Like most vets, I recommend supplements; everything from multivitamins to therapeutic probiotics for optimal GI tract health. But not all vets expect your compliance on peripheral optimization of your pet’s health. In fact, many vets (albeit a dwindling number) still don’t actively recommend nutritional supplements, in spite of their well-accepted utility in vet medicine and their $1.3 Billion slice of the pet industry.
If your vet doesn’t actively recommend them, you should still know they’re out there and have a general sense as to how others use them. To that end, I submit my top six favorite supplements for your consideration. Ask your vet about them. Even if nutraceuticals don’t constitute her favorite approach, verbalizing your interest ensures she knows you want the best for your pets.
1-Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate: This is the most celebrated and controversial product combo on the supplement market. Whatever you think of these, we can credit their popularity for the size of this market within the pet industry.
Used to support joint cartilage (theoretically by flooding the body with the building blocks for proper cartilage production), these ingredients are available as chewable tablets or treats, liquids, powders, capsules and in pet food. My clients swear they help. Studies show they work. Consequently, I’m a big believer in their ability to reduce the effects of arthritis and prevent its accumulation in the first place.
I recommend them for all ages in extra-big dogs, for aging cats and dogs and for any creature predisposed to arthritis for any reason whatsoever (joint trauma, congenital joint disease, etc.).
2-GI probiotics (Fortiflora and Pet Flora, among others): Yep. I’ve used these tablets on my own dogs when they’ve had mild GI upset in the guise of diarrhea. Because most cases of the runs are the result of unwanted bacterial overgrowth in the irritated intestines, it makes sense that offering the gut more of the appropriate bacteria might restore the proper balance of intestinal bugs there.
Probiotics for a variety of ailments, not just intestinal ones, is a relatively new field of study. The next decade may well bring a host of similar products to market for use on the skin, in the eyes and up the nose. Look out for more on this in coming years.
3-Fatty acid supplements: A blend of fish and vegetable oils have long been used for optimum dermatologic wellness in pets. Lately, they’ve been popular for people, too, especially when it comes to their heralded role in heart health.
For pets, fatty acids are known to help reduce inflammation at the skin’s cellular level, which is why I don’t know any veterinary dermatologist who doesn’t routinely recommend them for almost any inflammatory skin condition.
4-SAM-e and milk thistle (silybin): Now marketed for pets (Denosyl or Zentonil and Marin, respectively), these ingredients are known to help the liver do its thing. They’ve been shown reduce inflammation in the liver, among other hepatically supportive functions. Most pets with liver disease, especially those suffering the dreaded cholangiohepatitis , would tend to benefit from their use.
5-Fiber supplements: Lots of fun new fiber supplements are now available specifically for pets, primarily for chronic or intermittent constipation. But Metamucil still works. Ask your vet for appropriate doses.
6-Multivitamins: Ahhh…the trusty multivitamin supplement. Worried that your pet food isn’t cutting it vitamin-wise? You’re probably right. A zillion pet-themed supplements exist for pets, but I know one veterinary internist who routinely recommends Flintstone’s! Again, ask your vet for the right amount of any multivitamin you plan to administer.
I know there are zillions more but these are the basics for me. The most important thing? Make sure you provide a high quality product! Studies have shown that consistency and quality of ingredients make a huge difference to the effectiveness of supplement regimens. So stay away from supermarket brands and fly-by-night manufacturers lest you dump your money down the drain and risk losing out on these products’ benefits.
And it’s true: You may be able to find really high quality products made for humans, but the pet-ready versions tend to be tailored more to pets’ needs. One pet company is now even making pharmaceutical grade supplements for pets. The times they are a-changing—for the better in this case.
With all that in mind, feel free to tell us what you use and why…
Image: Kimberly Gauthier / via Flickr