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 that the ancestors of our pets ate, themselves fed of grass which is high in omega-three fatty acids. Thus, the meat they provided was high in omega-threes. Most of our food animals these days are grain fed which instills the 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 a supplement to, not a substitute for, a wholesome diet. 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. You simply cannot undo poor nutrition with supplements.
The problem is that the nutritional standards that pet foods are held to are meant to prevent nutritional deficiencies. In other words, many pet foods do not provide optimal nutritional value, but rather the bare minimum. High-quality foods are best, but even they can fall short. Supplements are a way of ensuring our animal companions get everything they need to build healthy bodies. But remember that not all supplements are up to snuff.
- A balanced, whole-food multivitamin – Such a vitamin supplement is 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.
- Fish oil – Fish oil is high in omega-three fatty acids which are lacking in the vast majority of pet foods. In fact, most pet foods are high in omega-six fatty acids which 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 is fish oil also help to 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.
- Probiotics – Probiotics reinforce the good bacteria in the gut. These bacteria help to maintain intestinal health. Furthermore, since three quarters of the immune system is located in the lining of the GI tract, probiotics actually help the immune system function better. 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.”
- 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 as well as help once arthritis has set in. The joint supplement I recommend is Vetri-Science’s “Glycoflex.”
- Digestive enzymes – By supplementing digestive enzymes we can support the digestive process and replace some of the natural enzymes that are processed out of commercial pet foods. It has been shown that adding digestive enzyme to the food can improve the absorption of omega-three fatty acids by 71%. Importantly, 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.”
All pets can benefit from these supplements throughout their lives. It is best to provide optimal nutrition before your companion runs into problems. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
What supplements have you found helpful?