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Essential Fatty acids (EFA) and cutaneous disease in pet dogs and cats.

"Did you know that an itching dog might suffer from an essential fatty acids deficiency? ..."
Let us see which comments we can make about it.

- My dog is itching : why?

Generally, there is more than only one reason to explain why a dog itches: most often, it starts because of the cumulative effect of several coexisting causes.

  • First, suspect a parasitic problem: fleas and mites are the most classical responsible agents for itching. It is sometimes difficult to find fleas in the hair, because there might be very few adults on the dog whereas the environment is highly infested. Moreover, fleas stay very little time on the animal : only for sucking blood.
  • Many different factors can affect the balance of the bacterial flora on the skin : lack of hygiene, using acid shampoos, urban pollution, residual humidity in skin folds of special breeds (Bordeaux dog, Shar Pei ...) ... All these facts promote the multiplication of "invading" germs, causing a local pruriginous infection, if we let them grow.
  • Then, we musk think about a possible cutaneous allergy: a true dietary allergy is very uncommon in dogs (they represent 3 to 8 % of all cutaneous allergies in carnivorous), but other types of allergies are more likely to appear: allergic dermatitis due to fleabites, contact dermatitis for the body areas who touch the floor, etc ...
    Let us remind that, if the dog has been already sensitized, only one flea can start the clinical symptoms of an allergic dermatitis due to fleabites.

Itching might also be induced by: hypothyro´dism, sexual hormons disbalance, medicinal intolerance, nervous problems... Only the veterinarian will be able to confirm or disprove these hypothesis, with the help of complementary examinations.

- When must we think about an essential fatty acid deficiency?

The food itself is exceptionnally responsible for an EFA deficiency in the dog: only 1 % of linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids in the dry matter of the diet is theoritically enough to prevent from a potential risk of deficiency. The dog is able to synthetize all the fatty acids he requires from these precursors that are present in any vegetable oil.

A deficiency could only appear in case of :

  • low quality petfood : fat level too close to the minimum required, and/or poor preservation of the fats : though the fats would be oxidized during storage ;
  • home-made diet extremely poor in fats.

More often, an EFA deficiency is the consequence of some pathological disease of the dog : pancreatic or hepatic deficiency, chronic diarrhea, deficiency in enzymes undispensable for the synthesis of EFA (frequent in allergic dogs) ... In any case, fats are poorly assimilated, or misused, and a secondary EFA deficiency may occur, even if the diet is correctly balanced.

- Why should we add essential fatty acids to the diet?

Today, EFA are largely used in veterinary dermatology, but this prescription is more therapeutic than dietetic: supplying long chain fatty acids (i:e omega 3 fatty acids, abundant in marine oils) allows the pratictioner to take advantage of their anti-inflammatory effect in many cutaneous diseases, such as allergic and seborrheic troubles.

EFA promote the improving of the hair and the skin shape in a few weeks, and they help to dicrease itching. They do not replace a therapeutic treatment, but they reinforce its efficiency and allow to reduce its duration.


Royal Canin products are specially rich in essential fatty acids :

  • omega 6 fatty acids sources are : soya oil, corn, poultry fat ;
  • omega 3 fatty acids sources are : fish and soya oil.

Donated by the Borg Cardona and Co. Ltd. visit Borg Cardona website

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