Dog eating out of dog bowl

Understanding Healthy Fats & How to Incorporate Them Into Your Dog's Diet

As many pet owners strive to provide the best nutrition for their furry companions, they ponder the question, “Do dogs need fat in their diet?”

The answer is yes. While fat often gets a bad reputation, it’s actually an essential nutrient for dogs. They need a balanced diet to thrive and stay fit, and healthy fats are vital in supporting various bodily functions. 

This blog talks about the importance of healthy fats for dogs. We’ll discuss the different types of fats and their numerous benefits, from maintaining healthy skin and a glossy coat to supporting cognitive function and immunity. We’ll also provide tips for incorporating them into your canine companion’s diet.

What are Healthy Fats for Dogs?

Fat is an essential part of any pet’s diet, and it has various benefits for their health and overall well-being. It also contributes to your pet's food's palatability and desirable texture.

However, different types of fat serve various purposes. The balance of these fats is vital to ensure your pet enjoys their benefits and that one does not overpower the other. The wrong type of fat, any imbalance, or not having enough in their diet can impair nutrition and development and promote inflammation.

Balancing omega-3 and omega-6 fats levels in your dog’s diet is important. While no perfect ratio is given by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), they recommend 30:1 for omega-6 to omega-3. Meanwhile, the National Research Council recommends a ratio of at least 2.6:1 to 26:1.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are renowned for their anti-inflammatory properties. They support various bodily functions, including promoting healthy skin and coat, cognitive function, and joint health. Additionally, omega-3s reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve overall well-being in dogs.

There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

ALA can be found in nuts, seeds, and other plant sources. Meanwhile, DHA and EPA are found in cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and anchovies. 

Omega-6 fatty acids

Omega-6 fatty acids, such as linoleic acids (LA), are crucial for a dog’s health. They contribute to skin and coat health, help regulate the immune system, and support proper growth and development. This essential fatty acid is derived from different sources, such as animal fat, sunflower, and coconut. 

Omega-3 and omega-6 can further be divided into two categories:

  • Essential fatty acids cannot be made by your dog’s body, so they must be supplied by the diet.
  • Non-essential fatty acids can be produced by a canine’s body, but higher levels may be necessary at certain times of life.


Triglycerides are the fats most commonly found in the body and diet. They support various bodily functions, contributing to overall health.

For instance, triglycerides are the primary form of fat storage in the body. When your pet consumes more calories than it needs for immediate energy requirements, the excess energy is converted into triglycerides and stored in adipose tissue for later use. During times of fasting or increased energy demands, triglycerides are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol and used as fuel by cells throughout the body.

Triglycerides also serve as an insulating layer under the skin, helping your pet regulate its body temperature. They provide insulation against heat loss in cold environments and help prevent overheating in hot conditions.

Another function of triglycerides is to help maintain the structure and integrity of cell membranes, ensuring proper cell function and communication within the body. 

Other Omega Fatty Acids

In addition to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, dogs need other omega fatty acids. While they are not considered essential, like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, they still play an important role in maintaining your pet’s health.

  • Omega-9 fatty acids: These monounsaturated fats are commonly found in plant oils, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil. Dogs can synthesize them to some extent but can still benefit from dietary sources. Omega-9 fatty acids are known for their heart-healthy properties, such as lowering bad cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Omega-7 fatty acids: Also known as palmitoleic acid, omega-7 fatty acids are monounsaturated fats primarily found in certain plant oils, such as sea buckthorn oil and macadamia nut oil, as well as marine sources like fish. They have been shown to support skin and coat health, promote moisture retention, and reduce inflammation.

Sources of Healthy Fats for Dogs

  • Fish oil is a rich source of EPA and DHA. You can consider fish oil supplements for dogs if fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, or mackerel, are unavailable.
  • Coconut oil is a source of triglycerides. When added to your dog’s diet, it provides a quick energy source, aids digestion, and supports immune function. It may also be applied topically to help improve skin health.
  • Flaxseed oil is beneficial for skin and coat health and helps reduce inflammation.
  • Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which may help improve heart health and support skin and coat health. 
  • Sunflower oil is rich in omega-6 fatty acids, particularly LA. However, it must be used sparingly in a balanced dog diet.

How to Incorporate Healthy Fats into Your Dog’s Diet

Add Healthy Oils to Food

Drizzle a small amount of healthy oil over your dog’s regular food. Remember to start with a small amount and gradually increase the serving size as needed. Healthy oils provide a tasty and nutritious boost to their meal.

Use as a Topper

Mix a teaspoon of healthy oil into your dog’s wet food as a delicious topper. This will add flavor and provide essential fatty acids to support your dog's skin, coat, and overall health.

Homemade Treats

Instead of buying products off a supermarket’s shelves, make your own treats at home. Many recipes are available online for homemade dog treats that include healthy fats. You may use coconut oil, peanut butter, and flaxseed oil to make tasty treats.


You can add healthy fats for dogs by giving them supplements. Doing so ensures they receive an adequate amount of essential fatty acids. Supplements are available in liquid form or as soft gel capsules designed specifically for dogs. Remember to follow the dosage instructions on the packaging or consult your veterinarian for guidance.

Include Fatty Fish

Provide natural, healthy fat sources by including fatty fish in your dog’s diet. Salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and provide them with numerous benefits. You can feed them fresh or cooked fish or look for commercially available dog foods that use fish as a main ingredient.

Monitor Portion Sizes

While healthy fats for dogs are beneficial, monitoring portion sizes and avoiding overfeeding is important. Too much fat can lead to obesity and other health concerns. Adjust portion sizes based on your dog’s age, size, activity level, and overall health.

Nourish Your Pup with Healthy Fats for Dogs

Healthy fats for dogs provide many benefits, ultimately improving your dog’s vitality and quality of life. As responsible pet owners, it’s important to prioritize your dog’s nutritional needs and provide them with a balanced diet.

Remember to consult your veterinarian when adding healthy fats to your dog’s meals, whether you add fish oil, create homemade treats, or provide supplements.

Learn more about what are healthy fats for dogs and their benefits by visiting the Stryde blog.