We turned to Dr. Simon Starkey, DVM, PetSmart, to learn more. First up, we wanted to know how supplements can contribute to a pet's overall health. He explained that some supplements are specifically designed for physical problems such as orthopedic conditions, hair balls and skin and coat health. "Overall health can be improved with multivitamin and mineral supplements, particularly among pets that are not receiving a complete and balanced diet," he explains. "For example, any pet receiving more than 10 percent of its calories from treats, table scraps and/or human foods will be at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies and will benefit from a multivitamin supplement. Vitamins and minerals are essential for health, and they control critical processes like energy generation within cells, support healing and immune functions and help ensure health cell division and growth."
Dr. Ari Zabell, director of client advocate support for Banfield Pet Hospital, helped break it down further and told us that "a supplement works by taking advantage of a body's normal functions to increase the pet's ability to overcome challenges such as arthritis, renal and liver disease and even viruses."
And what about pets that are already healthy? Can they benefit from a daily supplement too? Dr. Starkey says, "If you're feeding your pet a complete and balanced diet, he/she generally does not need a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement. However, breeds prone to orthopedic problems may benefit from preemptive use of hip and joint supplements. Additionally, pet parents may try supplements to improve skin and coat health and reduce shedding."
If your pet is getting up there in age or has a medical issue, adding a supplement to his diet might be exactly what he needs. Dr. Starkey explains, "There is increasingly strong evidence that certain joint supplements improve lameness among dogs with arthritis... The scientific evidence is strongest for supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin as well as those containing omega-3 fatty acids. There is growing evidence that fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) and antioxidants can improve brain function in older dogs and their daily use may minimize cognitive decline in older pets."
Another area where supplements can really make a difference is anxiety and situational stress. Calming supplements can come in the form of treats, sprays and even collars and can really improve a dog or cat's comfort level in certain situations such as when you're traveling or leave them alone for any length of time.
To find out what supplements, if any, are right for your pet, discuss it with your veterinarian before starting a new regimen. "A veterinarian that knows a pet's current health status can make recommendations on supplements or diets appropriate for that individual pet," Dr. Zabell points out. "Some pets might benefit from supplements in addition to a healthy, nutritious diet while others may not. A pet's nutritional needs change as they age or develop different conditions and a veterinarian can discuss what is best for each pet at every life stage."
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