Vitamins for Pets

Should Pet Owners Supplement Pets’ Diets?

Vitamins and supplements

In today’s stress-filled world, sometimes it’s all we can do to grab a coffee and a donut for breakfast, to say nothing of eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. So instead, we pop a multi-vitamin and go on our way.

But what about our pets? Can their health benefit from daily vitamins and supplements?

Beware of Over-Supplementing

Not necessarily. While there are a myriad of vitamins available to conscientious owners looking for ways to help their pets, they can be an unnecessary and potentially harmful product according to veterinarian Dr. Cori Gross, a field representative for Veterinary Pet Insurance.

“I would spend my money making sure they were on good quality diet,” Dr. Gross said. “Most vets feel when it comes to vitamins, if it’s a healthy patient eating a commercially balanced diet, they don’t need them. A lot of clients want to take the extra step. You can potentially over-supplement. As long as the pet foods sold over the counter say ‘complete and balanced’ on it, your pet will be fine.”

That is not to say that some pets can’t use a little extra help for certain conditions. Consumers spent an average of $77 dollars on dogs and $31 for cats on vitamins and nutritional supplements last year, according to a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Inc. (APPMA).

Making a Difference

There are supplements that can greatly benefit your pet—especially those pets that suffer from arthritis.

Glucosamine is one that many veterinarians recommend and is a very popular purchase by pet owners. Glucosamine is an amino sugar that helps protect joint cartilage, a huge help to relieve stiffness in joints, and is available in tablet form.

Some popular glucosamine products are Cosiquin and, new to the market, Dasuquin, which contains and avocado and soy complex. Adequin, which is only currently approved for dogs and horses, has a similar affect as glucosamines as it helps slow down the breakdown of cartilage.

Omega-3 fatty acids, a common source of fish, plant and nut oils, help relieve arthritis and skin allergies, are used to treat yeast infections and are essential for the proper development of the retina and visual cortex. While some pet food companies add omega-3 fatty acids to their products, pet owners can supplement their pet’s diets with an omega-3 gel tab or liquid drops applied daily in their mouths.

There are supplements that can greatly benefit your pet—especially those pets that suffer from arthritis.

A Holistic Approach

A common issue that many owners have is trying to find ways to deal with their pet’s anxiety. There are plenty of holistic remedies that can be found easily via an Internet search. The problem is, you don’t always know exactly what’s in these products—or how they might impact your pet.

Puppy and kitten

“From a vet perspective, I haven’t seen any studies done to show these things are safe,” said Dr. Gross. “Clients are concerned about reducing anxiety. My concern is will it hurt their liver or kidneys.”

She has found a product that is natural and works well to help calm anxious cats and dogs.

For cats, Dr. Gross recommends Feliway. Available as a pump spray or a diffuser that is plugged into the wall, it releases pheremones, or facial hormones. When a cat rubs its cheek against you or any object, he is “marking,” leaving behind his happy, relaxed scent.

Feliway tricks cats into thinking they have already marked a spot. Spray one pump into his carrier, for example, and he’ll be nice and relaxed when you put him inside.

The canine version is called DAP or Dog Appeasing Hormone. It works the same way Feliway does, except instead of a cheek pheromone, it’s the pheromone released from a mother’s mammary gland.

Things to Keep In Mind

There are other supplements available for pets with specific issues including probiotics for pets with diarrhea, liver supplements, and iron supplements for anemic pets.

Dr. Gross recommends discussing any concerns about your pet’s diet with your veterinarian, whose familiarity with your pet’s health will steer you in the right direction if you’re interested in buying supplements.

If you enjoyed this story, read more about pet nutrition.

Return to the VPI Pet HealthZone

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