The Ins and Outs of Salmon Oil

In this blog post, we will look in depth at a popular supplement; salmon oil. Salmon oil does come with it’s controversies among the dog community, so here at My Pet Nutritionist, we bring to you this blog, to help you understand more about salmon oil – what it is, it’s pros and cons, and how to pick a product – not all salmon oil products are equal!

What Is Salmon Oil, and How is it Extracted?

Salmon is a known as an ‘oily fish’. Oily fish are very high in fatty acids, more specifically Omega 3 Fatty Acids. There are various types of omega 3, but salmon oil is high in two types:

  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA): reduces inflammation
  • Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): aids cognitive health and development

The body is unable to produce Omega 3 Fatty Acids, as they are polyunsaturated, so adding omega 3 to our pets’ diets is extremely important.

Salmon oil is literally, the oil extracted from fresh salmon, as it’s name suggests. How is it harvested though? One may envision a salmon fillet being squeezed, however this isn’t quite how salmon oil is extracted!

There are a few methods for salmon oil extraction. Most traditionally, oily fish is subject to temperatures of between 90oC and 100oC, which releases the molecules of oil to be collected. Another traditional method is through the use of organic solvents and hydrolysis. Organic solvents can be very damaging to the environment, and potentially pose as a health risk too.

More recently, enzymatic hydrolysis was found to result in high yields of fish oil and can be carried out at much lower temperatures of 40oC to 65oC.

A study published in 2022 found that a new technology using an immobilised enzyme called Alcalase, crosslinked with a polymer known as Chitosan which coats magnetic nanoparticles, is effective at rapidly splitting amino groups from proteins. This method is bioavailable, biodegradable, safe for consumption, and economically beneficial, with the added bonus that the Alcalase enzyme can be reused. The study proved that the oil harvested using this method was of a higher quality than oil extracted through other methods, and the oil was less prone to oxidation.

Findings Here
Findings Here

Then we can move onto our cold pressed salmon oil – something some brands state on their packaging. Cold pressed salmon oil is extracted from fresh fish through means of mechanical force and low heat. The longevity of oil extracted this way is thought to be shorter than using Alcalase, as it can be much more prone to oxidation – we will talk more about oxidation later in this blog post. Cold pressing produces a very low yield, but a high quality oil.

Findings Here

Benefits of Salmon Oil

There are both benefits, and disadvantages to using salmon oil for your pet. Let’s discuss the benefits first, before we move on to the disadvantages.

Omega 3 is an incredibly important nutrient to add to your pet’s diet, as we mentioned earlier in this blog post! The anti-inflammatory effect is essential for everything from heart health to cognitive ability and health, to eye health, recovery and prevention from injury, skin health and more. The natural meat based diet of our dogs and cats can be naturally high in omega 6, especially when using meat from farmed sources. Two types of omega 6 (Linolenic Acid (LA) and Arachidonic Acid (ARA)) are inflammatory. Inflammation in the body is bad news – we want to balance this inflammation out or eradicate it completely by adding healthy sources of the anti-inflammatory Omega 3 into the diet.

Salmon oil can massively benefit your pet’s brain health, and reduce general inflammation in the body which could be causing anything from itching to heart disease to  pancreatitis. Sources of DHA are particularly important for puppies, kittens, and seniors too, as cognitive health and development is most important at these ages. The anti inflammatory properties of salmon oil are also greatly beneficial to pets requiring additional joint support.

Findings Here

Skin and eye health are also greatly benefited through the use of high quality fish oils and other omega sources. This is once again, linked back to the anti-inflammatory properties of such supplements.

Findings Here

Human based studies show that salmon oil supplementation can lower the amount of triglycerides in the blood, and increase the level of HDL Cholesterol. As with most things, these studies can be a great backbone for care of our pets too! Triglycerides are ‘bad’ fats which can be linked to heart disease, so reducing these in the blood is essential, and can help to protect the heart. HDL Cholesterol is the ‘good’ stuff, helping also to protect the heart.

Findings Here

While we are on the topic of blood and how the consumption of EPA and DHA rich supplements like salmon oil can improve it, we can look at blood flow rates.

Findings Here

As we just mentioned, blood flow can be improved through supplementing the diet with salmon oil, or other sources of DHA and EPA. This can help fertility in those wishing to breed too! The testicular blood flow of a dog has been shown to dramatically improve when given these supplements, which in turn improves semen quality and testosterone levels. Furthermore, for the owners of female pets among us who are pregnant, feeding high quality sources of DHA and EPA can improve fetal development and ultimately lead to healthier litters.

