Most of us know that different herbs and vitamins have been used throughout history to enhance not only our pet’s lives but also our own. But do they? If you’ve ever used them for yourself or your pet, you’ve seen firsthand that they often help considerably. We add supplements or vitamins to our pet’s diet to improve or enhance the quality of their lives without the often harmful side effects of regular medications or pharmaceuticals. According to Wikipedia, the term Nutraceutical was coined in 1989 by Stephen L. DeFelice, founder and chairman of the Foundation of Innovation Medicine, and describes it as “a pharmaceutical grade and standardized nutrient.” Different countries have differing views on these supplements and their regulation. In the United States, they are generally treated as dietary supplements and food additives by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but depending on their ingredients and claims, they may be regulated as a drug, dietary supplement, food ingredient or food. These supplements come in all forms: liquid, powder and tablets or chews to accommodate all of our pets both large and small.
Vitamins for General Health
For the average adult dog, cat or other special pet (guinea pig, snake etc), supplements or vitamins may not be necessary unless they are having medical problems. Supplements are most important for the young, seniors, show and working dogs (hunting, sled, service) or as a post-surgical treatment to aid the healing process. These nutraceuticals are used to keep our pets healthy and support their immune systems. Some of these I have personal experience with include: Select Antioxidant tablets, Pet Tabs, Pet Tabs Plus, Pet Cal tablets, Lixotinic/Pet-Tinic (works well with the pocket pets and ferrets) and Amino B Plex (these last two are liquid form). There are some powdered varieties that I have started stocking but have not had much feedback on yet. These are the products by Rx vitamins (Canine and Feline Essentials and Nutritional Support). The biggest factor is to get a form that the animal will take readily and agrees with their digestive system.
Most of us are aware that as we age, we often have joint or musculoskeletal problems which can be caused by a variety of issues and so can our pets especially our working dogs or those hurt by other dogs or being hit by cars. These problems may be caused in part by genetic predisposition/poor confirmation or simply the normal aging process. The large breed dogs are especially prone to joint problems because of their quick growth patterns (the Rottweiler pup I raised years ago gained five pounds every week from 7 weeks til almost 6 months of age and he was not a particularly good eater!) Smaller dogs generally have problems because of poor confirmation or being overweight as we tend to reward them too much! To help with these problems, large breed puppies can be started on a joint supplement at an early age or fed large breed specific puppy foods most of which now have the Chondroitin and Glucosamine in them. Watching the confirmation of our breeding animals will also help as will keeping them at a healthy weight (no more cheeseburgers or small cones from McDonalds–yes I’ve had clients tell me they reward them on the way home from the clinic!).
There are several good products on the market but the ones I’ve had the most success with include the tablet or powder in capsule forms of Glycoflex, Dasuquin and Cosequin DS. There are also powdered forms from Rx Vitamins called Megaflex and Nutriflex (available in dog and cat varieties).
Dental Supplements/Treats — How Bad is Your Pet’s Breath?
Very few of us brush our pet’s teeth on a daily or even a weekly basis so most pets will benefit from some type of dental “treat” that helps to keep the plaque and tartar from building up on their teeth and may help with gum disease. Some products I have used through the years are: Perio Support (a powdered food additive), Maxiguard Oral Gel, Perio Sticks, Milk Bone brushing chews, Veggiedent Chews, Oravet and Meow Mix brushing bites for cats. Just as I said before, one must find one that your pet will like and use readily.
Digestive Disturbances — Haven’t We All Been There?
Do you have the garbage can thief or the dog that likes to clean the litter box or better yet eat his own feces! Is your dog or cat’s stomach as sensitive to different foods as yours is? Some of us and our pets need supplements in the form of digestive enzymes or probiotics to help digest the food that is eaten or just some help with either diarrhea or constipation. There are so many supplements out there that I cannot possibly list them all, but I will list a few of the ones I’ve had success with and with what conditions.
Additional Supplements — Urinary/Kidney, Cardiac, Liver and Skin
There are many supplements on the market for a variety of different conditions. Liver problems may be helped with Hepato Support and Liquid Hepato while urinary or kidney problems may need Cranberry Rx ,
Rx Renal (dog and cat forms) or PhosBind. Formula CV is available for those with heart problems and Ultra EFA Liquid and Krillwell are available for skin/coat problems. For our pets with immune system problems related to cancer or other systemic illnesses there is Immuno Support, CoQ 10 (dog and cat forms) and Onco Support. There are several different formulations available to calm our pets, although I’ve had no luck personally with any of these. For the different reptilian pets, Zylafen is a nice supplement mainly for skin problems. For our feline friends, I’ve found that Optixcare Lysine treats are the most tasty and well accepted and are important if any immune problems or diseases are present.
In conclusion, if your pet is having any kind of problem, please seek the help of a veterinarian that is familiar with all types of medications especially nutraceuticals as they can be extremely helpful with many conditions and may enhance and prolong their lives. As I’ve said, the most important aspect of any supplementation is finding one that your pet not only likes and takes easily, but that agrees with their digestive systems.