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  Volume No. 17 Issue No. 5 May 2020  

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Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In

Dr. Jim Humphries

  Cod Liver Oil — yum
  By Dr. Jim Humphries

   You may have heard of Omega-3 fatty acids, or “fish oil,” to promote human health and wellness. It is a time-tested therapy used by doctors and grandmothers for generations. There is a reason –- they are an amazing oil compound and promote your health in many ways. But did you know that such oils may also be your pet’s best friend?
   Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of beneficial oils critical to body function. Here is why: They cannot be produced by the body and so we and our pets must get them in our diets. While most of the research on Omega-3’s has been done in humans, dogs and cats are none-the-less reaping the benefits.
   Thousands of studies have proven the benefits of fish oil such as reducing triglycerides, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, helping diabetics, eye function and even recovery from neurological damage and reducing cancer risks.
   They are also a natural and potent anti-inflammatory compound and especially help with arthritis. The evidence is so compelling that now pharmaceutical companies are promoting a prescription form of simple omega-3 fatty acid as if it were some special medicine. Well, it is, but not like that.
   You and your pets can get the highest quality fish oil online or in stores and you don’t have to go to your local pharmacy carrying a prescription for it. Clearly, Omega-3’s are the “next big thing” in medicine and veterinary medicine.
   Considering the help with arthritis alone, our dogs and cats could benefit greatly and perhaps even reduce the amount of non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS needed in cases of osteoarthritis. It is also known to help hundreds of thousands of dogs with allergies that cause so much misery in itching and scratching.
   Dr. Robin Downing of Windsor, Colorado, is a very experienced practitioner and a certified pain management veterinarian. She warns: “There is one problem. Just like CBD products, fish oil supplements are NOT well-regulated, and quality can vary dramatically!” In fact, the supplement industry is full of infomercial style sales pitches selling you hundreds of products with little proven analysis, much less human or animal testing. Just think of all the weight reducing “gimmicks” and products you see on television this time of year. Believe it or not, they are not strictly governed by the FDA. They have learned the ways to side-step regulations and go directly into stores and into your shopping cart.
   There is another concern with second rate fish oil products. Some over the counter fish oil products cannot only vary drastically in quality but may also contain harmful contaminants such as mercury.
   Dr. Downing recommends you look for a fish oil supplement that meets or exceeds pharmaceutical standards and one that engages in sustainable fishing practices. Also, she looks for data from an independent laboratory examining the purity of the product.
   Concentration of the product is important and other content and chemical balance issues are crucial in product selection. Your veterinarian should advise you on the products to trust and the specific dose for your pets.
   We contacted a representative of Nordic Naturals, a leading maker of cod liver oil for decades, to understand key issues in the manufacturing of such a delicate product.
   Nordic Naturals uses arctic cod and uses the livers for extraction of the oil and there are many important steps in the preparation and filtering process to remove contaminants. Even though fish oil standards do not exist in the United States, Nordic Naturals goes beyond the international pharmaceutical standards to produce an effective and safe product for humans and pets. Many years ago, they started a pet division and today they are known as the leader in these type of products for our pet companions.
   Dr. Downing says she is very impressed with the positive results she and her staff see in her pet patients when put on omega-3 supplementation –- both in her general practice and in her pain management specialty.
   With the big push in today’s medicine to be “evidence based,” fish oil products should only be purchased from a company that has taken the time and money needed to prove these products do what they say they will do. Now, after 50 years of work, there is enough evidence to make this a trustworthy and worthwhile part of your pet’s nutrition and preventive health. Just be sure you only use products known by your veterinarian to be pure and properly handled and produced.

   Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian and provides hospice and end-of-life care for pets in the Colorado Springs area. He also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes.
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