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How Much Fat Is Good for Your Dog? Getting the Skinny on Raw Food Fats

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

Once upon a time, fats were considered the enemy of a healthy diet. Fortunately, the general dog-parent population is coming around to the necessity of healthy fats in their pup’s diet. But there can always be too much of a good thing, and sometimes the line is hard to find. So how much fat—and what kind of fat—should be included in your dog’s diet?

To start, fats are more than an internal insulation system or an essential source of energy for your pet; they also promote proper growth and development, provide organ protection, and facilitate vitamin absorption and hormone regulation. If that wasn’t enough, they’re also an integral part of what makes food taste so good! But seeing fat content listed on a pet food label isn’t enough to know if it's the right type or amount for your pet, so let’s talk about fatty qualifications this week!

How Much Fat Is Good for Your Dog?


Too Long, Didn't Read? (TL;DR?)

  • Fats can be separated into two categories: saturated and unsaturated. As a general rule, saturated fats stay solid at room temperature and unsaturated fats stay liquid.

  • Essential Fatty Acids are found in unsaturated fats and are, indeed, essential. They include omega-6s and omega-3s—don’t sleep on these!

  • Your dog’s ideal balance of omega-6 to omega-3 should be between 2:1 and 6:1.

  • Give your dog around 100g of oily fish (herring, salmon, sardines, etc.) at least once a week.

  • When adding fats, stick to a 1:1 ratio of 1 teaspoon of complementary fat to 1lb of lean meat. (eg. Feeding poultry? Add saturated fats. Feeding beef, venison, lamb? Add unsaturated fat.)

  • The optimal total amount of fat in a dog’s diet should be 50g per 1000kcal on the label.

What About Cats and Fats?

Before you accuse us of kitty discrimination, we’d like to preface this with a reminder that dogs and cats have very different dietary needs. While dogs and cats require similar nutrients from muscle meats, organs, bones, and vegetables, they need them in different doses. This article is meant for healthy, adult dogs. If your dog is overweight, on a restricted diet, or battling any variety of illnesses, you should be working closely with your vet before making any changes to their diet.

Should You Add Fats to Your Dog’s Diet?

Whether you’re making a homemade raw diet or going the commercial route, figuring out if you need to add fats to your dog’s diet can seem overwhelming at first—but we promise it’s not as complicated as it may seem. Start by asking yourself these 4 questions:

  1. What is the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in your protein of choice?

  2. Do the fats you’re adding complement the fat already present in your pet’s main protein?

  3. How much total fat is in your protein of choice? (This is best measured in grams/1000kcal)

  4. How is the food/oil stored, and what has been done to prevent the fat’s degradation (oxidation)?

Don’t worry; this isn’t information anyone expects the average pet parent to know off the top of their head. You can usually rely on the company that produces your dog’s food and/or oil to analyze and accurately list their fat content—both the amount and type—on their labels. If they don’t list what type of fat is included, you can always contact the company and request that information. In the meantime, let’s break down some of the main concepts concerning fat content.

Types of Fats

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of fats, let’s cover some basics. When we talk about fats, we’re breaking them into two categories: saturated and polyunsaturated fats. The difference between the two is easy to remember: saturated fats have more hydrogen—think of them as becoming “saturated” with hydrogen (2,3).

And while that’s a fascinating fact (to some), it’s not exactly the most user-friendly method of differentiating fats. Instead, a handy (but loose) rule for telling the difference between saturated and polyunsaturated fats is how they behave at room temperature. Saturated fats remain solid at room temperature—like coconut oil or the thick white fat on a lamb hock. Conversely, fats that generally stay liquid at room temperature—like fish or some plant-based oils—are unsaturated (2,3).

If you’re doing a DIY raw diet for your pet, keep in mind that modern-day commercially-raised meats tend to have a significantly higher fat content than wild prey, so try and go for the leanest cuts of meat you can. This will make it easier to balance the fat content without overdoing it (3). It should also go without saying that if a portion of meat is high in saturated fats, it’ll be lower in unsaturated fat and vice versa. If you’re looking for more essential fatty acids (EFAs), know that it’s easiest to get those through unsaturated fats.

Let’s take a step back to address that last bit there: there are saturated and unsaturated fats, and now essential fats?

Types of fat. Saturated vs unsaturated fats

The Fatty Secret to a Happy Pet: EFA’s

Not all fats are created equal, but the ones we’re BFFs with are essential fatty acids. These are fats our pets can’t synthesize from other nutrients, so they need to be added to create a healthy and well-rounded diet (1,2,3,5,6). That means that if your protein of choice is high in saturated fats, you should be looking into adding the appropriate amount of EFA’s to your pet’s diet. EFA’s fall under two main categories: omega-6s and omega-3s.


Omega-6 fatty acids include Linoleic Acid (LA) and Arachidonic Acid (AA) (2,3). Here’s where a difference in fats between our feline and canine friends appears: unlike kitties, dogs can produce AA from LA (2,6), so that’s an added bonus. No idea what those are? No worries—it’s more important to know what they do for your dog!

Your dog needs omega-6 for:
  • Maintaining normal brain functions

  • Optimal growth

  • Reproduction

On the other hand, an insufficient amount of omega-6 can cause:
  • Weight loss (and not in a good way)

  • Hair loss (bald IS beautiful, but only sometimes)

  • Skin conditions

  • Impaired growth (especially in puppies and larger breeds)

  • Increased chances of infections (1,2,3)


Omega-3, the better-known sibling of fatty acids, includes Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) (2,3). We know that’s a mouthful, but you don’t worry about pronouncing them so much as keeping in mind what they’re for!

Omega-3s are essential for:
  • Brain health

  • Vision and overall eye health

  • Hearing

  • Fortifying their nervous system

Without enough omega-3s, your dog may experience:
  • Depression

  • Poor memory or learning (remember, old dogs CAN learn new tricks, but it’s easier with omega-3s!)

  • Declining sight and hearing (2,3)

While omega-3s are invaluable to your dog’s health, they’re also quite fragile. They require some care to ensure their quality doesn’t become compromised through processing, heating, storage, or air exposure (3,7). If you’re using oil instead of whole food options, aim for buying omega-3s in amber or solid coloured bottles rather than clear ones, and store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Omega-6 and Omega-3 Ratios

Omega-6 fatty acids (LA and AA) can, in simple terms, be thought of as “pro-inflammatory” fatty acids (4). Normal, basic body functions require some degree of inflammation to operate smoothly, so pro-inflammation isn’t necessarily bad, so long as it’s not occurring in excess—again, coming back to “too much of a good thing.”

The best dog-friendly sources of omega-6 fatty acids are generally found in
  • Poultry

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Seeds

  • Nuts

  • Some vegetable oils, like grapeseed oil (no, it’s not poisonous to dogs like grapes), sunflower, corn, and canola oils.

On the flip side of the same coin, omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, and ALA) are commonly known as “anti-inflammatory” fats (4). These fats help decrease inflammatory processes, especially when battling arthritis and skin conditions.

The best dog-friendly omega-3 fatty acids with high amounts of EPA and DHA can be found in
  • Oily fish, such as sardines, salmon, and herring.

  • On the other hand, your dog gets the most ALA from plant oils like algae or flaxseed oils.

The idea here is to balance anti-inflammatory fats with pro-inflammatory fats without going overboard on the pro-inflammatory side of things. Omega-3s are a bit more effective at dampening inflammation than omega-6 is at causing it, so holistic vets generally advise aiming for a ratio of anywhere between 2:1 to 6:1 of omega-6 to omega-3 (3).