Anchovies - a Dog Treat With Superpowers
Most of us know anchovies as little salty fish fillets. What many of us don’t know is what powerful health benefits these little ocean fish have to offer. Anchovies are naturally rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. The omega-3 fatty acids are what give anchovies their superpowers. Countless studies over the last several decades have shown that omega-3 fatty acids have powerful and wide-ranging positive effects on the health of dogs, including:
- Fighting cancer;
- Benefiting the immune system;
- Boosting heart health;
- Promoting kidney health;
- Improving skin and coat health; and,
- Reducing anxiety, depression and hyperactivity.
This post will cover in greater depth the positive effects of incorporating omega-3 fatty acids in your dog’s diet, as well as why anchovies are a great choice to provide your dog with the omega-3 fatty acids they need. It will further provide information on how to best incorporate anchovies into your canine’s food plan.
THE BENEFITS OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS FOR YOUR DOG
Fighting cancerOmega-3 fatty acids are known for their ability to slow or even inhibit the development and metastasis of certain cancers. This effect has also been confirmed in a study conducted in 2000, involving 32 dogs, where the dietary supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids significantly increased the disease-free interval and survival time of dogs with lymphoma.¹
Benefitting the immune systemResearch has shown that the supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids to a canine’s diet positively effects their immune system. Effects described range from alleviating the harmful effects of allergies caused by an over-reactive immune systems response,² to substantially higher antibody titers after vaccinations.³
Boosting heart healthSeveral studies, involving dogs of different sexes, age, breed, size and weight, have shown considerable positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids on canines suffering from different heart conditions. The positive effects found included improved heart function (including reduced heart rate and blood pressure), reduced inflammation, improved appetite and reduced muscle loss. Thus, those canines reported longer survival times in comparison to those canines that did not receive omega-3 fatty acids.⁴ ⁵ ⁶
Promoting kidney healthAdding omega-3 fatty acids to the diet of dogs suffering from chronic kidney disease has significant positive effects on the health of dogs, as a study conducted in the year 2000 on 18 dogs shows. This same study also shows that adding omega-6 fatty acids to a canine’s diet hastens the decline of kidney function.⁷
Improving skin and coat healthThe positive effect of omega-3 fatty acids on dogs suffering from the harmful effects of allergies, atopy, pruritus and flea allergies haven been extensively researched during the last several decades. The studies conducted have shown that adding high-quality omega-3 fatty acids to a dog’s diet has, amongst others, an alleviating effect on their over-reactive immune systems; resulting in reduced itchiness and substantial improvements of their skin health and coat character.⁸ ⁹ ¹⁰
Reducing anxiety, depression and hyperactivityIf your dog suffers from anxiety, depression or hyperactivity, he or she may benefit from supplementation with a high-quality source of omega-3 fatty acids like anchovies.
While the precise mechanism by which omega-3 fatty acid exerts effects on behavior is not known, they have been proven to modulate neurotransmitters and to affect neuroplasticity. In fact, fatty acids have been found to influence the same pathways that anti-anxiety medications do, most notably fluoxetine, a commonly prescribed treatment for anxiety disorders in dogs.¹¹
The calming effect has also been confirmed in a study conducted on 24 anxious dogs in 2016. There is further evidence in literature that supports using omega-3 fatty acids as a potential reliever of depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity in numerous species. It appears that this may hold true for dogs as well.¹²
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ADD OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS TO YOUR DOG’S REGULAR DIET?Most dog foods, especially kibble, are manufactured at very high temperatures. This is detrimental to the temperature sensitive omega-3 fatty acids. Even if you feed your dog a raw diet, there is a high likelihood that you are missing out on omega-3 fatty acids, if you are not consciously adding seafood or fish oil to your dog’s diet.
Not only are omega-3 fatty acids important, so is the dietary ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Both fatty acids are essential, but imbalances between the two can lead to health problems for your pet.¹³
As the typical pet diet in the United States is low on omega-3 and heavy in omega-6 fatty acids,¹⁴ it is important to restore the ratio between the two by adding omega-3 fatty acids to your dog’s food plan.
WHAT MAKES WILD-CAUGHT ANCHOVIES THE PREFERRED SOURCE OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS FOR YOUR DOG?In a perfect world, many different types of fish could provide your dogs with the omega-3 fatty acids they need. Unfortunately, a large part of our fish supply is nowadays tainted with industrial toxins and pollutants. Especially large carnivorous fish up in the food-chain like mackerel, seabass and tuna are known to accumulate toxins, including heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, over their life-span. This is why feeding these types of fish to our pets is no longer recommended.
