AN adequate level of fat is required
in the diet to provide a source of
essential fatty acids and also to
enable the fat soluble vitamins (A,
D, E and K) to be absorbed across
the intestinal wall.
In addition to this, fats can increase
the palatability of a diet and they also
yield a high level
of energy when
acids are so
they cannot be
such as carbohydrate or protein;
instead, they must be provided for in a
There are two essential fatty acids in
dogs and three in cats:
- linoleic acid which is abundant in
most vegetables oils;
- linolenic acid which is found in
green vegetables, fruits and plankton;
- arachidonic acid which is an
essential fatty acid in the cat and can
only be found in animal fats.
Essential fatty acids are the
precursors to two families of
polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), known as omega-3 fatty acids and
omega-6 fatty acids.
The oils of fish from cold waters
contain very high levels of two long-
chain fatty acids derived from alpha-
linolenic acid – eicosapentaenoic acid
(EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty
acids help to support the body’s natural
defences, digestive health and they also
play a role in cell growth. Here we look
at their speci c bene ts in dogs for
maintaining healthy skin.
The shine of an animal’s coat is linked
to the sebum composition, sebum
being a variable mixture of waxes and
lipids secreted by the sebaceous glands.
Sebum also helps to prevent hair
matting, by smoothing down scales
and making the components in
the hair more supple and elastic. It also contributes to maintaining the
epidermal skin barrier.
The lipids making up the
composition of sebum are species- and
breed-specific, but the production and
quality of sebum are influenced by the
Some nutrients help to significantly
improve the lustre of the pet’s coat.
This is notably the case with PUFAs
in the omega-6 series, such as gamma-
linolenic acid (GLA).
These fatty acids are helpful to
maintain a supple skin and to support
the skin barrier: they help to restore
balance to the composition of the
surface lipid layer (thus minimising skin
dehydration) and they play a structural
role in the cell membranes.
The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids
EPA and DHA are useful for the
nutritional management of dogs with
skin sensitivities: supplementation has
been shown to help the nutritional
management of pruritic dogs. As a
result, Royal Canin’s canine Skin Care
diets have been enriched with these
In dermatology, an examination
of the animal should always include
precise details about the food given,
as correcting any dietary imbalances
(especially regarding essential
fatty acids) is a key factor in the
management approach. Similarly, in
the management of obesity, reducing
an animal’s fat intake should never be
done at the expense of essential fatty
As can be seen, fatty acids are an
important component within the diet
with their presence being beneficial for
the nutritional management of dogs
with skin sensitivities.
For further reading please visit:
vetportal.royalcanin.co.uk (or vetportal.royalcanin.ie for Ireland).