Dietary supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry. Nutraceuticals and dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, enzymes, botanicals, amino acids, probiotics, fiber, and fatty acids. They can be taken in the form of tablets, capsules, powders, or liquids. There are even energy bars for you and your dog! You may be taking 1 or more of these dietary supplements yourself. But does that mean that your dog and cat should too?
Most Pets Don't Need Supplements
Generally speaking, your dog and cat will not need a vitamin or mineral supplement if your pet is healthy and is eating a complete and balanced commercial diet. Think about the way we humans eat versus the way we feed our dogs and cats. Getting our daily allowance of essential vitamins and minerals by eating healthy food is always preferred, but we don't always eat nutritious, well balanced meals. Are we getting our daily recommended amount of calcium every day? What about vitamin D? Most people don't know or don't think about it. So taking a multi-vitamin makes sense for some of us. It ensures that we are getting adequate amounts of essential nutrients.
On the other hand, your pet's food is formulated to be 100% nutritionally complete. They receive their daily allowance of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fiber in one convenient package. If your pet's food is formulated, manufactured, and packaged by a reputable company, then it isn’t necessary to give supplements. In fact, giving a vitamin or mineral supplement could actually unbalance their diet and do more harm than good.
Supplementation with some vitamins can be dangerous. The two main categories of vitamins are fat-soluble and water-soluble. The body can easily get rid of excess water-soluble vitamins like the B vitamins. But fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body and used as they are needed. Hypervitaminosis A (too much vitamin A) can cause anorexia, orthopedic problems, internal hemorrhage, and decreased kidney and liver function. Vitamin A can be found naturally in fish oils, liver, eggs, and dairy products. Cats that eat liver or other organ meat as their main source of nutrition or receive high doses of fish oil supplements are at risk for hypervitaminosis A.
Supplements Can Help with IBD & Arthritis
There are times when dogs and cats may need to receive vitamin supplements. For example, pets diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease may need vitamin B supplementation for life. Pets diagnosed with other diseases that make them unable to properly absorb or digest nutrients may need to be supplemented with enzymes in addition to vitamins and minerals.
Thanks to advancements in veterinary care, our dogs and cats are living longer than ever before. This is great news! But this also means that they can develop some of the same diseases that affect older people. Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease or arthritis, can have an enormous impact on quality of life for dogs and cats. Arthritis causes pain, restricts movement, and causes joint swelling. You may first notice that your dog does not get up as easily as he used to. He may appear stiff or lame. He may lick or chew at affected joints. Signs of arthritis may not be noticed immediately.
Cats are especially good at hiding their discomfort. Your kitty may become cranky when held or stroked a certain way. She may start having accidents outside the litter box. You may notice that she has stopped jumping on the window sill. With our aging pet population growing, it’s no wonder that two of the most commonly used dietary supplements are used to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate have fewer side effects than conventional drugs. They also take longer than traditional drugs to relieve pain and discomfort. For many pets who are unable to take pain medications or steroids, these nutraceuticals may provide some relief. Talk to your veterinarian if you think these supplements could help your dog or cat.
Don't Overdo It
Why is there so much interest in nutritional supplements? Dissatisfaction with conventional health care is certainly part of the reason. Nutraceuticals and nutritional supplements seem more natural and accessible. After all, you can just walk into any supermarket, drug store, or health food store and purchase them without a doctor's prescription. However, this does not necessarily mean that they are 100% safe. Nutritional supplements can sometimes interact with each other or with other drugs. Some supplements contain active ingredients that can have unwanted side effects.
Because dietary supplements are not drugs, they are not regulated by The United States Food and Drug Administration. The manufacturer is responsible for making sure their products are safe and that their claims are not false or misleading. But they don’t have to provide any evidence of this to the FDA before the product hits the shelves of your local store. This is why it’s important to consult with your vet before giving your dog or cat any dietary supplement.