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The Science Behind Seal Oil: A Promising Solution for Dog Osteoarthritis

14 July 2023
Seal Oil Omega-3

Osteoarthritis is a prevalent disease that affects millions of dogs worldwide. It not only has a negative impact on the well-being of dogs, but also the financial and emotional burdens associated with animal treatment programs can be overwhelming for owners and breeders. Recent studies have shed light on the potential benefits of omega-3, namely the high levels of docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) in seal oil, in treating symptoms associated with osteoarthritis in dogs. This article will explore the science behind seal oil and how it might be used to treat canine osteoarthritis and other health problems faced by our furry friends.


Osteoarthritis Prevalence and Impact


Dog osteoarthritis, also known as canine osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, is caused by joint wear and tear over time. It is a prevalent disease that affects dogs, especially as they get older. According to data collected from 200 veterinarians, osteoarthritis prevalence in North America is reported at 20% of all dogs over one year of age[1]. This statistic highlights the significant prevalence of the condition among dogs.


The joint is a complex system made up of bones, cartilage, ligaments, and synovial fluid. Cartilage serves as a cushion between the bones, allowing for smooth movement and reducing friction. The cartilage in a healthy joint remains intact, while the synovial fluid offers lubrication.


In the case of osteoarthritis, the cartilage gradually deteriorates, losing its capacity to adequately protect and cushion the joints. This degeneration can be caused by a number of reasons, including:


  • Age: Due to the cumulative effects of joint wear and tear over time, older dogs are more prone to developing osteoarthritis.


  • Genetics: Certain dog breeds are more prone to getting osteoarthritis due to genetic causes. German Shepherd Dogs, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers are examples of more affected breeds.


  • Joint injuries: Previous joint injury or trauma might raise the risk of osteoarthritis in dogs. Damage to the cartilage or ligaments can cause the joint to become unstable and degenerate.


  • Obesity: Obesity places extra pressure on the joints, accelerating the wear and tear process and raising the risk of developing osteoarthritis.


  • Abnormal joint development: Dogs with abnormal joint structures or disorders such as hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.


It’s worth noting that while osteoarthritis is frequently related to age, once cartilage begins to degrade, the body’s natural healing systems may not be able to keep up with the damage. As a result, the joint becomes inflamed, resulting in discomfort, stiffness, and decreased mobility. The illness can worsen with time, resulting in increasingly severe symptoms and joint dysfunction.


Treating osteoarthritis in dogs often involves costly treatment plans, including medications, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery. Those expenses can be burdensome for many owners. In addition, witnessing beloved pets suffer from chronic pain is also difficult for both the owner and the dog.


Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Canine Osteoarthritis


Many studies on canine osteoarthritis and the effects of omega-3 fatty acids of marine origin have shown that these fatty acids may be beneficial in treating specific symptoms of inflammatory disorders such as canine osteoarthritis.


One 2016 study found that daily EPA and DHA supplementation of a dog’s diet significantly shifted the iFATS (Inflammatory Fatty Acid Target Score) in a positive direction, leading to the relief of clinical symptoms associated with osteoarthritis in dogs[2]. This data gives support to the possible therapeutic advantages of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of canine osteoarthritis.


Another study examined the effects of feeding a high omega-3 fatty acids diet in dogs with naturally occurring osteoarthritis. The researchers found that in dogs with osteoarthritis, a veterinary therapeutic diet containing a high level of omega-3 from fish sources improved their locomotor disability and performance in daily activities[3]. This nutritional approach seems promising for managing naturally occurring osteoarthritis in dogs.


Avoiding the formation of osteoarthritis may be difficult, but more and more research supports the advantages of omega-3 fatty acids as a possible solution for alleviating symptoms of canine osteoarthritis.


The Benefits of Seal Oil


Seal oil is well-known for its high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids like DHA, EPA, and, most notably, docosapentaenoic acid (DPA). Seal oil naturally has a higher concentration of DPA compared to typical fish oil, which has been shown to have unique anti-inflammatory benefits.


Reduction of Inflammation and Joint Pain


The presence of a high level of omega-3 and a high concentration of DPA in seal oil offers potential benefits for dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. DPA, like EPA and DHA, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is important in a variety of health issues, including arthritis, allergies, and autoimmune illnesses. It has been shown that DPA can repair the damaged vessels blocking inflammatory pathways, resulting in reductions in joint inflammation and discomfort.[4]


Owners who incorporate seal oil into their dog’s diet may notice a considerable increase in their pet’s movement and overall well-being. We have received a testimonial from a pleased customer we met at the Toronto National Pet Industry Show in 2022 that further demonstrates the positive effects of seal oil and omega-3 fatty acids in the management of osteoarthritis in dogs. The owner of Ziggy’s gladly shared their experience with the products:


I just wanted to send you a quick note to say thank you!! You introduced me to the products at the Toronto show, and I absolutely love them! The seal oil for my pug Ziggy has been absolutely AMAZING! Ziggy is turning 11 tomorrow, so he had been getting stiff the last little bit, and the supplement did help. Not only is the oil helping with the stiffness, but it also seems to have given him à little extra kick in his step. He gets up in the morning with way more energy than I’ve seen in a long time! He’s almost like a teenager again!


Photo Credit: Stéphanie (Ziggy)













Boosts All Key Omega-3s


Osteoarthritis is a low-grade inflammatory state that leads to increased cellular catabolism, affecting the equilibrium of cartilage formation and degradation, leading to pain and stiffness[5]. Animal and in vitro models in one study have demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has the ability to protect cartilage following anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) transection in rats[6].


