Pet Nutritional Supplements: Necessary or Needless?

Many Americans take a multivitamin to supplement their diet, fish oil for heart health, or a joint supplement to quell arthritis pains. This habit of utilizing supplements to support overall health and well-being has crossed over into the world of pet products as well.

As you peruse pet-related blogs, online animal care communities, and the aisles of the pet store you may start to wonder whether you need to or should jump on the bandwagon. Are pet nutritional supplements necessary? Are they safe? How do you choose? Your friends at West Park Animal Hospital have the scoop!

What’s in a Supplement?

A supplement is something that completes or enhances something else (in this case, your pet’s diet). With nearly one-third of dog owners and one-fifth of cat owners purchasing one for their pet, it is important to understand why and how you might choose one.

Some pet nutritional supplements are more common than others. A few of the more commonly administered include:

Glucosamine/chondroitin — These ingredients are typically used to support overall joint health and ameliorate the effects of arthritis.

Fish oil — The long chain fatty acids in fish oil supplements have been shown to have some anti-inflammatory effects that may be helpful in the treatment of heart, skin, kidney, and joint disease when delivered in the correct doses.

Turmeric — Touted for its anti-inflammatory effects for arthritis patients and cancer-controlling properties, this herb has begun to make an appearance in the veterinary world.

Probiotics — Helping to support a healthy digestive tract can be important to overall health and immune function. Supplementing the gut with healthy bacteria has some obvious benefits

Hairball remediesSome cats routinely regurgitate hairballs, and many feline caretakers reach for these supplements designed to help hair pass more easily through the digestive tract.

When selecting nutritional supplements, it’s important to know the potential side effects of what you’re buying.Your pet depends on you in order to receive the best care possible.

Purchasing human fish oil capsules containing toxic Xylitol, not being aware of the fact that glucosamine can alter blood sugar metabolism, or being oblivious to turmeric’s anticoagulant properties can potentially cause great harm. Populating your pet’s gut with less-than helpful human bacteria doesn’t really reap any benefits, and trying to fix your cat’s inflammatory bowel disease with petroleum based hairball products could delay a proper diagnosis.

The Bottom Line About Pet Nutritional Supplements

Safety, efficacy, and quality control are huge concerns when it comes to pet nutritional supplements. Because they are not subject to the same FDA regulations as veterinary drugs, it can be difficult to know if what you are purchasing is pure.

This also means that just about any one can write just about anything about them. It can be next to impossible to sort fact from fiction.

As veterinarians and scientists, we stand behind evidence-based medicine and make our supplement recommendations based on what research is available to us. It is important to “first do no harm”, and we must recognize that supplements can have many different effects on the body.

When administering supplements to your pet, it is important to work with our veterinary team in order to select one. Our expertise can help with:

  • Deciding what, if any, supplements may be helpful for your pet
  • Arriving at correct and efficacious dose
  • Selecting a product with good quality control practices
  • Navigating any potential interactions with other medications or conflicts with existing health problems
  • Troubleshooting potential side effects
  • Avoiding possible toxicities

For some animals pet nutritional supplements can bring benefits to overall health. It is important, however, to assess their need and choose one in concert with animal health professionals.

If you have questions about supplements for your pet, call us today so that we can discuss the matter further. Adding supplements can have positive effects on your pet’s health, but only if done correctly and safely.