dog and cat nutrition

Cut visits to the vet and turn the frown upside down on an unhappy pet by focusing on good dog and cat nutrition. We outline how to do that by feeding supplements for your pet.

Have you ever noticed the supplements shelf at your local pet store and wondered if you should be giving them to your dog or cat? Or, maybe your pet is already on a supplement, but you aren’t sure how to tell if it is doing any good. Dog and cat nutrition is more nuanced than you might think. While commercial pet food must meet basic regulated standards, the truth is that most pets on a commercial diet would benefit from a good multivitamin everyday.  Prebiotics or probiotics and joint supplements can also promote overall health. In fact, good-quality supplements can be beneficial for your dog or cat in both health and disease states.

Dog and cat nutrition: supplements

If your dog or cat has a disease, supplements can be an important part of their treatment plan.  For example, fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatories that can help treat skin, joint, heart, or kidney disease, as well as behavior disorders.  Glucosamine products can help protect the joints in the presence of osteoarthritis (OA) and they have been shown to help treat cystitis in cats. When it comes to liver disease, there are several liver supplements, such as S-Adenosyl-Methionine aka SAMe and milk thistle, that help protect the liver and prevent further damage.  SAMe has also been proven to be helpful in the face of OA and cognitive dysfunction.  L-Theanine has been shown to help with anxiety in both dogs and cats.

Prebiotics and probiotics can supplement prescribed treatments to aid in GI, urinary and renal disease.  I prefer prebiotics over probiotics; unstable probiotic bacteria can make it unreliable, whereas a plant-based prebiotic feeds your pet’s own good bacteria to stimulate a healthy gut and immune system. With prebiotics, you can help build a healthy gut biome without adding foreign bacteria.

Make sure you do your research before adding a supplement to your dog or cat’s diet.  Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so I recommend choosing a supplement endorsed by the National Animal Supplement Counsel (NASC) https://nasc.cc. The mission of the NASC is to ensure animal supplements are safe, high-quality products. NASC members are required to have their facilities regularly audited.  You can spot endorsed products because of the NASC seal on the label and the members listed on the NASC website.

Dog and cat nutrition: Research vet and product

In determining which products are optimal for your dog or cat, also consider the credentials of the people who create and recommend them. For example, the founder and President of In Clover, Rebecca Rose, is a biochemist who worked in the health-care research industry for many years before developing supplements for small animals.  She is also a board member of the NASC. In addition, you can get supplement recommendations from veterinarians who have experience with putting their pet patients on them. My clients have taken supplements from several different manufacturers such as Vetriscience, Nutramax labs and most recently, In Clover.

Sometimes it is difficult to know if a supplement is working.  Usually, supplements are part of a multi-modal treatment plan, so how can you be sure?  There have been some reports by my clients who claim that their dog seems more comfortable after starting a joint supplement.  Some studies have shown that fatty acids help to decrease the symptoms of inhalant allergies after chronic use.  After taking liver supplements, some animals have shown a drop in liver enzymes on a blood profile. Since it is difficult to tell and your pet can’t tell you, it takes close watching for behavior and physical cues as well as diagnostic testing.

My philosophy is “above all else, do not harm.” If a supplement is safe and will not cause harm, I always recommend adding one, when appropriate to the treatment plan. You should check with your vet about specific supplements that they recommend to help optimize your dog and cat’s nutrition. You can also always speak with a vet at Ask.Vet for advice on your specific situation by texting VET to 67076, or visiting https://ask.vet for more information.

-Juli Potter, DVM

For more information, read part 1 and part 3 of the series.