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What's Up With Algae For Dogs?

Updated: Jan 12 

We're doggedly delighted to have Tatiana Victorino, BS, Food Engineering, Virchew's Lead of Operations and Research share her update on one of her 2022 blogs. (Learn more about Tatiana below!

Our goal through these blogs (and all of our communications) is to provide 'empowering education' so that you can continue to make informed, safe, healthy choices for your dog's nutritional needs. As always, we would love to hear from you. Got questions? We're ready to deliver the answers.

Fats are a Key Part of a Complete & Balanced Diet

First and foremost, to keep your dog happy and healthy, it is crucial to provide your pooch with a complete and balanced diet that contains adequate amounts of all nutrients necessary for optimal health.

Here at Virchew, and after years of plant-based research for dogs and people, we always carefully select each ingredient based on the most recent canine and human plant-based research. Our meals and treats are formulated with Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists to support a dog's healthy - and hopefully longer - life.

Today, I will share with you, some of the reasons we do not choose fish oils or fish-based products in our food and the characteristics and nutritional benefits of a key ingredient we use in our formula. Let's get started!

So what's up with algae and dogs? Hint: There's nothing fishy about it. #DYK that by switching to DHA-rich algae from fish oil or fish-based products, we could save millions of fish and positively impact the marine ecosystem, and provide immense health benefits for your furry friend? This is an important, life-saving nutrient that is becoming more commercially available.

Most people don't know or realize it but microalgae are why fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Therefore, there really is no nutritional need to use fish-based products not only in our dog's diet but in a human diet in order to get super healthy fats in our diets. The algae play a vital role in being at the base of the aquatic food chain system. Algae are consumed by plankton which the small fish eat, then larger fish feed on the smaller fish, a process that transitions the DHA from the algae to the fish (1).

Let's compare the benefits of Algae to Fish Oil



Source of omega-3 DHA

Rich in protein and micronutrients

Anti-inflammatory properties

Presence of toxic heavy metals and metalloids

Negative impact on the marine ecosystem due to overfishing

Concern with “microplastic” contamination

Can be grown on land in a controlled environment

Sustainable production

Remember the adage: you are not only what you eat, but also what you eat…ate! So yeah, that is definitely the case here for your dog. If your dog consumes fish oils (the questionable quality of fish oils production is a topic for another blog) on a daily basis they may be receiving the fats from fish, but they also receive the toxins and contaminants, too!

Ingredient: DHA-Gold

DHA-Gold is a sustainable source of DHA-rich algae. We've chosen it as a key ingredient in our Love Bowl formula due to its proven, safe, nutritional benefits.

What are Omega-3s?

Before diving into the reasons why we use DHA-gold, we need to first address the role of essential fatty acids, and more specifically, omega-3s:

Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids considered essential for life because humans and most animals cannot synthesize them from other fats. We're learning more every year about essential fat benefits for dogs as canine nutrition research evolves. Based on the latest research we're beginning to see in the literature, the importance of including essential fatty acids in a dog's diet to promote optimal health at all stages of life (especially for puppy and reproduction stages). There are 3 types of omega-3:

  • ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)

  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)

  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

ALA are short-chain fatty acids found in plant foods such as flax seeds, walnuts, and some vegetable oils. ALA can be turned into EPA and then DHA; however, this conversion rate is very low in dogs, making it an inefficient way to obtain sufficient amounts of DHA. In addition, DHA and EPA are long-chain fatty acids critical for human and animal health (2).

The King of Fatty Acids

Do you know that DHA is often called the 'king of fatty acids?' Adequate intake of DHA specifically has been well recognized for its brain, eye, and heart benefits. DHA also has anti-inflammatory properties and plays an important role in modulating multiple cell functions that support immune health. Many of the amazing benefits of DHA in humans are also important for animals (3,4,5,6).

In dogs, getting enough essential fatty acids (omega-3 e omega-6) has been shown to improve skin and coat health. Omega-3s, more specifically, may be beneficial for dogs with skin allergies. DHA has anti-inflammatory mechanisms that aid allergies and can potentially help with joint care. Studies indicate DHA may also improve cognitive function in older dogs dealing with canine cognitive dysfunction.

Aside from the amazing benefits of the DHA, DHA-rich algae also contain omega-6s (2.6:1 ratio, n-3:n-6 ), vitamins, protein, antioxidants, and small amounts of EPA. Additionally, algae increase sensorial performance in dogs. One study showed the inclusion of DHA-rich algae in dry food has been linked to improve apparent protein digestibility and palatability in dogs (7).

