WHAT ARE FATS?
Fats are a concentrated form of energy that give your dog more than twice the amount of energy as carbohydrates and proteins do. Fats used in dog foods are highly digestible and are the first nutrients to be used by the body as energy, ahead of protein and carbohydrates.
Fats are made up of building blocks called fatty acids. Fatty acids are named according to their chemical structure and how they are bonded together. There are certain fatty acids that dogs require in their diet because the body cannot make them. These are known as essential fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are divided into two groups called the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Fatty acids in both these groups must be provided in a specifically balanced ratio in the daily diet.
WHAT DO FATS DO?
Fats have many important functions in the canine body. Not only do they provide energy, but they are also necessary for the normal development and function of body cells, nerves, muscles, and body tissues. They are important components in the body’s production of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins work to reduce inflammation, as well as perform many other important functions in the body.
Fats are part of the reason that dog foods taste good and smell good too (at least to your dog). Fats and oils also give structure to foods. They help the body to absorb certain vitamins called the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Fats and oils in the diet keep your dog’s coat shiny and healthy and are also important in reproduction.
Not every fat or oil is good for our pets, however. The source, quality, and quantity of fat needs to be carefully considered when choosing a quality dog food.
COMMON SOURCES OF FATS/OILS
When considering a food for your dog, check out the list of ingredients to see where the fats and oils are coming from. Fats in dog foods are typically supplied by both animal fat and oils from plants. Quality dog foods will list sources of fat that provide the proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Common sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish oils (herring, salmon, etc.) and flaxseed and canola oils. Commonly used omega-6 fatty acid sources include pork fat, chicken fat (or any poultry fat), safflower and sunflower oils, as well as corn and soybean oils (vegetable oils). Watch out for lower-quality ingredients such as tallow or lard.
A lot of people feel like fat is bad. It is bad when there is too much in a diet, or when we have a lethargic lifestyle (not enough exercise!) However most raw pet foods do not have enough fat in the diet to provide the energy that is needed for a very active pet. We find that with higher fat diets we can actually cut back on the amount of food that a pet needs to consume. Also those pets who have a high energy level, or a working animal, have a need for a higher level of energy in what they eat. So while fat may be bad for us – it just may be the answer to the problems for our pets. This is why we have formulated the Shepherd blend. It is a higher fat blend around 30% that has been getting some very good results.