It is common to see a plethora of vitamins and supplements in a pet store or on online shopping websites. These supplements aid in joint health and gut health, as well as reducing anxiety and stress among your furry companions.
A supplement is defined as a concentrated nutrient source that is added to your pet’s basic diet for a nutritional or a therapeutic effect, explained Steve Marsden, Shawn Messonnier, and Cheryl Yuill of VCA, an operator of over 1,000 animal hospitals in the US and Canada. But here’s the question: Are these supplements helpful in making your pet healthier?
Pet Feeding Practices Among Dog Owners Visiting a Veterinary Practice in Colombo, Sri Lanka (2016)
Maheeka Seneviratne, Dynatra W.D. Subasinghe, and Penny J. Watson of Wiley Online Library, one of the largest and most authoritative collections of online journals, books, and more, conducted their study by distributing questionnaires to pet owners visiting a first opinion and referral practice in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which had a 100% response rate. The population comprised of 100 dogs, in which 31 dogs were aged 0-2 years, 33 were aged 2-5 years, 26 were aged 5-10 years, and 10 were aged 10 and above.
The most common breeds were Labrador retrievers (27%) and crossbreed dogs (27%), followed by other breeds (11%), GSD (9%), boxer (7%), golden retriever (5%), pug (4%), dachshund (4%), great dane (2%), and Doberman (2%). Regarding feeding practices, 51% of dogs were fed two meals a day and 41% were fed three meals a day. 7% were fed one meal a day while 1% was fed four meals per day. 42% were fed with home-cooked food while 18% consumed commercial food. Only 40% of dogs were fed a mix of home-cooked food and commercial food.
Of those being fed a mixture of said foods, 47% of dogs were fed up to 25% commercial food and 45% were fed of up to 50% commercial food. Only 8% of dogs were fed up to 75% commercial food. 39% consumed commercial food for at least half their intake. Among dogs that were fed homemade food, 35% were fed chicken as their main protein source while 27% were given fish. 1% were given beef and other food. Only 36% were given a mixture.
83% of owners boiled the meat or fish before feeding it to their dog, while 17% fed meat or fish in the form of a curry. 95% of dogs that were fed homemade food were given rice as their main source of carbohydrates and 5% were fed a mixture of rice and bread. 49% of dogs were given milk as a separate meal in addition to their normal diet.
63% of owners fed their dogs treats or snacks along with their main meals, 45% fed human food, 37% fed commercial treats, 12% fed table scraps, and 3% fed raw meat/bones and fruits. 57% of dogs received supplements along with their normal diet. The most common supplements given to adult dogs were Omega 3+6 and Vitamin B+E (28%), multivitamin (17%), Ca/P (16%), and other (11%).
As for puppies, the most common supplements were Ca/P (33%), Vitamin B+E (23%), Multivitamin (19%), Amino acids (14%), Omega 3+6 (9%), and other (2%). Longevity and health of dogs that were fed different diets should be evaluated to compare the benefits of homemade food and commercial food. Specific analysis of homemade diets will help identify any nutritional deficiencies, the authors concluded.
How Do I Know Which Supplements to Use?
You can learn about them from a friend, a sales clerk in a retail store, through the internet, an advertisement, or from your veterinarian. Information that is published on the internet or written sources may or not be accurate or complete, depending on who wrote the information. Publications that have certain regulatory control such as those regulated by a federal government agency are the least biased sources of information.
Information about vitamins, mineral, and other supplements can be found in standard nutrition textbooks. However, these may provide dated information, and books may only contain well-recognized and well-documented indications for specific nutrients. These relate to nutritional requirements rather than their uses as nutraceuticals.
Nutraceuticals—also known as therapeutic supplements or animal health supplements—refer to foods or food nutrients that are taken orally to prevent or treat a disease. A nutraceutical is usually taken in larger doses than the daily requirement when used as a nutrient. Nutraceuticals have very little unbiased published information since the recommendations originate from manufacturers or retailers.
How Do I Know If A Supplement Is Safe for Consumption?
Just because it’s natural does not mean it’s safe for consumption. Hence, it is strongly recommended to consult your veterinarian regarding the safety of supplements in domestic animals. You can also ask the manufacturer about the product’s safety and efficacy. If they are not eager to provide this information, it is best not to use the product any longer.
Do Cats and Dogs Really Need Supplements?
Most cats and dogs do not need supplements if they are eating a diet that consists of pet food you bought at the pet store. Dr. Jim D. Carlson, a holistic veterinarian and owner of Riverside Animal Clinic and Holistic Center, stated, “If your pet is eating a commercially-prepared diet and has passed its veterinary physical, it probably needs no additional vitamins and supplements.”
If you are feeding a homemade diet to your pet, you will need to have its diet adequately balanced by a veterinarian or an animal nutritionist. Carlson said that many veterinarians suggest supplements if your dog or cat is diagnosed with certain diseases like arthritis. In this case, supplements may be needed to help your pet recover or promote comfort.
Pets may not need supplements, but that does not mean that some products can’t aid in their health. Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinarian at White House Veterinary Hospital noted, “Sometimes there are certain supplements that are great to add to your pet's diet.” These supplements will help decrease inflammation and promote cardiovascular health and overall well-being.
It is okay to get information about supplements on the internet or from a friend, but owners need to be aware of biases and incomplete information. The best alternative is to speak to a veterinarian about the supplement their pet needs to promote overall health.