omega fatty acids: an essential nutrient in your pet's diet

omega fatty acids: an essential nutrient in your pet's diet

In general, the idea of eating “fat” often gets a bad rap in the human world but there are certain fats, like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, that have many benefits for both humans and pets. What are these fats and what makes them so beneficial?

Let’s talk about fat!

Fat is an important nutrient that makes up a healthy diet. It plays many roles in your and your pet’s bodies in addition to providing a slow-burning and concentrated source of energy. One gram of fat provides 2.25 times as much energy as a gram of protein or carbohydrates. In addition, fats are the foundation of many structures and molecules in the body. If you remember studying cells in biology class, you may recall learning about the two layers of fat molecules that make up the outer layer of cells. Fats also serve as building blocks to create hormones in the body and these hormones control several functions such as hunger, fight or flight, and growth. Finally, fats help with the absorption and storage of vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Essential fatty acids are one type of fat. Unlike other types of fat, essential fatty acids cannot be made from other molecules in the body. They must be consumed as part of a complete and balanced diet.

So what about those omegas?

Before we get into the unique benefits of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, let’s talk a little bit about their chemical makeup. The number in their name refers to the location of a bond between two atoms in the fat molecule. A double bond, or one where two electrons are shared, is either at the 3rd or 6th carbon in the tail of the fatty acid molecule when counting from the tip of the tail. There are other double bonds in these fatty acids, but the name comes from the location of the first one in the tail of the molecule. Chemistry can get a little crazy, so below is a diagram of these molecules to help the visual learners among us! Each line end, or bend, represents a carbon atom in the molecule. Each line represents a chemical bond, and each double line is a double bond.


Now, that we know how they got their names, let’s talk about why they’re so important. Both omega-3 and omega-6 play crucial roles in the body. Omega-6 fatty acids are important for nutrient absorption, reproduction, and blood clotting. Omega-3 fatty acids support joint health, development, skin and coat health, and help to reduce inflammation in the body.

There are two omega-3 fatty acids that are especially important. Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, play vital roles in multiple organ systems. Both are necessary for brain, eye, ear, and nerve development in mammals. While these nutrients are important to individuals at all ages, both DHA and EPA are frequent additions to kitten and puppy foods. (If you check the baby section at your local store, you’ll see that DHA and EPA are also found human baby formula.) These fatty acids give both human and animal youngsters the boost they need to develop healthy brains and nervous systems.

What types of food have omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids?

These fatty acids are typically found in both animal and plant sources. Animal sources, especially seafood and marine sources, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids while omega-6s are more commonly found in plant sources like canola and sunflower.

While both are important in the diet, a proper ratio of 3s to 6s is crucial. For example, too many omega-6 fatty acids and too few omega-3 fatty acids can lead to an increase of inflammation in the body. Rest assured; all Freely recipes were designed and formulated to include the optimal balance of omega-3 and omega-6 for your pets!


Still have questions?

Our pet nutrition team is here for you. Send us an email, give us a call, or connect with us through LiveChat. We’d love to talk through your pet’s unique nutritional needs!