Fish Oil For Cats: What Does it Do & How Much?

Fish Oil For Cats

Fish oil’s constituent active long-chain fatty acids, Eicosapentanoic Acid (EPA) & Docosahexanoic Acid (DHA), are some of the most well-studied natural health supplements around. Therefore, it’s not surprising that its potent health effects have been found to accrue not only to humans. Among mankind’s other furry companions, cats can also benefit from its anti-inflammatory powers as well. Moreover, it’s powers go much further than merely promoting a shiny coat. Read on for a better idea of the virtues of fish oil for cats and how to go about administering it.

What Does Fish Oil Do For Cats?

Since the most medically established uses of fish oil are related to human cardio-vascular health, you may be thinking:  what can fish oil do for my cat anyway?

As we’ve explained elsewhere, the wondrous properties of fish oil’s two key Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are believed to stem in part from its ability to reduce inflammation. The consequences of this cannot be understated, since there are so many diseases/conditions associated with inflamed tissues – many of the same conditions that affect cats and people alike.  For example, human and feline conditions such as allergies, autoimmune/skin disorders, osteoarthritis – and even cancer – are believed to have their genesis in some type of inflammation.

Of particular note are the results of a 2012 double blind study conducted in the Netherlands and reported in the Journal of Animal Physiology regarding the efficacy of fish oil for the treatment of feline osteoarthritis. Over 10 weeks two study groups of cats were given food supplemented with either fish oil containing Omega 3 (EPA & DHA) or a vegetable oil infused with a fish odor (i.e., the placebo). Neither the cats  – or their owners – knew to which group they belonged.

After the data were analyzed, the researchers concluded that cats that consumed the fish oil were more active, showed greater flexibility, were more outgoing and demonstrated a greater jumping ability compared to the placebo group.

In addition, there are other potential benefits that may not be as profound but are also advantageous for your cat and you.  These include things like promoting cardiovascular health, maintaining/improving kidney and bladder function, strengthening/adding luster to the coat, preventing urinary problems, treating dandruff and reducing hair loss.

Finally, as with fish oil testing on humans has demonstrated, the benefits of Omega 3 on central nervous system function and fetal development may apply to cats as well. This only makes sense, since Omega 3 has been associated with improved verbal scores in human children whose mothers consisted of Omega 3 rich fish.

Recommended Fish Oil Dosage For Cats

Any fish oil supplementation for your cat should be prescribed and/or supervised by a licensed veterinarian.  However, it appears that the consensus of sources indicates delivering at least 20 milligrams of EPA and 12 milligrams of DHA per pound of body weight daily to your cat to reap the majority of the benefits of fish oil.  So, for example, for a 5 pound cat that would be at least 100 mg of EPA and 60 mg of DHA; and for a 10 pound cat, 200/120 mg of EPA and DHA would be recommended, respectively. Please take note that supplements vary significantly in the amount of EPA and DHA they actually deliver, so pay close attention to how much of each your pills/tablets contain so you deliver the recommended dosage of these two components.

Please also be careful when purchasing supplements to avoid those containing vitamin D.  According to an article by Petmd, the vitamin D levels in many fish liver oil supplements can be far in excess of the limits deemed safe for both cats and dogs; as such, the usage of these D-fortified oils may result in deleterious mineral deposits in the kidneys and other soft tissues, in addition to causing bone disorders.

Administering Fish Oil to Cats

Giving fish oil to your cat is easy. You can either embed a gel cap in food or a tasty treat, or if your cat is a bit more finicky, you can pierce the gel and simply pour it over its food. And if you get tired of popping soft gel caps every day, you can always purchase fish oil in pure liquid form.

Fish Oil Side Effects For Cats?

While it’s advisable to work up to the recommended dosage of fish oil gradually, there is little threat to dosing slightly more than needed, so don’t panic. Indeed, the most likely side effects from supplementing with fish oil for cats are generally limited to a cases of mild diarrhea and bad (fishy) breath. However, given its tendency to interfere with blood clotting factors and suppress immune function (albeit at higher doses than those mentioned here), you should make sure to consult with your vet for any cat that is already immuno-compromised, is being treated with steroids,  is being given blood thinners, or is otherwise at risk for excessive bleeding/infection.

Do I Need Fish Oil Specifically For Cats?

While there are fish oils available that are specifically marketed for dogs and cats (these usually come in handy if very low doses are needed), the kind made for humans is just as good and may be more economical in the long run. Just remember to cut the human-sized dose where necessary to avoid wasteful over-supplementation.

Featured (top) image credit: “Cat Show: Form” by Tomi Tapio K under CC BY 2.0

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