First I'm going to talk a little bit about fish in general and then I'll talk more specifically about fish oil, omega 3 and 6, and the ratio between the two in a dog's diet. Right now my dogs get canned fish once a week and fish oil capsules every day. We've tried the whole raw fish, but that didn't work out two well. I've bought tilapia from the butchers that we go to, and cut it up for the dogs. Heffner will only eat the heads and Bess won't eat any of it. I happened to have some left over kidneys from one meat run and my husband had the idea to throw the kidneys in the food processor with fish to hopefully make it more edible. It was a "wonderful" fishy/kidney goo. Heffner was ALL over it! Bess would eat a little bit, but over all wasn't terribly impressed. So I decided to just switch them over to canned fish altogether because it was obviously going to take a whole lot of work to get something edible thrown together that BOTH dogs would eat. I do switch up the fish sources between tuna, sardines, pink salmon, anchovies, and mackerel. When available, I prefer to get the fish in oil. On a side note, if you live in the Pacific Northwest like we do, be wary of giving your dogs raw fish caught in the general area. Specifically salmon. Apparently we have higher levels of mercury in our fish than elsewhere.
Now on to fish oil! Many of the different fish oils on the market today, whether they are made specifically for humans or dogs, are composed of primarily omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3's are really great for your dog(s) in soooo many ways! And thankfully, they are a lot less likely than omega 6 fatty acids to build up to a toxic level in your dog's system. Omega 3's have been credited with aiding in:
1) Relief of allergies and autoimmune maladies related to a lack of omega 3's.
2) Slowing down the process that leads to arthritis.
3) Alleviating various inflammatory disorders due to the omega 3's anti-inflammatory properties.
4) Better coats and skin
5) Helping to prevent yeast infections in skin and ears
6) Promoting the good cholesterol
7) Improving brain function
And the list just goes on and on!
You may be wondering why specifically fish oil pills. After all, other sources like flax seed oil also contain high amounts of omega 3's. In fact, flax seed oil contains more omega 3's than fish oil. Unfortunately, these omega 3's are primarily in an inactive form and therefore not useable by the canine body.
Omega 6's are also an essential fatty acid, but with most kibble (and human diets for that matter!) diets, there is an overabundance of omega 6's and you don't really need to worry about it. Studies have shown that ratios of omega 3's to 6's should be in the range of 5:1, 10:1, 20:1, or 50:1, depending on the source that you go to. The bottom line is that you need far more omega 3's than you do omega 6's. I got more concerned about the ratio between the two in a dog's diet, due to a bug getting put into my ear by a rep for a company who was trying to sell me his company's specific brand of fish oil. He was trying to convince me that their fish oil had a much healthier and better ratio of 3's to 6's than what I was giving. Normally I don't really listen to the various reps because they're out there promoting their product and trying to prove that it's better than what you're using. However, the ratio between the two was something that I embarassingly hadn't looked into because I hadn't really heard of it being a problem with raw fed dogs. From what I've read, I really don't think it's an issue. Omega 6's are found in various poultry parts and my dogs get chicken, turkey, and some other types of poultry depending on the time of year. I'm therefore pretty confident that I'm doing right by my dogs, but that rep didn't get me to thinking!
There's a whole lot of information out there and multiple studies done on dogs as well as humans. Here are some links that I found helpful and informative in various different ways: