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Essential Fatty acids - the basics

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

What are EFA’s?

How cells function within the body depends on the availability of various nutrients, one such requirement is Fatty acids, a specific type of polyunsaturated fat which provides the body with energy and plays a structural role on every cell within the body. Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are those which can not be produced, or synthesised, within the body and therefore must be provided in the diet to ensure normal health needs and certain metabolic functions can continue [i].

Why EFA’s are an invaluable nutrient to consider for cat’s and dog’s

There are two families of EFA’s, Omega 3 and Omega 6, both are important for the health of cats and dogs[ii] and must be provided in the diet. Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 groups are key to maintaining and supporting all aspects of our pets’ health as they are the components of cell membranes, supporting the flow of molecules into and out of cells as well as supporting enzyme and membrane receptor function. They support the ability of cells to retain water and other important molecules and regulate inflammation by supporting the formation of the body’s natural anti-inflammatories, prostaglandins. EFA’s have been established as key components in maintaining a healthy skin and coat, supporting the immune system, improving cardio vascular health as well as reducing symptoms of ill health such as allergic dermatitis and inflammatory diseases[i].

Omega 3 sources

Raw meat is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids but the best is cold water fish and their oils. Salmon frames are an excellent source which can be easily fed to even the toothless or fussy eater although not as easy to source as the more commonly available farmed meats. Meaty bones from all of the traditional prey animals provide a good source of the EFA’s required to varying degrees with Chicken and pork topping the list. Lamb bones, although lower in concentration of EFA’s can also be a good source as the bones do tend to be rather fatty, more fat means more EFA’s. Beef bones do sit at the bottom of the list as they are not only low concentration of EFA’s but the fat content also tends to be low making them a poorer source than their counterparts[iii].

Omega 6 sources

The primary source of the Omega 6 EFA’s is plant-based oils and animal tissue including organ meats such as kidney, spleen and adrenals. Arachidonic Acid (AA), the omega 6 EFA specifically required by cats is primarily available from animal fats, specifically the body fat of poultry and lean meat. Raw egg yolks also provide a useful source as do some fish oils[ii].



  1. Patel, A 2017. Essential fatty acids in veterinary dermatology: do they have a place?, viewed 10 May 2020,

  2. Lenox, CE 2016, Role of dietary fatty acids in dogs & cats, American College of Veterinary nutrition 1988, CE article, viewed 10 May 2020.

  3. Billinghurst, I 1993, Give a dog a bone, Warrigal publishing, Australia.

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