Q: I see that Wysong uses a great deal of flax seed meal as a source of omega-3 fatty acids in the dry formulas. It is my understanding, however, that most dogs cannot convert the inactive ALA contained in flax to an active form of fatty acid. So, flax seed actually increases the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 therefore causing inflammation and allergies. Since some of my dogs already are prone to allergies, I should stay away from foods containing flax seed. Is this correct?
A: If you do an Internet search on flax seed you will uncover thousands of scientific articles proving the benefits in animals and humans. You will also find evidence of the conversion to biochemically active omega-3 forms.
A study assessed n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) incorporation after feeding an alpha-linolenic (ALA) rich flaxseed supplemented diet (FLX) to dogs. Enrichment of ALA, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid n-3 (DPAn-3) in the FLX-group occurred early on in both phospholipids (PL) and triacylglycerol (TG) fractions but no docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was found, consistent with data from other species, including humans. The accumulation of DPAn-3 in fasting PL and TG fractions is likely due to post-absorptive secretion after tissue synthesis. Because conversion of DPAn-3 to DHA occurs in canine neurologic tissues, this DPAn-3 may provide a circulating reservoir for DHA synthesis in such tissues. Although conversion of DPAn-3 to DHA is slow in most species, one-way transport of DPAn-3 in the circulation may help conserve this fatty acid as a substrate for DHA synthesis in brain and retinal tissues, especially when dietary intake of DHA is low. Source: B.L. Dunbar el al., 2009. Early and sustained enrichment of serum n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in dogs fed a flaxseed supplemented diet. Lipids. PubMed ID: 19890671
Although we don't use a "great deal" of flax in some of our products, it is used for the benefits derived. Our experience with tens of thousands of animals through multiple generations for some 30 years is health, not disease or increased susceptibility to allergy or inflammation.
We also use the flax for its unique ability to stabilize the omega-3s (EPA, DHA) from other sources in our products.
If your desire is to more dramatically boost EPA and DHA, we would recommend the following supplements (Marine Lipids, Krill Oil, EFA with Fish Oil), or fresh foods, rather than just try to get them from packaged products which are processed to maintain long shelf life.