No Such Thing as “Bad” Fat for Dogs and Cats

No Such Thing as “Bad” Fat for Dogs and Cats

While the concept of good and bad fats may be an effective way for humans to monitor the quality of their diets, it is not an appropriate concept for dogs and cats, according to a report in the September 2006 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In general, dogs and cats have more good cholesterol than bad cholesterol in their bodies, no matter what types of fat they eat. They can consume saturated and unsaturated fats without the risk of clogged arteries, high cholesterol, coronary artery diseases or strokes, "even when they consume amounts of dietary fat that would typically turn human blood into sludge," says the report's author, John E. Bauer, DVM, PhD, professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University.

Instead of "good" and "bad" fats-the typical labels for saturated and unsaturated fats, respectively-Dr. Bauer proposes the terms "functional" and "facilitative."

Functional fats are typically essential fatty acids that help perform important cellular functions. They are necessary for growth, development, reproduction and healthy skin.

Saturated fats should not be considered bad for pets, but "facilitative" in that they increase the taste and acceptable texture of foods, improve palatability and ensure the intake of the necessary calories for an animal's well-being.

Facilitative fats in dogs and cats also provide a dense source of calories and energy and promote the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. "Although they may be bad for humans," Dr. Bauer writes, "they are simply facilitative in dogs and cats."

Dr. Bauer adds that the exception to this is when the amount of fat in a diet is so large that it places animals at risk for obesity and obesity-associated problems.

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 73,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. AVMA members are dedicated to advancing the science and art of veterinary medicine including its relationship to public health and agriculture. Visit the AVMA Web site at to learn more about veterinary medicine and animal care and to access up-to-date information on the association's issues, policies and activities.

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