Essential Fatty Acids for Animals

Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) play a vital role in both cell and immune function.  EFA’s are divided into two forms, omega 3 and omega 6.  Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish and other marine life decrease inflammation.  In veterinary medicine, EFA’s are often prescribed for the following animal diseases:
1) Canine cognitive dysfunction
2) Allergic dermatitis
3) Osteoarthritis
4) Chronic kidney disease
5) Heart disease to decrease weight loss
6) Cancer treatment to decrease the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. EFA’s might also decrease tumor recurrence.

Unfortunately, essential fatty acids have unwanted side effects.  Here are a few of those side effects:
1) Has been found to inhibit insulin release in humans with type II diabetes.  Therefore, as a precaution, it should likely be used with caution in any diabetic patient including animals.
2) High doses may cause bleeding problems due to interference with platelets.  This is especially true in cats.
3) High doses of omega 6 promote inflammation and thus are not used as often in therapy.
4) Can cause vitamin E deficiency which is why patients on chronic EFA therapy should also receive vitamin E supplementation.
5) May cause recurrence of pancreatitis or diarrhea in patients with a history of these problems. 

Brooks, W. Heart Failure Therapy, VIN 1/19/2011
Ogilvie, G. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Cancer: Frontiers for Cure & Control ACVIM 2012
Plumb, D    Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook 7th Ed., John Wiley & Sons, 2011
Shell, L. Cognitive Dysfunction VIN 10/26/2012
Tater, K. Ateopic Dermatitis VIN 2/14/2012
Warren, E. Nutraceuticals VIN 4/4/2007

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.