We also advise against farmed salmon, as it may contain a range of contaminants, including environmental toxins, synthetic astaxanthin (which is fed to salmon to color their meat pink), and agrichemical residues of GMO corn and soy-based feed they are given.¹⁵
Our recommendation as a healthy source for the omega-3 fatty acids your dog needs, are wild-caught Northern or California anchovies. These small fish swim in large, dense, silvery schools in the Pacific Ocean. Anchovies are short lived fish at the bottom of the aquatic food-chain, as they feed from krill. They therefore do not harbor pollutants and toxins as larger and longer-lived fish do. In addition to omega-3 fatty acids, anchovies are naturally rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. An added bonus is that most dogs will love their fishy taste.
WHAT FORM OF ANCHOVY SHOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR DOG?Anchovies are available as salted fillets, canned fish in water or oil, frozen and/or dehydrated.
You definitely do not want to give your pets the salted anchovy fillets you find in the specialty food section of your local super market. The high amounts of salt used to preserve these fish fillets make them toxic for your dog.
Canned anchovies are available packed in either oil and water. Avoid anchovies packed in soy, corn, sunflower, safflower, or other omega-6 rich oils, as your pets are most likely already getting too much omega-6 fatty acids as part of their regular diet. You can give your dogs anchovies packed in water as long as they are not salted or otherwise spiced. However, keep in mind that the quality of the temperature sensitive omega-3 fatty acids may have been compromised by the cooking and canning process.
Frozen, wild-caught anchovies are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids for your canines. If your dogs are used to raw feeding and you don’t mind dealing with raw fish, this is a great option. You can feed the whole fish either frozen or thawed. Your dogs will appreciate them either way.
Our top recommendation is to provide your dogs with whole, wild-caught, dehydrated anchovies as source for all-natural, high-quality omega-3 fatty acids. Dehydration is a low temperature drying process which preserves the omega-3 fatty acids, other nutrients and vitamins in the fish. Dehydrated anchovies are also easy to handle and break apart, if needed. For easy storage, they come in a resealable, air-tight bag.
HOW MANY ANCHOVIES CAN YOU GIVE TO YOUR DOG?The table below is meant to provide you with an orientation of how many dehydrated anchovies you can give to an adult dog. You can feed up to twice this much to puppies and pregnant or lactating females.¹⁶ Depending on your preference, you can add the fish to a meal, or feed individually as a treat.
|DOG'S WEIGHT||ANCHOVIES PER WEEK|
|5 lbs||3 to 4 fish|
|15 lbs||6 to 8 fish|
|25 lbs||8 to 10 fish|
|50 lbs||12 to 16 fish|
|100 lbs||22 to 30 fish|
Be aware that anchovies contain a lot of calories. A 4.5 oz bag of dehydrated anchovies, containing 15 to 20 fish, has about 644 calories.¹⁷ A single fish therefore has around 30 to 45 calories. We recommend reducing the amount of food given accordingly.
Please always seek the advice of a holistic veterinarian on how to best supplement your dog's diet with the omega-3 fatty acids they need for good health, and always practice variation, moderation and balance when introducing new foods or treats to your pets.
We’d love to hear from you! Have you ever given anchovies to your dog? What are your experiences?
¹ Ogilvie GK, Fettman MJ, Mallinckrodt CH, et al: Effect of fish oil, arginine, and doxorubicin chemotherapy on remission and survival time for dogs with lymphoma: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study. Cancer; 2000; 88: 1916-28.
³ Zicker SC, Jewell DE, Yamka RM, et al: Evaluation of cognitive learning, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions in healthy puppies fed foods fortified with docosahexaenoic acid-rich fish oil from 8 to 52 weeks of age. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association; 2012, 241(5): 583-94.
⁷ Brown SA, Brown CA, Crowell WA, et al: Effects of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in early renal insufficiency in dogs. Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine; 2000; Vol. 135, No. 3, pp 275-286.
⁸ Logas D, Kunkle GA: Double‐blinded Crossover Study with Marine Oil Supplementation Containing High‐dose icosapentaenoic Acid for the Treatment of Canine Pruritic Skin Disease. Veterinary Dermatology; 1994; Vol. 5, Iss. 3, pp 99-104.
¹¹ Jazayeri S, Tehrani-Doost M, Keshavarz SA, et al: Comparison of therapeutic effects of omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid and fluoxetine, separately and in combination, in major depressive disorder. Aust N Z J Psychiatry; 2008; 42(3): 192-198.
¹⁷ Dehydrated Anchovies for Dogs & Cats, CampfireTreats.com