Grubby Paws - For Your Pets Healthy Eating

Animal Source Fats

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While often viewed negatively by health conscious people, fat is an essential dietary requirement for dogs and cats. As many people are concerned with reducing their fat intake, we often fail to realize the essential role that fat plays in the diets of our dogs and cats. Just as with protein, fats are also not created equally and differ greatly in their component structure and quality. Dogs and cats don‘t suffer from cholesterol problems or heart disease caused by higher levels of animal fats, and it comes as no surprise that cats and dogs need fat from animals, rather than plant sources. Two key roles of dietary fat are:

  1. Providing a concentrated source of energy.
  2. Supplying the Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3, for example) that dogs and cats cannot produce within their own body.


  • Both dogs and cats require a fairly high amount of animal fat in their diets.
  • As companion, dogs and cats enjoy a more sedentary lifestyle than their wolf relatives, moderation of fat is important, with an optimum range of 15-18% fat.
  • While both fats and carbohydrates provide energy, they function very differently in the body of a dog or cat. Fats are essential in the diets of dogs and cats, carbohydrates are not.
  • Carbohydrates provide energy more rapidly compared to fats. In humans, a high intake of carbohydrates increases muscle-glycogen, which increases stamina. The same carbohydrate loading in dogs creates an excess accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles, leading to a condition called hypoglycemia, which causes weakness and fatigue.
  • Animal fats are clearly the choice of energy for dogs and cats.


Essential fatty acids are the fatty acids present in fats that are required by the body. Because they cannot be produced in the body, Essential Fatty Acids must come from foods.

The most important are linoleic and arachidonic4 (Omega-6), and DHA and EPA (Omega-3). An appropriate balance of omega-6 and omega-3 is important as these two fats work together. A ratio of 2:1 to 5:1 is generally accepted as ideal for dogs and cats. As lack of Omega-6 is extremely rare, most pet foods have too much Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3.


  • Omega-3 quality varies dramatically between plant and animal sources.
  • Of the 3 kinds of Omega-3: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is from plants, while DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (epicosapentaenoic acid) are from fish.
  • Dogs and cats require DHA and EPA, not ALA.

ALA | Omega-3 from plants

Plant source Omega-3 is ALA, a short-chain omega-3 found in soy, canola oil and flax. ALA must be converted to EPA and DHA to be of any nutritional benefit to a dog or cat.

As cats and dogs are not adapted to create this conversion, ALA Omega-3 from plants is considered ‗inactive‘ and not Biologically Appropriate for dogs and cats.

EPA & DHA | Omega-3 from fish

Animal Omega-3s (EPA and DHA) are long-chain omega-3s that are absorbed readily and directly within the body. Naturally present in oily fish such as salmon, herring and lake whitefish, EPA & DHA and are by far the best Omega-3 choice for dogs and cats.

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