The Animal Doctor

Fish Oil Issues

DEAR DR. FOX: Your column is always informative, and I appreciate your commitment to what is best for our pets and the environment.

I must take issue, however, with your recommendation of fish oil for pets -- or humans, for that matter. The international market for fish oil has resulted in giant factory ships that vacuum up the tiny fish that play a vital role in the ocean’s food chain. This practice is hastening the collapse of ocean fisheries.

I recommend Paul Greenberg’s excellent book, “The Omega Principle,” which is a fairly short and fascinating look at the fish oil industry. -- T.C., South Bend, Indiana

DEAR T.C.: I appreciate your legitimate concerns and the opportunity to clarify this important nutritional issue for cats and dogs.

Highly processed pet foods, especially dry kibble, are nutrient-deficient with regard to essential fatty acids, which are destroyed by heat processing and oxidation. Because most poultry and beef cattle are fattened on corn (as opposed to grass-fed), they have an imbalance of excess pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids from the corn. As documented in my book “Not Fit For a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Foods” (co-authored with two other veterinarians), many health problems can develop from deficiencies of these kinds of nutrients, which are available in fish oils, marine algae and, at lower levels, in organically certified, grass-fed beef and dairy products.

You will see on my website (drfoxonehealth.com) an article advising people against purchasing these oils derived from krill. You are also correct about the global problems of overfishing, drifting nets and ocean-bottom factory fishing and mining. Oils from farmed salmon are not acceptable because of dioxin contamination.

So to clarify: More sustainable sources of these essential oils can be obtained from suppliers of marine algae, wild salmon and Atlantic cod, the populations of which are being better managed. These are important dietary inclusions for cats, who are obligate carnivores. For dogs, organic butter from grass-fed cows will also be beneficial.

DEAR DR. FOX: Bebe is a wonderful, fun-loving 2-year-old Yorkiepoo, but a finicky eater.

She can’t eat chicken, but will eat egg yolks and dried liver treats. Eventually, she decides she doesn’t like most of what I give her. She does like corn, but it goes right through her.

Help. She only weighs 6.6 lbs. I’ve never had this issue with my other dogs. -- H.B., Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

DEAR H.B.: Some dogs are very clever and can manipulate/train us to give them what they want. I believe this is the case with your smart little dog.

First, a full wellness examination by a veterinarian would be in order, checking especially the teeth and throat for any issues. Then, set a schedule of physical activity: a long walk and/or playtime before eating, which should be two or three small meals a day, at a set time. Do not fuss over the dog after you put the food down. Ignore her, but make a big deal about getting the food ready. If the dog does not eat right away, pick it up without a word and put it down again a half-hour later after some outdoor activity.

Hungry dogs who are healthy should have a good appetite. If she seems to have any problems swallowing, discuss this with the veterinarian. And it might be good to put heavy ceramic food and water bowls (not metal because of static electricity sparks, or plastic because of lingering odor and possible toxic chemicals) on a slightly elevated platform, or in a stand, so she does not have to reach down too much to eat and drink. Also, try my home-prepared recipe, posted on my website. Let me know your progress!

P.S. No snacks or treats between meals until she is eating well!

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)

More like The Animal Doctor