Does your dog exhibit signs of aggression towards humans or other animals? Canine aggression may manifest as nipping, biting, growling, or snarling. In most cases, aggression in dogs is motivated by either fear or dominance and territorial issues. Surprisingly, a recent study shows that aggression problems in dogs may be associated with dietary deficiency, more specifically deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, fortified eggs, and flaxseed, are rich in two essential fats known as eicosa-pentenoic acid (EPA) and decosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega 3’s have already been shown to have health benefits in humans including a role in the prevention of heart disease and, possibly, cancer. Researchers in Italy now report they may be effective in treating aggression in dogs.
Italian researchers in an attempt to look at the role omega 3 fatty acids play in aggression problems in dogs measured blood levels of DHA in both healthy, aggressive dogs and dogs that had no history of aggression. They found the dogs who exhibited aggressive behavior had lower blood levels of DHA than did their more laid back counterparts. The aggressive dogs were also noted to have higher ratios of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids suggesting a deficiency state of omega 3’s relative to omega 6’s.
It’s not surprising that there might be a correlation between omega 3 levels and aggression in dogs since omega 3’s have been shown to play a critical role in neurological development in humans and deficiency of these “good fats” have been correlated with impulsivity in the human animal. Sufficient quantities of omega 3″s in the diet are especially important in humans during early development when the neurological system is still changing, although deficiencies in adulthood can also manifest as psychiatric problems. Omega 3 fatty acids are also an important component of the cell membranes of brain cells which may explain some of the negative effects seen in deficiency states. The researchers are assuming that a similar relationship of omega 3 fatty acids and psychiatric disorders may manifest as aggression problems in dogs.
Although more research is needed to determine what quantities of omega 3’s are needed on a daily basis to help stop aggression in dogs, adding fish oils or fresh fatty fish to your dog’s diet would most likely have other positive attributes similar to the health benefits seen in humans. Plus, if this preliminary is supported by future studies, supplementation may be a means of treating aggression in dogs.
Could omega 3 fatty acid supplementation be a means of treating aggression in dogs? Further research may reveal the answer to this important question.