What Are the Benefits of Cod Liver Oil for Cats?

By Caroline Jackson

In theory, serving your cat a high-quality pet food should mean she doesn't need additional vitamins or supplements like cod liver oil. However, if your cat has certain health issues, such as a poor coat, supplements might help. Speak with a veterinarian to determine if cod liver oil is appropriate for your pet, and keep in mind that this supplement can cause some unpleasant side effects for cats.

Cod Liver Oil Basics

Cod liver oil is exactly what it sounds like -- an oil derived from pressing the fresh liver of cod fish. It comes in liquid and capsule form and can be administered by sprinkling it on food or by putting some in a dropper and gently squeezing it into the side of your cat's mouth. Because no safe guidelines have been established for administering cod liver oil to cats, follow your veterinarian's directions for the correct dosage. If you purchase a supplement designed specifically for cats, follow their suggestion -- but you should ask a vet first.

Cod Liver Oil Benefits

Cod liver oil contains vitamins A and D. It's also rich in important omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to smoothing out your cat's coat and giving it a nice shine, omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation. This aids cats who suffer from allergies, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and more. It boosts skin, heart and eye health and may slow the spread of cancer, according to PetEducation.com. Cats need vitamin A from sources like cod liver oil since they can't convert the type derived from plants. Without vitamin A, cats will develop eye problems, such as night blindness. Their skin and coats will suffer. If they don't receive enough vitamin A as kittens, cats' mental development can be affected negatively. It also boosts the immune system and helps to fight cancer, according to PetMD. Vitamin D strengthens your cat's bones by helping his body use and retain calcium. It also keeps his nervous system and muscles functioning correctly.

Cod Liver Oil Dangers

In high doses, vitamins A and D are toxic for your cat. Too much vitamin A can cause your cat to refuse food, lose weight and develop skin problems. He might act more tired than usual and have problems producing a bowel movement. According to PetMD, if vitamin A toxicity occurs when your cat is young, it can damage his bones permanently. Vitamin D poisoning is more serious and typically requires hospitalization. PetMD states that it causes nausea, weight loss, vomiting, drooling, weakness and constipation. Your cat might refuse food, pass blood in his stool and even have seizures. Seek immediate veterinary help if you notice any of these symptoms after giving your cat cod liver oil. He might die if you don't. The veterinarian can induce vomiting and give your cat the fluids he needs to stay alive.

Cod Liver Oil Alternatives

Because cod liver oil has the potential to cause harmful side effects, consider finding an alternative. High-quality cat foods often add appropriate amounts of the necessary vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. If you're determined to use supplements, replace the cod liver oil with salmon or other fish oils.