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Fatty Acids/Omega (Derm Caps®)

By: Dr. Nicholas Dodman

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Overview

  • There are over 100 fatty acids. They are essential components of cell structure (particularly cell membranes) and are involved in a number of metabolic processes.
  • The roles of fatty acids in the body include: Maintaining fluidity and flexibility of cell membranes; formation of short-lived hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes; maintaining health of the skin and its permeability to water; cholesterol esterification; and energy production through oxidation in cells during exercise or starvation.
  • Fatty acids attach to glycerol (via ester bonds) to form mono-, di- or triglycerides. Triglycerides are referred to as neutral fat, and store considerable energy for times of need. Phosphate-substituted triglycerides, called phospholipids, generally contain two rather than three fatty acids. Glycerol acts as a skeleton on which fatty acids are delivered to the body (in food), transported around the body (in plasma), and incorporated within cells and cell membranes. Free fatty acids are released within the intestine to facilitate their absorption. Reconstituted triglycerides are transported in chylomicrons to be broken down into free fatty acids in blood vessel walls under the influence of insulin-activated lipoprotein lipase (LPL) to enable their transfer into cells. One fatty acid, linoleic acid, is considered essential in dogs and cats because it cannot be synthesized and must be supplied in the diet. All others, with the exception of arachidonic acid in the cat, can be synthesized from linoleic acid, though the rate of conversion may not be adequate to meet bodily requirements in all instances. In this sense, they may be essential, too.
  • Fatty acids are required for the biosynthesis of eicosanoids (EA), including prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes. A delicate balance of EA helps control vascular tone, thrombin, and platelet activity. Omega-3 fatty acids give rise to Group 3 prostanoids and leukotrienes, the properties of which are generally considered helpful in terms of maintaining proper vascular integrity and blood flow. For this reason, omega-3 fatty acids have received a lot of attention as human dietary supplements to help prevent intravascular platelet aggregation and thrombus formation. Omega-6 fatty acids give rise to Group 2 prostanoids and leukotrienes. It can be argued that the ration of omega-3 to omega-6 is as important as to their biological action as their concentration in the supplement/diet.
  • In dogs and cats, the primary use of fatty acids has been to palliate eczema-like skin eruptions and pruritus.
  • Fatty acids have also been used to halt the progression of renal disease, retard tumorigenesis, reduce pain and inflammation, and prevent thrombus formation.
  • On face value, it would seem that dietary supplementation with fatty acids is something of a panacea, but a word of caution is indicated. Definitive studies confirming the efficacy and the safety of longterm supplementation have yet to be performed. Also, the optimal ration of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids has yet to be established.
  • In addition, dietary supplementation with fatty acids is not without short and possibly longterm side effects. While fatty acid supplementation may ultimately be shown to be of some value, more studies are need before such treatment can be unequivocally recommended.

    Brand Names and Other Names

  • As over-the-counter products, fatty acids supplements do not need to be registered with the FDA.
  • Human formulations: Omega-3s: Promega Pearls Softgels® (Parke Davis), Cardi-Omega # Capsules® (Thompson medical), EPA Capsules® (Nature's Bouny), Sea- Omega 50 Softgels® (Rugby), Marine Lipid Concentrate Softgels® (Vitalline), Super EPA® 1200 Softgels and Super EPA® 2000 Capsules (Advanced Nutritional), and various generics.
  • Veterinary formulations: 3 V Caps® and Derm Caps® (DVM), Linatone® (Lambert Kay), OFA® (Dermapet).

    Uses of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Omega-3 Fatty acids are used for treatment of a variety of conditions including:

  • Pruritus associated with atopy
  • Idiopathic seborrhea
  • Miliary dermatitis (cats)
  • Eosinophilic granuloma (cats)
  • Renal Disease
  • Lymphoma and other tumors
  • Intestinal inflammation
  • Pain associated with arthritis
  • Thromboembolism

    Precautions and Side Effects

  • Increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids without adequate antioxidant protection could increase free radical formation (with consequent lipid peroxidation)
  • Hemorrhage is a potential side effect (monitor clotting parameters; avoid when coagulopathies are present)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea may occur
  • Pruritus may worsen
  • Immunoincompetence
  • Reduced release of insulin (monitor blood sugar)
  • Lethargy (dogs)
  • Note: Products containing vitamin A may cause hypervitaminosis A, with its accompanying clinical signs (cf. cats fed a diet rich in liver).

    Drug Interactions

  • Because of the effects of fatty acids on bleeding/coagulation times, it is probably unwise to administer fatty acid dietary supplements concurrently with anticoagulants, such as aspirin, warfarin, and heparin.

    How Fatty Acids are Supplied

  • Commercially available veterinary products contain a combination of fish oil (eicosapentaenoic and docosahexanoic acids) and vegetable oil (gamma linoleic acid). They may also contain vitamin E (tocopherol), vitamin A, and vitamin D. Dosing forms are either capsules, chewable tablets, or granules.
  • Human formulations of omega-3 fatty acids contain 600, 1000, or 1200mg of fatty acid per capsule, equivalent to N-3 fat content of between 168 and 563mg EPA and 72 and 312mg of DHA. Most have vitamin E added.

    Dosing Information

    As each product is different, the dosing regimen suggested by the individual manufacturer should be followed.



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