Omega-6 for Dogs: GLA As an Anti-Inflammatory

GLA for dogs
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Although omega-6 for dogs is generally viewed as unhealthy, there is one that remains critical to their health. Essential fatty acids are good for a dog’s overall health. They help keep their skin and fur healthy, boost their immune systems, and protect their joints. Dogs can’t produce these fatty acids on their own—they have to get them from the food they eat or supplements, like GLA.

Before we dive in too deep, you first need to understand what GLA is and why it’s important.

Why Your Dog Needs GLA In Their Diet

  • It’s an anti-inflammatory fatty acid
  • It aids in hormone regulation
  • Improves overall health

Anti-inflammatories alone can aid in your dog’s well-being, helping them live a happier, healthier life.

What Causes Inflammation in Dogs?

Inflammation is a part of your dog’s defense system. It’s part of your dog’s immune response to infection, toxin exposure, or damage to the body.

The immune system of your dog naturally involves inflammation to provide protection. Take a hurt paw pad, for example. When the paw pad has a cut, that region’s blood arteries enlarge and become more permeable. This facilitates the migration of immune cells and their role in tissue repair. When the injury becomes warm, swollen, and painful, that’s your dog’s immune system doing its job. It is repairing the injured paw and fighting infection.

But chronic inflammation, the kind that stays for weeks, months, even years, is a serious problem. Inflammation that continues over a long time period can cause serious health issues.

Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation that is chronic can harm healthy cells, tissues, and organs. It may result in internal scarring, tissue death, and DNA damage. It has the capacity to turn healthy cells into cancerous or malignant ones. Organ disease will eventually result from persistent inflammation.

Inflammation is frequently brought on by free radicals. The cells of the body suffer microscopic damage as a result. This is called oxidative stress. The aging process is brought on by oxidative stress. And, it’s what causes nearly every disease. As free radicals build up in the body, chronic inflammation leads to chronic disease and premature aging. Foods that reduce free radicals in the body include kale, cabbage, raspberries, blueberries, and spinach

Triggers That Cause Chronic Inflammation

Numerous factors can lead to chronic inflammation in dogs. Keep in mind that swelling should occur after a recent trauma. Chronic inflammation, however, is brought on by persistent illness, long-lasting responses, stimulants, or allergies. GLA is then crucial to your dog’s diet in order to stop the inflammation

Causes of chronic inflammation include:

  • Infection from a disease
  • Vaccinations
  • Pest prevention (flea, tick, heartworm preventatives)
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Processed food
  • Environmental toxins
  • Lack of sunshine or exercise

Signs Of Chronic Inflammation

Signs of chronic inflammation include:

GLA is the Exception

Omega-6 is known as the ‘bad’ fatty acid. GLA is the exception. It’s an omega-6 fatty acid that’s also an important anti-inflammatory. 

About a century ago we began to understand the significance of omega-6 fatty acids. Research on rats in 1929 revealed that a diet deficient in fatty acids led to deficiencies and even death. This study also showed how important other necessary fatty acids, including omega-3s, are. Researchers are still learning about the various ways that critical fatty acids, such as omega-6s, affect health today. The value of having the right ratio of fatty acids to fight inflammation and fend off chronic disease is also widely recognized.  

Other fatty acids include:

Arachidonic Acid (AA)

AA is one of the ‘bad’ fatty acids we were telling you about. It’s found in meat and eggs, but that doesn’t mean your dog shouldn’t eat these foods. It’s all about balance and variety, but AA is the omega that initiates an inflammatory immune response in your dog’s body.

Linoleic Acid (LA)

LA is absolutely necessary and must be included in your dog’s diet. Dogs who are lacking in LA experience skin and coat issues. Other health problems and issues with reproduction are also possible.

However, LA deficiency is uncommon. Animal fats and plant oils both contain significant amounts of it. In fact, far too much. Additionally, when the diet contains too much LA, it is turned to AA, which causes inflammation.

