can only enter the body dissolved in fats?
Every cell membrane and brain, eyes, skin, gut … is composed of fatty acids derived from dietary fats. Optimum levels and balances of fatty acids create flexible, permeable and healthy cell membranes. While poor fat selections lead to more inefficient cell membranes which might make your pet move or think more slowly than the animal fed a better-balanced diet. Extremely fat restricted diets may lead to certain vitamin deficiencies.
Fats are not simple. Coconut oil is not fish oil, nor is hempseed oil replaceable by chicken fat. The background reason for this is the unique molecular structure of every fat. All fats are chains of carbon atoms with attached glycerol groups. In any one fat, the number of carbon atoms and the number of single or double bonds between the carbon atoms gives a fat a specific character and potential use in the body when the fats are broken into their constituent fatty acids.
Balancing oils is about combining different oils to get the proper amount and proportion of different fatty acid types. The following simple comparison shows how different the oils can be. Coconut oil is comprised of 92% saturated (single bond) fats and contains 0 grams/kg of omega 3 fatty acids while cod liver oil is only 25% saturated fats and 215 g/kg of Omega 3 fatty acids. Hempseed has 11% short chain fatty acids and 182g/kg Omega 3 while chicken fat is 31% short chain fatty acids and has 8g/kg of Omega 3 fatty acids. Fats are broken into their respective fatty acids in the body. Some fatty acids can be very pro-inflammatory if they are in excess while others can be anti-inflammatory.
Fats are delicate. The more double bonds in a fat, the easier it can turn rancid. The very important anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids are the most delicate. As soon as these oils are exposed to sunlight and oxygen they begin to degrade. When a bag of dog food is opened this process begins even with antioxidants added to the kibble. Frozen raw diets may have slower degradation but the longer the food is stored, the more damage occurs.
How can you be sure your dog or cat is getting the right proportions and types of fats? If you feed a raw or home prepared cooked diet from a recipe that has not been properly analyzed, you can have Full Circle perform a computer analysis to check the current fats and recommend how to balance the fats for optimal health. If you feed a kibble diet, try to buy a volume that can be consumed within two weeks. If you buy in large bulk, freezing the kibble will slow the degradation. Kibble feeders can also supplement with some sardines or fresh cold-water fish oil on a regular basis to replace those delicate Omega 3 fats.
Visit the Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives’ Facebook page where we often post short tips on whole food balanced nutrition to improve the nutritional health of all dogs and cats.
Written by Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives