Does adding salmon oil to cat food reduce shedding?

Does adding salmon oil to cat food reduce shedding?
Does adding salmon oil to cat food reduce shedding? Image: MikeB
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The above product cost £11.99 on Amazon in the UK. My research indicates multiple benefits to cats in taking fish oil supplements but I can’t find a scientific study supporting the suggestion that is helps to stop fur shedding. However, veterinarians would probably agree that fish oil does improve the skin and helps to produce a healthy coat. The key probably is this: omega-3 fats help keep the skin healthy and fur is made in the skin in melanocytes. Also, a healthy skin is less likely to itch which means less scratching which in turn means less hair being dislodged and thrown into the home.

Salmon fish oil

Salmon oil is best known for being an exceptionally rich source of omega-3 fats. The primary omega-3 fats found in salmon oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). I refer to these again below.

Cat owner thoughts

The reason for this article is the comment made on social media by a cat owner, Lynn Graham, who said the following about salmon oil:

Many people have difficulty with shedding cats. After decades of being a guardian to several cats, I finally found something that helps reduce shedding considerably: salmon oil added to their food on a daily basis. It really DOES reduce shedding, and makes their coats beautiful. Just 1/4 tsp. a day is plenty.

She feels certain that salmon oil is beneficial both to the cat and owner! Less shedding is a benefit to an owner. Although cats shed fur for a good reason: to thin out the fur during the warmer seasons. Why work against that natural process? It is dictated by the amount of ambient light which is in line with the warmer seasons and longer days.

Other anecdotal evidence that points to less shedding and cat skin health comes from the Richmond Valley Veterinary Practice who say:

Shiny and healthy coat: Fish oil is a great solution to suppress aggressive shedding or loss of hair. Ideally, these can prevent instances like bald spots on your cat’s or dog’s body. Additionally, these supplements also promote a shiny and healthy coat.

They also state that two main components in fish oil (eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)) suppress inflammation and therefore it can help mitigate the severity of health concerns like arthritis and heart disease. Omega-3 oil is known to suppress the effects of skin allergy inflammation and itchiness. They also refer to studies which has shown that one component of fish oil, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a kind of anti-cancer substance. For sure can also assist in brain development and cognitive function and the DHA supplements have been linked to skill learning. DHA has been used to suppress the effects of cognitive dysfunction.

The last point is backup by a study which concluded:

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is a major disease affecting old cats, and the study’s findings suggest that a nutritional approach may be beneficial in managing this condition. The study also suggests that a nutritional strategy involving supplementation with a blend of nutrients (antioxidants, arginine, B vitamins, and fish oil) may improve brain function in middle-aged and old cats.

Technical stuff

This is here for completeness. Read this if you are into technical stuff. The conclusion is that fish oils are probably beneficial to a cat’s health and in particular to renal disease, joint disease and cancer. This is not a complete list as there are probably other benefits.

In summary, feeding cats diets enriched with omega-3 LC PUFAs has been shown to have potential benefits in various health conditions, including dermatitis, renal disease, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and cancer. These benefits are likely due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of omega-3 LC PUFAs, as well as their effects on gene expression and signaling pathways. However, more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms underlying these effects and to determine optimal dosages and ratios of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in feline diets.

Renal disease

Based on the information provided, it appears that dietary supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), may have potential benefits for cats with renal disease. The retrospective study found that cats fed therapeutic diets containing higher levels of EPA had longer median survival times than cats in the control group. Additionally, omega-3 PUFAs have been shown to reduce renal thromboxane A2 production, total cholesterol, and lipoprotein concentrations, and moderate decreases in blood pressure have been observed when the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 PUFAs is lowered.

However, it is important to note that the retrospective study found other differences in the diets besides EPA content, making it difficult to attribute benefits solely to EPA. Additionally, while omega-3 PUFAs have been shown to increase glomerular filtration rate in clinically normal cats, data is not available for cats with renal disease. Further experimental studies or clinical trials are needed to determine the potential benefits of dietary omega-3 LC PUFAs in managing chronic kidney disease (CKD) in cats.

Degenerative joint disease

The studies mentioned suggest that dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, may have potential benefits for cats with DJD (degenerative joint disease) and osteoarthritis. In a clinical trial with cats with DJD, a diet high in EPA and DHA supplemented with green-lipped muscle extract and glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate resulted in improvements in objective measures of mobility compared to a control diet. Additionally, another study found that a therapeutic diet with increased amounts of manganese, methionine, and omega-3 fatty acids resulted in increased activity and improvements in the ability to jump, stiffness, and lameness in cats with DJD.

Furthermore, a randomized, double-blinded, controlled clinical trial found that cats fed an omega-3 enriched diet had a significantly higher proportion of improvements in arthritic conditions within 4 weeks compared to cats in the control group. However, it is important to note that clinically relevant serum biochemical values were also detected, including decreased alanine transaminase activity and increased lipase activity in cats fed the omega-3 enriched diet and increases in the numbers of monocytes and eosinophils for cats fed the control diet.

It is currently unclear how much EPA and DHA were present in the diets used in these studies, as the total contents have not been published. Nevertheless, these studies suggest that dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids, in combination with other dietary components, may have potential benefits for cats with DJD and osteoarthritis.

Cancer

There is evidence to suggest that omega-3 LC PUFAs may have beneficial effects in the treatment of certain types of cancer in cats. Comparative studies between human estrogen receptor-insensitive breast tumor cells and malignant mammary gland tumor cells in cats have shown that omega-3 LC PUFAs can reduce activation of MAPK pathway intermediates, increase apoptosis, decrease cell proliferation, and decrease COX-2 pathway inflammatory eicosanoid expression. The MAPK pathway can be differentially affected by the fatty acid composition of diacylglycerol released from phosphatidyl inositol during lipid-based signal transduction when omega-3 LC PUFAs are fed. Studies have shown that healthy adult cats fed various diets with different total omega-6–to–total omega-3 ratios had MAPK activation that was ratio-dependent. In feline mammary glands, a reduction in MAPK activity and stasis of tumor cell growth was seen when the diet was changed from a total omega-6–to–total omega-3 ratio of 16:1 to < 1:1; MAPK activity was increased to earlier amounts after reintroduction of the diet with the higher ratio. It is possible that other MAPK-associated cancers may be similarly treated by the use of dietary omega-3 LC PUFAs, as gene expression of COX-2 and resultant enhancement of inflammatory mediators, angiogenesis, and tumor cell proliferation are linked to MAPK activity. However, more research is needed in this area.

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