Around 36.5% of all families in America own a dog and if you are one of them, then you could very well consider yours as just another part of your family. Ensuring your dog leads a long, healthy life involves feeding him a quality diet and ensuring he gets enough exercise, but you may wonder if it is worth 'going the extra mile' and providing it with vitamins or other supplements. A study by the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University has found that up to 30% of dogs and cats are given vitamins by their owners. This tends to be the case for older pets who may have health conditions. To what extent can owners be confident the supplements they are giving are truly boosting their pets' health?
Always Consult Your Veterinarian First about Supplements
Unlike medications, supplements for humans and pets are not regulated by the FDA. The key to making a decision on safety is to consult your veterinarian first – the same way you should do if you are on medication and you are interested in taking a vitamin or other supplement. Some supplements can interact with other medication your pooch may be taking. If your veterinarian does give you the go-ahead, it is important choose quality supplements that contain no harmful substances. This will ensure that dosage is as indicated, and that the supplement does what it claims to.
Are You Feeding Your Dog a Healthy Diet?
As is the case with humans, supplements may not be necessary if you are feeding your dog a biologically-appropriate food that contains quality proteins such as those a dog might encounter in nature. Food should be as free as possible of synthetic ingredients, and contain no poor-quality proteins. You might be surprised to know that some dog food contains inapt ingredients, including hooves, feathers, or beaks. Read the package carefully and rely on the common-sense rule: 'If the price is too good to be true, it probably is'. As noted by Tufts, if your dog is consuming a well-rounded diet, supplements may not be necessary. They add, however, that supplements can be useful for specific medical conditions. If your dog has arthritis, heart disease, or cancer, consult your veterinarian about supplements that might be useful.
What are Commonly Used Vitamins for Dogs?
Dr. Karen Becker, Veterinarian and blogger on Dr. Mercola's site, recommends specific supplements for issues such as digestive health, joints, skin, etc. She notes that in the case of joints, for instance, studies show that 20% of dogs can benefit from supplements with gylcosaminoglycans (GAGs). Those who are battling heart disease, meanwhile, may benefit from ubiquinol, which improves circulation and heat health. One study by scientists at the University of Helsinki found that dogs that received nutritional supplements (vitamins and minerals) with their food were less likely to indulge in tail chasing. Another study found that the supplements acetyl-l-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid were able to improve cognitive function in senior dogs.
It is normal to want to extent our pets' lives by giving them a little help from supplements if necessary. However, we currently know very little about safe dosages and effects of the wealth of supplements that are currently being given to horses, dogs, and cats. A new National Council Report has warned of the necessity of providing clear and precise regulations, so that both veterinarians and pet owners can confidently choose appropriate supplements (and administer the required dosage) if these may help pets battling specific conditions.