At Smart Earth we're your source, for a happier horse :)

What Is the Difference Between Animal-Based & Plant-Based Omega Oils?

Written by: Sarah Seward-Langdon

Reviewed by: Amanda Nascimento, DVM, MSc, Ph.D

Published on: 03/31/2022

Are you feeling overwhelmed navigating the world of dog ownership? That’s understandable; there are so many opinions—people arguing about adoption vs. buying, training methods, and dog nutrition. If you’ve already done research about pet nutrition, you’ve probably come across supplements and the popularity of omega 3 supplements. However, how do you choose between animal-based or plant-based omega oil sources for your furry friend? In this article, we will summarize a complicated subject so that you know the necessary information before making your own personal choice.

Most people quickly pick up extra fish or fish oil to add omega 3s to their dog’s diet. While this is a step in the right direction, it is also important to recognize that there are other sources of this essential fatty acid (EFA), and these alternatives can be very helpful as well. That begs the question, what are the differences between feeding your dog fish oil and one of the many plant-based options advertised in the market? Simply put, plant-based supplements will give your dog access to one form of omega 3s while animal-based sources (ie. Fish oil) contain another.

It’s time to be a little nerdy! To better understand this complicated topic, we will look at the different types of EFAs, the science behind animal-based and plant-based omega 3 sources, and which plant-based sources you should consider for your dog.

Learn more about the omega fats here.

Key Differences Between Omegas in Animal-Based vs. Plant-Based Oils

Before we answer this question, let’s give everyone a quick refresher. EFAs are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are divided into two main groups: omega 3s and omega 6s. Their name says it all: essential fatty acids are essential for all mammals, including dogs, to consume in their diet because our bodies cannot produce these fats on their own [1]. Both types of omegas are required, but because there are higher levels of omega 6 in most commercial pet foods (think seeds and vegetables), it is important we give omega 3 fatty acid supplements to our dogs [2]!

Omega 3 fatty acids can be further organized into three main forms:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

These forms of omega 3’s are either short-chain or long-chain fatty acids. Short-chain mean

ALA is an (inactive) essential fatty acid that is found in plant-based origins; whereas, both DHA and EPA are (active) fatty acids that can be found from animals including oily fish, seafood, and grass-fed meats. It is important that your dog is getting all three forms of omega 3s as each yields different benefits (keep reading as we’ll go into details about these below) [3].

Both humans and dogs convert ALA into DHA and EPA; however, this conversion does not happen in high levels. Therefore, many people choose fish oil over plant-based oils. What isn’t considered a lot of the time is that fish oil does not contain ALA (and it is still essential), and moreover, dogs reap other benefits from plant-based oils.

Benefits of ALA (Found in Plant-Based Sources of Omega 3s)

  • Antioxidant & anti-inflammatory
  • Nervous system protection
  • Improves some symptoms of diabetes (ex. helps with cataracts, reduces insulin resistance)
  • Reduction in cognitive dysfunction, sometimes improving learning in senior pets [5]
  • Great for skin & coat health
  • Combats cardiovascular, cognitive, and neuromuscular deficits
  • Helps reduce anxiety, depression, and hyperactivity

In most cases, animal-based omega 3 sources are a vital part of your dog’s diet and shouldn’t be completely replaced. However, since ALA is an important form of omega 3 fatty acids (with numerous benefits of its own), you should also include it in your dog’s diet by diversifying omega 3 supplement sources—remember, ALA is found in plant sources like camelina, hemp, and flaxseed oil .

3 Reasons You Should Add Plant-Based Sources of Omega 3

In situations where fish oil isn’t an option for your dog, or you’re looking to go a step further for your dog, look out for high-quality plant-based omega 3 supplements. If you’re still on the fence, here are some of the top reasons you should be adding this different form of fatty acid supplementation into your dog’s diet.

An Alternative for Dogs with Fish Allergies

Omega 3 supplements are recommended for all dogs, even those on the highest quality kibble or raw food diets. So, if your dog is allergic to fish, it is important for you to know there are combinations of plant-based supplements that can help your dog live a long, healthy life.

Plant-Based Omega 3 Supplements Are More Sustainable

This recent surge in fish oil popularity is contributing to the devastation of our oceans. Two of the largest problems in the commercial fishing industry are overfishing and bycatch (discarded marine life that is not useful to them, or they cannot sell, which can include dolphins, sea turtles, and even seabirds). A higher demand for fish oil means more fish being captured for product [7].

Learn about how Camelina oil helps sustainability.

 

More Variety Gives Your Dog More Benefits

As mentioned beforehand, it is important to give your pet the variety it needs in supplements so that they have access to all essential fatty acids, ALA, EPA, and DHA. Although animal-based omega supplements will provide them with necessary EPA and DHA levels, it is still important to consider all the important benefits the ALA essential fatty acid gives to them. If possible, incorporating a combination into your dog’s diet is your best option!

Remember that if you want to start changing your pet’s diet, including adding supplements, it’s important to consult your vet!

Plant-Based Sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Now that you know that plant-based omega supplements could be a great addition to your dog’s diet, so let’s talk about which ones you should consider for your furry friend. Remember when browsing through the array of companies you should look at certifications, production process, ingredients, and whether it’s backed by professionals (ex. vet-approved)!

Learn more about what to look for in your omega oil supplements.


Camelina Oil

Camelina oil, also known as false flax or gold of pleasure, is relatively new to the scene but brings great benefits. It’s a great long-term option since it can be grown in a variety of harsher environments, resistant to many pests, and it is high yield oil [6]. Not only have studies proven it is safe for dogs, but it is also a great option compared to other plant-based oils with it having a 90% concentration of fatty acids, no risk of heavy metal contamination, and naturally occurring vitamin E (which stabilizes the oil and makes it shelf stable for much longer).  

 

Flaxseed Oil

The oil from flaxseeds or linseeds is one of the most common alternatives to fish-based omega supplements. It is a crop that grows in cooler climates and the seeds are pressed to create the oil supplements. This omega supplement is a great option when trying to balance poultry-heavy diets (boosts omega 3 input while avoiding adding extra omega 6s) [8]

 

Other Plant-Based Omega Sources

  • Phytoplankton
  • Algae Oil
  • Hemp Seed Oil
  • Soybeans
  • Canola

Camelina Oil for Equine

✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

Camelina Oil for Canine

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

Follow us!

About Sarah

"Sarah is a marketing specialist with a passion for anything creative! Her openness to working across industries and job opportunities has allowed her to gain enormous amounts of experience in graphic design, video production, and written content creation. Animals have a special place in her heart as she grew up with cats and now owns her own Alaskan Malamute. She has spent the last couple of years in Vancouver working with different companies within the pet industry and gained valuable knowledge about the ins and outs of the (alternative) pet food industry, supplementation, and various training methods. When she’s not digitally creating content for pet lovers to consume, she’s out eating great food, dancing at drop-in classes, or exploring the beautiful Canadian scenery with her fur-child Miso."