Preferably, LA would convert to GLA when the diet is in balance.

Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)

GLA is considered to be a “conditionally essential fatty acid.” That means your dog needs to get GLA in his diet. LA converts to GLA but that isn’t dependable as it won’t convert without proper balance. The conversion needs a specific enzyme, delta-6 desaturase (D6D). It also needs the following nutrients.

  • Magnesium – obtained from fish, muscle and organ meats, kelp, nuts and pumpkin seeds. Magnesium aids muscle and bone development. Magnesium is necessary to allow the dog’s body to absorb calcium.  
  • Zinc – found in red meats, seafood, chicken, spinach, broccoli, and mushrooms. Zinc boosts the immune system and improves your dog’s skin and coat. 
  • Vitamin C – Dogs are able to produce their own vitamin C. Fruit, vegetables, and organ meat are other sources of it. Your dog uses this antioxidant to combat the free radicals that cause inflammation
  • Vitamin B3 – Found in beef, chicken, liver, salmon, anchovies, and mushrooms. Vitamin B3 breaks down protein and fat.
  • Vitamin B6 – Fed in beef, chicken, fish, liver, bananas and dark leafy vegetables. Vitamin B6 is necessary for the healthy growth of puppies, to regulate hormones and for the nervous system.

If you’re feeding an appropriate raw diet, your dog is likely getting plenty of GLA in their diet. However, if there’s any question of this, you can talk to your holistic veterinarian or nutritionist about adding a GLA supplement.

Processed Diets Lead To Chronic Inflammation

A dog’s diet should have omega-6’s that are in balance or slightly higher than omega 3; a 1:1 ratio. However, kibble is jam-packed with omega-6 fatty acids. So much so that it leads to a significant imbalance and increased levels of inflammation. Instead of the ratio being 1:1, it’s about 25:1 in kibble. 

Meat from Factory Farms

The majority of the animals used to make dog food are raised in factory farms. They aren’t free in the fields eating grass as they normally would. They are likely genetically modified and are kept in a barn or feedlot among thousands of other animals while consuming grains. As a result, the meat contains a lot of omega-6 fatty acids.

Animals raised on pastures have a diet high in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids from the roots, leaves, and grasses.

The animals used by the dog food business for kibble are cows, pigs, and chickens, which are affected by grains high in omega-6s. So, in addition to even more inflammatory grains and additives, your dog is consuming processed food made with animals that were raised in factories. Check the sources of the meats your raw food manufacturers use, even if you feed them raw. 

GLA Converts

When you give your dog GLA in supplement form, you avoid using the enzyme D6D, which is required to change LA into GLA. And you do without those five vitamins and minerals.

A study on aging revealed that the body’s production of GLA is impacted by alcohol, diseases like diabetes, and aging. But the same study also demonstrated that delivering GLA directly can prevent these problems. The nutrients required for the transformation of LA into GLA are likewise avoided.

The study confirms how easy it is to take GLA supplements with meals.

This enables GLA to start operating independently.

Dihomogamma linlenic acid, a powerful anti-inflammatory, is produced when GLA is converted (DGLA). It is the ultimate weapon against inflammation. It must be converted from GLA because it is only present in trace amounts in diet. The previously mentioned DGLA intervenes with enzymes that degrade AA. It stops these enzymes from turning AA into inflammation-causing substances. As enzymes degrade, more anti-inflammatories are produced.

Let’s examine the final component of the diet-balanced essential fatty acid puzzle for your dog.

Balancing Omega Fatty Acids

It’s still difficult to balance the omega-6s and omega-3s in the diet. It needs to move from a ratio of 25:1 to closer to 1:1 It needs more than omega-3s alone.

But there’s good news.

There are several sources of GLA that offer a low ratio of the omega-6 to omega-3 content. That improves the balance. Using ahiflower oil, hemp seed oil or spirulina is a great idea.

