Fats are a required part of a dog's diet and they predominately come from one or two ingredients. Fats can also be described as "oils".
A dog needs to get EFA (essential fatty acids) from the food they consume as they cannot produce it themselves.
This will be of differing quality depending on the dog food. As you will probably have learnt, the better quality fats are more expensive and so tend to be only in the better quality dog foods. The levels of linoleic acid (omega 6) vary in dog foods and this is largely down to the different fat sources used.
The terms for "fat" you are likely to find on a dog food label will be described as
Chicken fat / lamb fat / turkey fat etc
Animal fats Frequently used because it is very cheap and palatable. The manufacturer can use the fat renderered from any animal. This is bad news for dogs with food intolerances as you never know what animals the fat blend is from. Even if you find your dog is tolerant to this batch of dog food, the next batch could be different. They also tend to have a low linoleic acid (Omega 6) content which can have an impact in the skin and coat of your dog.
Due to the nature of animal fats, they tend to be preserved with artificial preservatives to stop them becoming rancid. Common animal fat preservatives include BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin but manfacturers can hide these by using the labelling terms: - EC permitted antioxidants - EC permitted addititives - EC permitted preservatives
Named fat These are generally better quality than "animal fats" as they are from one source and you know what you are getting! Higher in linoleic acid (Omega6) Pet food companies tend to use either chicken, lamb or turkey fat. Fish oil is also high in omega-3.
Sunflower Oil This is a high quality fat source as it is very high in linoleic acid (Omega 6) content, however it doesn't tend to have very high palatability levels. Sunflower oil tends to work best when used in conjunction with a high quality single source animal fat.
Linoleic Acid (Omega 6) Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that is found in animal and plants. It contributes to the health of your dog's skin and coat, infact it is one of the most important factors in how good your dog looks (and feels!). Deficiency symptoms includes a dry coat, fur loss and poor wound healing. The % of linoleic acid in dog foods vary from less than 1% up to 6%.
Check the label Look at the typical analysis on an ingredients panel for the linoleic (omega 6) content. A good quality dog food should contain over 3%. Under 1% and the alarm bells should start ringing - poor quality dog food alert!