Why are omega 3 and 6 important in foods for rabbits and other small pets?
You are what you eat – just as true of our small pets as us humans. Ever looked at the ingredients list on your degu’s diet? Or checked out the nutritional benefits of your rabbit’s rations? Your small pets are very much members of the family, and you want to give them the very best. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are something of a buzzword in the world of nutrition, but are they as ‘essential’ as the name implies? Read on to find the answers to this and more.
Essential fatty acid fast facts
- Fatty acids are the building blocks of fat
- Essential fatty acids (EFAs) can’t be produced in the body so must be obtained through the diet
- There are 2 types of EFA, omega 3 and omega 6
- Having the correct balance of omega 3 and 6 is important
Omega 3 and omega 6: a dietary balancing act
Omega 3 and omega 6 have quite distinct effects within the body. Omega 3 has a natural anti-inflammatory action whilst omega 6 has pro-inflammatory properties. Both types are essential parts of the diet and the correct balance between the two is super important for keeping our small pets in tip-top condition.
What are the health benefits?
EFAs have a multitude of effects on the body and the anti-inflammatory action of omega 3 underlies many of the beneficial effects on health. Have you heard that omega 3s are great for skin health in people? Well, our small pets are no different. Diets rich in omega 3 can:
- Improve the condition of dry and flaky skin
- Make the coat glossier and shinier
- Contribute to healthy hair growth
- Improve nail condition
EFAs may have other positive effects too. For example, in dogs and cats, omega 3 EFAs can help settle the inflammation associated with arthritis and so reduce pain – studies have shown that supplementation can reduce the amount of anti-inflammatory pain relief required1. The same may be true for other species, but we don’t yet have studies to tell us.
Linseed: a natural source of omega 3 and omega 6 in small pet diets
Linseed (the seeds of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum) is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega 3 EFA, and also contains linoleic acid, a type of omega 6 EFA. Providing nutrition for our small pets that respects their natural diet is a top priority and linseed provides an excellent natural source of these vital dietary ingredients.
So, for small pets that look as healthy on the outside as they are on the inside, look for linseed on the label!
For more information on naturally delicious food for your small herbivore, check out Edible plants for rabbits. If you have any further questions, you can reach out to us on our Facebook page, or get in touch via our contact us page.
1A multicenter study of the effect of dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on carprofen dosage in dogs with osteoarthritis – PubMed (nih.gov)