  • Ahiflower oil has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:4
  • Hemp seed has a 6:3 ratio
  • Spirulina has a ratio of 1.5:1

All three are excellent choices for balancing foods that are already too high in omega-6 fats. 

Here’s how easy it is to feed GLA to your dog. 

How To Feed GLA To Your Dog

Unlike other omega-6 fatty acids derived from a processed dietit’s difficult to feed your dog too much GLA. It comes from plant sources, but not traditional fruits and vegetables. Most oils containing GLA get extracted from the seeds of plants. 

GLA supplements are oils or capsules containing oil. That makes dosage guidelines straightforward. Just give your dog a GLA supplement by adding it to his meal.

Let’s go into more detail about where you can find GLA as a supplement.

What Are The Best Sources of GLA?

Ahiflower oil, hemp seed oil, spirulina, evening primrose, and black currant oil. These are the best sources of GLA. Of all these sources, ahiflower contains the highest amount of naturally occurring GLA. A key benefit of both ahiflower and hemp seed is that they’re rich in minerals, including zinc and manganese.

Ahiflower Oil

Ahiflower oil is from the seeds of the Buglossoides arvensis plant. Ahiflower contains 60% more GLA than hemp seed oil making it a great source of omegas. Ahiflower oil is also rich in stearidonic acid (SDA) an omega-3 anti-inflammatory. Ahiflower oil also converts well to omega-3s: EPA and DHA.

To give your dog ahiflower oil, add ¼ tsp for every 20 to 25 lbs of body weight to his meals. 

Hempseed Oil

Not to be confused with hemp (CBD) oil, hemp seed oil is a a good source of omegas and it’s rich in trace minerals. It can be eaten to reduce inflammation or put on the skin and coat to improve their health.

It’s also a good source of SDA (stearidonic acid) which is good for the heart and easily converts to omega-3s ETA and EPA.

To add hempseed oil to your dog’s diet, give him 1 tsp for each pound of food.


Spirulina is an excellent source of GLA as well. It can aid in reducing canine inflammatory conditions like arthritis, colitis, IBD, and skin issues like atopic dermatitis and eczema. This small algae has an astonishing amount of nutrients. Beta-carotene, vitamins B-1, B-2, and B-3, iron, and trace elements are some of them. It contains 60% digestible plant protein and has antioxidant effects. Additionally, it includes substantial levels of manganese, magnesium, and potassium.

To provide your dog with spirulina, professionals recommend starting out with 1/8 tsp for every 10 lbs of body weight. 

Black Currant Oil

This is a woody shrub native to northern Europe and Asia known for its purple berries. The oil contains 15 to 20% GLA. It’s also rich in ALA.

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose is an edible herb native to North America. Its oil is 72% LA and about 13% GLA.

Check with your holistic veterinarian to determine the right dose for your individual dog.

Keep Up on the Fatty Acids

The best way to get your dog enough GLA is by providing them with a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. You can also give your dog a supplement that contains GLA, but it’s always better to have them get their nutrients from food rather than pills or liquids.

Read more:

Spirulina For Dogs: An Overview For Pet Parents

Benefits of Spirulina Supplements For Dogs – White Oak Animal Hospital

The Scoop on Black Currant, Evening Primrose and Borage Oils for Dogs

Essential fatty acids in veterinary dermatology: do they have a place?

Published by Amber L. Drake

Dr. Amber L. Drake is a celebrated author and a distinguished cancer specialist, renowned for her comprehensive research in canine cancer prevention and nutrition. She is widely recognized for her commitment to helping dogs lead long and joyful lives, as well as for her contributions to veterinary medicine education. As the CEO of Canine Companions Co., the Founder of the Drake Dog Cancer Foundation and Academy, and the Co-Founder of Preferable Pups, she has become a respected and influential figure in the canine community, earning the admiration and respect of dog enthusiasts around the globe.

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