We want to do everything we can to support our pet’s good health. It starts with good nutrition and routine veterinary care. We get a lot of questions about giving vitamins or supplements to pets. The short answer is that if your pet is healthy and on a good quality pet food for its life stage, then they are getting all the nutrients they need. But there are certain situations that supplements will be recommended or prescribed by a veterinarian.
When choosing a supplement, it is very important to use reliable brands that are approved by your veterinarian. Nutraceuticals and supplements not regulated by the FDA like medications are. The product has to be safe but does not have to be proven to be effective. Some of the products are manufactured without any quality control. Also, animal health supplements are not the same as those used for people.
The most common condition we prescribe supplements for is osteoarthritis or joint conditions, such as hip dysplasia. Glucosamine and chondroitin are the two most common joint supplements, called chondroprotectants. These products are cartilage components and when taken orally help the body repair damaged cartilage. It is also thought that these products have anti-inflammatory properties. Polysulfated glycosaminoglycans (PSGAG) is a disease-modifying osteoarthritis drug that can help rebuild cartilage and comes in an injectable form for those pets that refuse to take the oral joint supplements.
Recommending omega fatty acids has become very popular, and for good reason. Omega 6 fatty acids are beneficial to coat health by helping to restore and protect the skin barrier. Most commercial pet foods have omega 6 fatty acids added to the food. Omega 3 fatty acids are helpful with inflammation. They can be found in flax oil, which is ALA (alpha-linoleic acid), and fish oil, which are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Any patient with allergies or skin disease can benefit from omega 3 fatty acids. But these omega fatty acids may do even more and are being recommended for arthritis, heart disease, and cognitive dysfunction.
When adding an omega fatty acid supplement to your pet’s diet, consult your veterinarian for dosage and recommended products. Omega fatty acid supplements that are over-the-counter may not have the exact levels of EPA and DHA on the label that can make it confusing when figuring out how much a patient needs. Also the source of the fish used and purification and quality control standards may not be met. Most of the omega fatty acid supplements come in a capsule or liquid that can be easily administered, or there are prescription foods for allergies and sensitive skin that add the omega fatty acids to the food.
If your pet has a medical condition, such as liver disease, there may be other supplements that your veterinarian may prescribe. There are some herbal products that may have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Always ask your veterinarian before starting any of these as they are not regulated and may interact with medications your pet is on.
Always do your research before starting a supplement or nutraceutical and consider the quality and brand. Beware of over-the-counter options unless recommended by your veterinarian. Also, most supplements do not provide immediate results. It can take weeks to months to see improvement and the best results come with maintenance dosage. Talk your veterinarian about products which may benefit your pet, but also keeping in mind that most of the time good food and lots of love are all you need to give your pet the best life.