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Cod Liver Oil for Dogs: Benefits and Uses

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Pet parents are continuing to look for ways to improve their pet’s health using holistic care and natural supplements.

In the battle against chronic or recurring inflammatory diseases or pain conditions in dogs, using multiple supplements that fight inflammation in complementary ways is often a helpful strategy. Sometimes, the addition of anti-inflammatory supplements can also help you to decrease the dose of other prescription medications used to treat an inflammatory medical condition.

Cod liver oil is a great example of a supplement that can be added to your dog’s feeding regimen when their body needs some relief from pain and inflammation. Here’s what you should know about this fishy supplement for dogs.

What is Cod Liver Oil?

Cod liver pills

Cod liver oil is a type of fish oil made from the livers of cod fish. Cod are an ocean fish found in both the Northern part of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Pacific Ocean. There are several methods used to produce cod liver oil that include high pressure cooking, pressure extraction, or a method through which the livers of cod are broken down and the oil is released, captured, and purified.

Cod liver oil provides a good source of omega-3 fatty acids including EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), as well as Vitamins D and A.

Is It Different Than Cod Skins for Dogs?

Cod skins are used as a crunchy, dehydrated dog treat consisting of the skin of a codfish. Cod skins provide some omega-3 fatty acids, but since the skin does not include the liver, it does not provide the same vitamin content as cod liver oil.

During the dehydration process, cod skins likely lose a good amount of their oil—if there was lots of oil in these treats, they wouldn’t be so deliciously crunchy. Although a great treat option to try for your dog, cod liver oil, or fish oil will be a better choice for providing relief from inflammation or pain.

Is Cod Liver Oil Good for Dogs?

Healthy chocolate lab outside

Yes. Just like fish oil is a good supplement for dogs, cod liver oil is a good supplement for dogs. When properly dosed according to your dog’s weight, cod liver oil can have some great benefits for your pet.

It is unlikely that a dog would need both cod liver oil combined with another fish oil supplement simultaneously—one or the other should be sufficient.

Benefits of Cod Liver Oil for Dogs

Healthy puppy outdoors

Cod liver oil is generally added to a dog’s diet when they are suffering from an inflammatory condition (such as pancreatitis, IBD, hepatitis, dermatitis, inflammatory brain disease) or if a dog needs joint support for arthritis as they age.

Vitamin A helps maintain eye health, bone growth, and maintenance of skin and the other epithelial layers in the body. Vitamin D is important for bone health and calcium/phosphorus balance in the blood.

Cod liver oil can be used in dogs to:

  • Decrease whole-body inflammation
  • Decrease pain (by decreasing inflammation, pain is reduced)
  • Support brain and eye development, and if given daily, maintenance throughout life
  • Support heart health

How to Give Cod Liver Oil to Dogs

Close up of cod liver capsules

Cod liver oil is available for purchase in liquid or capsule form. These forms can be given to pets directly, added to treats, or given with food.

Because giving too much to a pet can cause gastrointestinal upset (such a throwing up, diarrhea, or lack of interest in food), pet parents need to be cautious when adding fish oils to a dog’s daily meals or using it as a supplement.

Speak to your pet’s veterinarian about adding cod liver oil to your pet’s daily regimen.

Cod Liver Oil Supplements for Dogs

Veterinary with dog and owner

As previously mentioned, cod liver oil supplements for dogs come in liquid or capsule forms and may help decrease inflammation and support heart and eye health.

Generally, a pet-specific cod liver oil supplement will have dosing on the packaging by weight. Your pet’s veterinarian will help you determine if that dose is appropriate for your pet.

Remember that all pets are not only different sizes, but their body may respond differently to supplements because they are an individual. Give only the amount recommended by your veterinarian, and do not give more without consulting your veterinarian.

Cod Liver Oil in Dog Food

Dog eating food from its bowl

Some dog foods may have fish oil or cod liver oil added in with the other ingredients. If not, then adding a cod liver oil supplement into or on top of their dog food is an acceptable method of dosing your dog.

Look on the ingredient label to see if this type of fish oil is included in your dog’s food. If you don’t see it clearly labeled as “cod liver oil” then it’s likely not included. Some dog foods will advertise that EPA and DHA are included in the food, which likely means that a fish oil supplement has been added, but this is unlikely to be cod liver oil.

Where to Buy Cod Liver Oil for Dogs

Cute dog in a pet store by the dog food

Cod liver oil that you purchase for humans should be the same as the oil given to dogs. The difference in human-formulations and pet-formulations is that the pet-formulation will have a concentration and dosing instructions appropriate for dogs (or cats).

Pet-specific formulations can be found online or in some retail pet stores. Your veterinarian may also be able to direct you to a pet-specific cod liver oil supplement for your pet. If you are buying cod liver oil intended for human consumption and use, you can find it at some grocery stores, health and supplement stores, and online.

Remember that concentration of cod liver oil, or the amount of cod liver oil provided in each capsule or each milliliter (mL) given may be different between humans and pets. So if one capsule or serving of human-formulated cod liver oil is correct for you, it may be an inappropriate dose for your pet.

Always speak to your veterinarian before giving your pet a new supplement.