Algae (DHA) Benefits in Dogs

  • Skin and coat care

  • Digestion and gut health

  • Heart health

  • Mobility and joint care

  • Memory and visual performance

  • Visual development

  • Brain development

  • Immune and Inflammation response

  • Metabolic syndrome

Ongoing Research - Stay Tuned!

There is ongoing research on the stability of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (EPA + DHA) due to manufacturing process and storage. These compound sources in fish oil are exceptionally prone to oxidation, which makes algal (such as DHA-Gold) sources a more stable alternative for application in food and feed products (9).

Lastly, you may ask: How is DHA-Gold a more sustainable ingredient? Well, we have NASA to thank for this! In the 1980s, NASA research scientists found a solution for the challenge of growing food in space, where sustainability is a question of life and death. They discovered strains of algae that produce high levels of omega-3s (8).

Modern biotechnology allows algae to be cultivated under controlled conditions free of contaminants. DHA-producing algae are grown in fermentation vessels used in the pharmaceutical and food industries. After fermentation, the algal biomass is dried. The final product is golden-brown flakes used in Virchew's Love Bowl. Most importantly, using algae grown on land instead of fish is a great alternative to obtain omega-3 DHA without the devastating effects on the marine ecosystem. Plants for the win!

Want to learn more about Virchew's plant-powered ingredients? Visit our blog weekly and watch for many more informative posts that both, educate you and and further explain Virchew's goal to transform how the world approaches canine nutrition and the future impact on our planet.

Please share Virchew (maybe this blog!) with your furiends - it could make a world of difference for thousands (or even millions of dogs).


Tatiana Victorino is Virchew's Lead - Operations & Research and Veterinary Partnerships. She received her BS in Food Engineering at UNICAMP, an internationally recognized center of academic excellence in Brazil and also holds a BCIT Operations Management certificate. With over 5-years of professional experience working in the food and beverage manufacturing industries, Tatiana has gained a dynamic expertise in process design and improvement, lean manufacturing, business operations, quality assurance, and research and development. Tatiana's background is invaluable as she works with Virchew's Veterinary Partnerships, nutrition programs and product R&D. Got a question for Tatiana? She would love to hear from you. Email her at


Citations and Resources

1. Kimberly, Todd. 'Algae: The obvious choice for omega-3s". Biomass Magazine, October 03, 2011. Accessed 10 March 2022.

2. Domenichiello A.Whole-Body Docosahexaenoic Acid Synthesis-Secretion Rates in Rats Are Constant across a Large Range of Dietary α-Linolenic Acid Intakes. J Nutr. 2017 Jan;147(1):37-44.doi: 10.3945/jn.116.232074. Epub 2016 Nov 16.

3. Chang CY, et al. Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta Neurol Taiwan. 2009 Dec;18(4):231-41. PMID: 20329590;

4. Allaire J, et al., Supplementation with high-dose docosahexaenoic acid increases the Omega-3 Index more than high-dose eicosapentaenoic acid. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2017 May;120:8-14. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2017.03.008. Epub 2017 Mar 31. PMID: 28515020;

5. Allaire J, et al. A randomized, crossover, head-to-head comparison of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid supplementation to reduce inflammation markers in men and women: the Comparing EPA to DHA (Compared) Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Aug;104(2):280-7. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.131896. Epub 2016 Jun 8. PMID: 27281302;

6. Lalancette-HébertM, et al., Accumulation of Dietary Docosahexaenoic Acid in the Brain Attenuates Acute Immune Response and Development of Postischemic Neuronal Damage. AHA Journals, Volume 42, No. 10.

7. Souza CMM. Microalgae Schizochytrium sp as a source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): Effects on diet digestibility, oxidation, and palatability and on immunity and inflammatory indexes in dogs. MSc thesis, Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil, 2018.

8. Nasa Spinoff. "Algae-Derived Dietary Ingredients Nourish Animals." Health and Medicine. Published in 2015. Accessed 8 March 2022.

9. Mooney, A 2010, "Stability of essential nutrients in pet food manufacturing and storage", Masters thesis, Kansas State University, Kansas City.

Additional resources:

- DSM expands algal omega-3 range

- Marine microalgae bioengineered Schizochytrium sp. meal hydrolysates inhibits acute inflammation

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