More importantly, DPA is important in improving DHA and EPA’s usage in the body. One research found that even short-term DPA supplementation resulted in increased levels of EPA, DHA, and DPA in the bloodstream[7]. This finding suggests that DPA works as a “storage depot” for omega-3 fatty acids, allowing the body to store and access these vital nutrients as needed. DPA’s capacity to enhance the storage and release of omega-3 fatty acids emphasizes its relevance in maintaining a balanced and readily available supply of DHA, which plays a crucial role in preserving joint cartilage.



Therefore, thanks to DPA, seal oil offers a holistic approach to improving the overall well-being and mobility of dogs affected by osteoarthritis.


Other Benefits of Seal Oil on Canine Health 


There are several methods to observe the positive impacts of seal oil on your dog’s health:

    1. Healthy skin and shiny coat: Seal oil contains around 22% of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for keeping healthy skin and a shiny coat in dogs. They help the reduction of skin dryness, itching, and inflammation, resulting in a healthier and glossier coat. This advantage is especially important for dogs that have skin issues or allergies   Pets with skin inflammation frequently have dry, flaky skin, which leads to excessive scratching. The dead skin cells then emerge on the coat surface as white flakes. You may see a reduction in these white flakes after feeding seal oil to your dog for one or two weeks, suggesting an improvement in the general condition of their coat.
    2.  Ear health: The presence of brown wax in a dog’s ears might suggest inflammation. Feeding seal oil to your dog may help to reduce this brown wax, implying less ear irritation and better ear health.
    3.  Paw health: it’s no secret that inflamed paws can transform your dog into a paw-licking machine, resulting in itching, redness, and a greasy brown discharge. You may notice a reduction in paw inflammation when you add seal oil to their meal, which adds to better overall paw health and fewer episodes of excessive paw licking.
@gotitchypet #dogskin #pawitch #vet #vettech #tiktokvets #dermvet #foryourdogpage #learnontiktok ♬ Bittersweet Symphony – Sandstorm

        4. Reduction of osteoarthritis symptoms: Many factors may be considered while evaluating the effects of seal oil on osteoarthritis and joint health. These include dog guardian perception of dog mobility, clinical examination by a board-certified veterinary orthopedic surgeon, weight-bearing capacity observation, physical activity level assessment, and monitoring of circulating inflammatory markers. However, as Ziggy’s example shows, improved mobility and increased activity levels can be the most obvious indicators of osteoarthritis or joint pain improvement.


By observing these visible changes in coat condition, ear health, and paw health, as well as detailed examinations of joint health, we might get a better understanding of the positive impacts of seal oil on our dogs’ overall well-being.


Canine osteoarthritis poses a significant challenge to veterinarians, owners, and breeders worldwide. However, seal oil, with its high content of DPA and other omega-3 fatty acids, offers a promising solution. By incorporating seal oil into their pets’ diet, dog owners may observe significant improvement in their pet’s overall health. As research in this field continues, seal oil holds great potential as a natural and effective option for improving the quality of life for dogs with osteoarthritis, alleviating the welfare concerns of both pets and their owners.


[1]   Anderson, Katharine L et al. “Risk Factors for Canine Osteoarthritis and Its Predisposing Arthropathies: A Systematic Review.” Frontiers in veterinary science vol. 7 220. 28 Apr. 2020. <>

[2]   Mehler SJ, May LR, King C, Harris WS, Shah Z. A prospective, randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid on the clinical signs and erythrocyte membrane polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations in dogs with osteoarthritis. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2016 Jun;109:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2016.03.015. Epub 2016 Mar 30. PMID: 27269707.

[3]   Moreau M, Troncy E, Del Castillo JR, Bédard C, Gauvin D, Lussier B. Effects of feeding a high omega-3 fatty acids diet in dogs with naturally occurring osteoarthritis. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2013 Oct;97(5):830-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0396.2012.01325.x. Epub 2012 Jul 14. PMID: 22805303.

[4]   Kanayasu-Toyoda T, Morita I, Murota S. Docosapentaenoic acid (22:5, n-3), an elongation metabolite of eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5, n-3), is a potent stimulator of endothelial cell migration on pretreatment in vitro. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1996 May;54(5):319-25. doi: 10.1016/s0952-3278(96)90045-9. PMID: 8832760.

[5]   Cordingley DM, Cornish SM. Omega-3 Fatty Acids for the Management of Osteoarthritis: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2022 Aug 16;14(16):3362. doi: 10.3390/nu14163362. PMID: 36014868; PMCID: PMC9413343.

[6]  Xie Y, Zhou W, Zhong Z, Yu H, Zhang P, Shen H. Docosahexaenoic acid inhibits bone remodeling and vessel formation in the osteochondral unit in a rat model. Biomed Pharmacother. 2019 Jun;114:108811. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2019.108811. Epub 2019 Apr 6. PMID: 30965235.

[7]  Miller E, Kaur G, Larsen A, Loh SP, Linderborg K, Weisinger HS, Turchini GM, Cameron-Smith D, Sinclair AJ. A short-term n-3 DPA supplementation study in humans. Eur J Nutr. 2013 Apr;52(3):895-904. doi: 10.1007/s00394-012-0396-3. Epub 2012 Jun 23. PMID: 22729967.