Findings Here
Findings Here

Some animal based studies suggest that supplementation with salmon oil can help in weight maintenance, as the body is ‘satisfied’ with the fat consumption, leaving it unable to accumulate excess body fat.

Findings Here

Finally, salmon oil is high in Vitamin D. Around 75% of dogs are deficient in Vitamin D, which is essential for regulation of phosphorus and calcium in the body, and in turn keeping bones, muscles and teeth healthy. While offal is a great source of Vitamin D, it doesn’t contain quite enough to meet the required guideline amount for dogs, so adding salmon oil could be very beneficial here too!

Findings Here

Let’s take a look at the worry with some salmon oil products, and where the controversies stem from.

Disadvantages of Salmon Oil

Now onto the disadvantages of salmon oil for your pets. This is largely down to the extraction method, the quality of the oil, and how it is packaged and stored.

Salmon oil, like many fish oils, is notoriously unstable. It oxidises almost as soon as the seal on the bottle or pump is broken – this is when it is first exposed to air. Oxidised salmon oil, is rancid! When the oil oxidises, free radicals are produced. Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress leads to various health conditions including:

  • Premature ageing
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Cognitive decline
  • Joint disease
  • Cancer

Findings Here

The level of Omega 3 in salmon oil degrades with warmth too – meaning once at room temperature or warmer, the oil becomes less beneficial.

Findings Here

Wild fish may sadly be contaminated with toxins on the skin and in the flesh due to toxins in the sea. Environmental toxins called Furans and Dioxins are common in the areas wild salmon are raised, and when consumed, accumulate in the body’s tissues. These can cause cancer, hormone disruption, and damage to the immune system. The heavy metal contamination risk can be quite high in both wild caught and farmed fish. Traces of mercury, cadmium, lead and arsenic can sometimes be found in samples of salmon and some other fish. When looking at farmed fish, more contamination risks become apparent – they are often fed on ground up fish carcasses, which sadly introduces industrial chemicals known as Polychlorinated Biphenyls. Salmon used for salmon oil production are very often farmed, so this is something to bear in mind.

Findings Here
Findings Here

As you can imagine, if you decide to use salmon oil for your pet, with it’s many benefits, it’s important to pick a high quality oil, and store it correctly, which we will discuss next.

Picking and Storing Salmon Oil

It may seem simple, with so many salmon oil products on the pet market – just grab one and pump or pour it onto your pets food using the convenient serving method on the bottle, right? This is certainly not something we would recommend! There are many variants to consider when sourcing your ideal salmon oil product!

Liquid or capsules? We would always recommend capsules, as the salmon oil is not directly exposed to the air. They’re also super easy to feed! Storing your salmon oil correctly is also very important. Once you open a bottle of liquid salmon oil, you should store it I the fridge to avoid thermal degradation of the omegas. If you buy capsules of salmon oil, these are best kept I the fridge – this keeps them free from oxidisation. The NOW Foods salmon oil capsules are great quality, and feature in our recipes!

The bottle the oil is sold in is one of the factors to look at! As oxidisation is so quick to occur in salmon oil, and dangerous with it too, the material of the bottle matters! You may come across salmon oil stored in plastic containers, or in glass containers. Always opt for glass! Air molecules are actually able to reach the salmon oil through the walls of plastic bottles, but not glass.

If you are unsure on the quality of oils, there are things you can ask the manufacturers of the products – ask them how soon after extraction the product is bottled and sealed. The shorter the amount of time between extraction and bottling, the better! You can also ask the, to provide a copy of their Certificate of Analysis (COA) which will tell you if the oil is contaminated with any toxins/environmental pollutants like Furans and Dioxins.

Using Salmon Oil

Always check your oils before each feed! How can you tell if your salmon oil is rancid? If your oil smells at all fishy, this is a sign it has gone rancid already! Salmon oil should not smell fishy. If your oil does smell fishy, we recommend discarding it, and searching for a more suitable brand.

When you include salmon oil in the diet, try to use it as part of your pet’s omega intake, but not the only source. Each different source contains different omegas, so try to vary sources throughout the week – tinned sardines or mackerel, raw eggs, krill oil, and algae oil are all great options!

We hope our readers have found this blog post useful, and understand more about salmon oil in order to make an informed decision on whether to use it or not, and also on how to select a salmon oil product. If you would like information on improving your healthy pet’s diet and lifestyle, you may benefit from our Optimise consultations for either cats, or dogs.

Team MPN x

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