Your Guide to Pet Supplements
The use of supplements has boomed in the last few decades, with studies showing that in Australian adults, 47% of women and 37% of men take a supplement regularly. Pet owners are more health conscious than ever when it comes to what is best for their pets and many pet owners are reaching for supplements to ensure optimal health not only for themselves but for their fur baby as well.
So, what are supplements and how do you know if your pet needs them? When choosing a supplement for your pet, what is the best option and how do you know it is safe? Our vets have put together a guide with everything you need to know about supplements and which ones are the best for your pet.
What are supplements?
Supplements are synthetically produced or extracted products designed to be given when vitamins and minerals are not being met through diet. They are also formulated to improve health outcomes if a pet is susceptible to, or suffering from, an ailment.
Some commonly used supplements for pets include nutraceuticals,herbal, multi vitamin, minerals and oils which may target and support conditions such as arthritis, digestive upsets, coat and skin care, dental health, and anxiety.
Supplements are available in many different forms including tablets, powders, chewable, liquid, meal toppers and even as a spot on.
Does my pet need a supplement?
Diets that are complete and balanced, such as a commercially prepared dry or wet food, are typically formulated under guidelines and regulations depending on the country and state of manufacture. These regulations ensure that food companies meet minimum standards and avoid potentially high levels of essential vitamins, minerals and oils to allow pets to grow, develop and function normally. Most pets are able to absorb the nutrients that they require from a complete and balanced diet.
For pets that are on a home cooked or raw diet, balancing vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins and carbohydrates is difficult and potentially harmful in the long term. Many of these diets are imbalanced and may require additional supplements to ensure a pet is provided with everything they need.
It is important to remember that just because a supplement contains a particular ingredient, this does not mean that it is provided in a form that is easily digested and utilised by the body.
Currently pet supplements in Australia are not regulated, meaning that they can be manufactured and sold with no guidelines on the ingredients used and how effective the supplement is. It is for this reason that when choosing a supplement, it is best to select from veterinary recommended brands such as PAW Blackmores, Virbac and Protexin. These companies conduct extensive research into their formulations to ensure that their products will do what they claim and provide your pet with optimal health and well-being.
Are supplements safe for my pet?
For pets that are already receiving a complete and balanced diet with all essential vitamins and minerals, some supplements may be harmful. More is not always better, as elevated amounts of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids can have a detrimental effect on health. For example, excessive amounts of calcium in growing puppies, especially large breeds, can affect bone growth and lead to developmental abnormalities.
Just like in humans, some pet supplements can interact with prescription medications and may even decrease their effectiveness or cause serious illness.
It is best to always check with your veterinarian or animal nutritionist before starting any supplements to ensure that they are suitable for your pet.
What supplement is best for my pet?
With such a wide range of different supplements available, it can be difficult to know what might be required for your pet's daily regime. Below our vets have outlined some of the common supplements available, the brands we recommend, and how they benefit your pet.
Multi vitamin supplements contain a range of vitamins and minerals that may boost your pet's health, well-being and immune function. Vitamin supplements for pets are not designed to be used in place of a complete and balanced diet and are not a cure for a sick pet.
Omega Fatty Acids
Fatty acids have many important health benefits for pets. Omega 3 fatty acids including EPA and DHA are found abundantly in fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring. The oils of some plants such as flaxseed, wheat germ and soybeans also contain Omega 3's.
Omega 6 fatty acids including linoleic acid and arachidonic acid are commonly found in plant oils such as canola, soybean, corn, and sunflower. Linoleic acid and arachidonic acid are both essential fatty acids for cats, while linoleic acid is essential for dogs. Essential fatty acids are those that are critical for optimal function and development of pets and are unable to be produced by the body, therefore they must be consumed in the diet or as a supplement.
All commercially prepared diets contain a minimal level of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids but supplementing with higher levels has been shown to have significant health benefits with many senior or skin support diets high in omega fatty acids.
Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to have the following benefits:
- Healthy skin and shiny coat: Strengthen the skin barrier and may relieve dry, itchy skin
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Positive improvement in inflammatory conditions including arthritis, skin condition and heart disease
- Brain function and development: Critical for normal brain and cell function and may help with cognitive dysfunction in older pets
- Reduces cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are the building blocks of normal healthy cartilage and provide essential joint nutrients to help protect, nourish, and repair cartilage. Products containing glucosamine and chondroitin are commonly harvested from sea molluscs.
Despite a lack of strong evidence in the veterinary literature, some veterinarians and owners have found supplementation to be helpful, and these products are widely recommended by veterinarians and commonly found in joint supplements. With minimal side effects compared to some of the common pain relief medications, they are a good option for mild cases and to use alongside other therapies.
Green lipped mussel is a potent source of both omega 3 fatty acids, along with chondroitin, making it a great supplement choice for pets with arthritis.
Probiotics are the "good" bacteria and yeasts that live in the gastrointestinal system. This population of microbes in the gut is also known as the 'gastrointestinal microbiome' or 'gut microflora'.
All animals have billions of "good bacteria" in their gut microbiome. These bugs help fight infections, strengthen the immune system, digest food, and produce nutrients for absorption. A healthy microbiome should have a varied and diverse population made up of a mix of different microbe species - this healthy mix is also known as 'biodiversity'.
Probiotic supplements (and some probiotic foods) provide live species known to be beneficial directly into the gut. Probiotics may help restore the natural balance of the microbiome and are particularly beneficial after illness or a course of antimicrobial medication which may affect this balance.
L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in many protein sources and is an important precursor in the production of serotonin, which can reduce aggression and stress in dogs and cats. L-tryptophan is commonly found in supplements to help with stress and anxiety as well as therapeutic calming diets.
If your pet is currently on prescription medication for anxiety, it is important to check with your veterinarian before starting on an anxiety supplement. Some medications can interact with L-tryptophan and may cause 'serotonin syndrome', a life threatening condition.