DR. DOUG KNUEVEN, DVM, CVA, CVC, CVCH
Nutritional supplements can be very beneficial to our pets because most pet foods are deficient in certain nutritional factors. Conventional pet foods are especially devoid of nutrients because the high-heat processing destroys most of the vitamins, enzymes, and phytochemicals foods naturally contain. The synthetic vitamin/mineral mix that pet food manufacturers add back is a poor substitute for the nutrition found in whole foods.
Even raw pet foods can be missing nutrients. It is difficult to mimic Mother Nature. For example, the wild game eaten by the ancestors of our pets fed on grass that was high in omega-three fatty acids. The meat they provided was high in omega-threes. Most domestic food animals these days are grain fed, which results in meat with omega-six fatty acids. Pets benefit from a high omega-three to omega-six fatty acid ratio. This cannot be accomplished by feeding most modern meats.
As important as supplements are, they are not a substitute for a wholesome diet. You simply cannot undo poor nutrition with supplements. The quality of the ingredients a diet contains, as well as its macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) balance and its degree of heat-processing, all factor into your pet’s overall nutritional status.
Pet foods are held to minimal nutritional standards that are meant to prevent deficiencies, not provide optimal nutritional value. Even high-quality foods often fall short. Adding supplements ensures that our animal companions get everything they need to build healthy bodies.
Not all supplements are created equal. You cannot determine the quality of a product from the label and marketing materials. Recent studies have proved that many supplements do not live up to the claims on their labels. In this article I will mention supplements by name, not because these are the only good supplements available, but because I have seen for myself through years of prescribing them that they work. Other supplements may be great, but there is no way for me to test them all.
The first supplement on my list is a balanced, whole-food multivitamin, made by concentrating the nutrients from whole foods rather than producing them synthetically. The result is a supplement that provides the full range of vitamins and phytochemicals at doses found in whole foods. My product of choice is “Canine Whole Body Support” for dogs or “Feline Whole Body Support” for cats made by Standard Process.
My second supplement is fish oil. Fish oil is high in omega-three fatty acids which are lacking in the vast majority of pet foods. The high omega-six fatty acids present in most pet foods promote inflammation. On the other hand, omega-three fatty acids decrease inflammation. Foods lacking omega-three fatty acids promote skin allergies, arthritis, and cancer. Supplementing fish oil in a pet’s diet can help to alleviate these issues. The omega-threes in fish oil also help promote brain development and health. My fish oil supplement of choice is “Canine Omega 3” for dogs and “Feline Omega 3” for cats from the company Ascenta.
My third recommendation is probiotics. Probiotics reinforce the good bacteria in the gut which help maintain intestinal health. Because three quarters of the immune system is located in the lining of the GI tract, probiotics actually help the immune system to function better, and because of the gut-brain connection, probiotics can even affect mood and behavior. My probiotics of choice is Answers Pet Food’s cultured, raw goat’s milk called “Additional.”
The fourth supplement I recommend is a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin. These two natural compounds help to promote healthy joints. Arthritis is a common, painful condition in both dogs and cats. Prevention of this terrible disease is paramount. Glucosamine/chondroitin supplements can help the body maintain joint health even after arthritis has set in. The joint supplement I recommend is Vetri-Science’s “Glycoflex.”
The fifth supplement from which every pet can benefit is digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes support the digestive process and replace some of the natural enzymes that are processed out of commercial pet foods. Adding digestive enzyme to food can improve the absorption of omega-three fatty acids by 71%. As pets age, their production of digestive enzymes diminishes, which is why some pets lose weight in their senior years. The digestive enzyme supplement I recommend is called “Prozyme.” (Company?)
All pets can benefit from these supplements throughout their lives. It is best to be proactive and head off medical problems before they start by providing the best nutrition possible. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.