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Fats are a group of naturally occurring organic compounds of glycerol and various fatty acids, which are solids at room temperature. They help the body use the fat soluble vitamins and keep the skin healthy. They are part of the lipid family.

Fats are critical to health. They are incorporated into the membrane of every cell of the body; where they control the nutrients that go into the cell and the wastes that move out of the cell.

BUT - too much fat in the diet can rob the dog of other important nutrients.

It's important to note that there are definite differences in terms of fat between wild prey and domestic animals (even of the same species). The two main differences are that wild prey is leaner and it contains a different balance of fats to domestic animals.

Adipose tissue is another name for body fat. It is found:

  • under the skin

  • surrounding organs

  • between muscle fibre bundles.

Fat is the Nutrition Theif:

High fat content in foods always comes at the expense of protein. As fat is high in calories, too much fat usually means less protein for the dog. Keep fat at less than 10% of the diet. Rabbit, turkey, kangaroo and wild game are the lowest in fat content. Beef can be either lean or fatty. The vitamin and mineral content of fatty meats is lower than in lean meats. Hence, a high fat diet can be nutrient deficient. It is already hard enough to get adequate manganese, zinc, copper, iron and vitamin D in a raw diet. A high fat diet will cause the calories to add up before your dog gets enough vitamins and minerals. 

Studies have linked diets with poorly balanced fats to:

  • behaviour problems

  • hormone imbalances

  • heart disease

  • weight gain

  • gut issues

  • insulin resistance.

There are a variety of different fats, ranging from simple to complex in structure. Triglycerides are the main constituents of natural fats and oils. 

A triglyceride consists of a molecule of glyceride, which has three carbon atoms in a row. Each carbon atom has a fatty acid attached. There are three types of triglyceride:

  1. monoglyceride: one fatty acid attached

  2. diglyceride: two fatty acids attached

  3. triglycerides: three fatty acids attached.

Triglycerides are divided into three types, depending on their number of double bonds:

  1. Saturated (no double bonds - are solids)

  2. Monounsaturated (1 double bond)

  3. Polyunsaturated (2 or more double bonds - are liquids).

Double bonds produce a kink in the fatty acids, preventing them from packing closely together. Animals fats tend to be saturated solids. Plant fats tend to be unsaturated liquids.

Short Chain Fatty Acids: (6 or less carbon atoms)

  • acetic acid

  • propionic acid

  • butyric acid

  • propoic acid

Short chain fatty acids are produced or fermented by friendly bacteria that live in the colon or can be manufactured from other fats in the body. They play a key role in the cells that line the large intestine as well as its blood flow, muscle activity and water absorption. Short chain fatty acids are also used as food for the beneficial bacteria.

Sources: fibre and friendly gut bacteria.

Deficiency: chronic diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

This is one of the reasons fibre is so important in the diet.

Medium Chain Fatty Acids: (chains of 6 to 12 carbon atoms)

  • caproic acid

  • caprylic acid

  • capric acid.

They can be either saturated or unsaturated.

While most fatty acids need to be digested in the small intestine, both short and medium chain fatty acids pass passively through the wall of the small intestine to the liver, where they are metabolised and used for energy.

Medium chain fatty acids support the microbiome (beneficial bacteria that live in the gut), because they have antibacterial, antifungal and anti parasitic properties. They also have antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties.

Sources: some animal and vegetable fats, including: milk, coconut oil and palm kernel oil.

Long Chain Fatty Acids: (contain 13 or more carbon atoms)

When we talk about fats in the diet it is usually these long chain fatty acids we are referring to.

There are 5 essential fatty acids for dogs/cats (all long chain - polyunsaturated). They are essential because they cannot be manufactured by the body. They need to be added through the diet

These fatty acids are further divided into Omega-3 and Omega -6 fatty acids. Diets high in Omega-3 fatty acids are anti inflammatory. Diets high in Omega -6 fatty acids are inflammatory. Both Omega -3 and Omega -6 fatty acids can produce hormones. 


Omega -3's reduce the risk neurological and cardiovascular disease, plus support eye and brain function. Omega-3's also have a positive impact on hormone balance by producing hormones that reduce inflammation, as well as being involved in hormone transport and communication.

Omega -3: alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Omega -6's produce hormones that increase inflammation; which is an important part of the body's immune response. They also help with blood clotting and cell growth.

Omega -6: linoleic acid (LA), Arachidonic acid (AA).

While it is important that dogs receive the correct balance of Omega -3 and Omega -6 fatty acids, this is not too difficult to achieve as both types of fatty acids compete for the same enzyme for metabolism.

Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA): 


* good amounts in linseed oil, fish oil

* lesser amounts in canola oil, soy oil

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA):

Deficiency is linked to depression. It is an anti arthritic substance.

Sources: cold water fish oil, phytoplankton.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA):

Essential for the brain and eyes.

Sources, brains. eyes, cold water fish oil, phytoplankton.

Linoleic acid (LA): 

Deficiency: linked to skin and coat issues.

Sources: poultry, corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils.

Arachidonic acid (AA): 

Although it is an essential fatty acid for cats, it isn't for dogs. Dogs can manufacture it from: AA & ALA.

Sources: poultry, lean meats, egg yolks and some fish oils.

Always make sure your food contains at least twice as much protein as fat. Also keep fat at no more than 10% of the diet.

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