What to Know About Your Pet and Supplements
A veterinarian shares her insight on the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy animal.
It’s important to you that your pets lead healthier, happier lives. Whether you want veterinary advice, behavioral insight, or the best-in-market pet essentials that make every day more joyful, for both you and your cat or dog, The Well-Balanced Pet offers practical tips you can use.
With all of the pet supplements available on the market, separating the effective from the ineffective can be tricky. "'Supplements range from joint health to behavior to flavor enhancers, and encompass a large, mostly unregulated sector of the pet industry," explains Dr. Tory Waxman, small animal veterinarian and co-founder of the human-grade dog food brand Sundays. "For this reason, you should always talk to your veterinarian before starting any supplements to discuss appropriate use and dosing."
And while Dr. Waxman says that certain supplements can be beneficial, she warns against depending on them as a quick-fix for your pet's health issues. "For example, many pet parents will reach for joint supplements to help with arthritis but far and away, the number one thing you can do to help your dog's arthritis and associated joint pain is weight loss," she says.
We asked Dr. Waxman for insight on five popular pet supplements, and here's what she had to share.
Designed to treat and prevent joint pain associated with canine and feline arthritis, glucosamine is thought to improve the health of the joint cartilage. "There are conflicting studies on the efficacy of glucosamine but anecdotal evidence suggests that it can benefit arthritic dogs," Dr. Waxman explains. "However, the best thing you can do for your pet's joint health is weight loss."
As a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, Dr. Waxman says that, unlike many supplements, there is scientific research that support the benefits of fish oil for a range of pet health issues, including arthritis, heart disease, and allergic skin disease. "They work by decreasing inflammation," she explains. "Talk to your veterinarian about appropriate dosing before starting a fish oil regimen, because many labels will advise administering less than the recommended dosage."
Dr. Waxman says that probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that can boost digestive health. "Recently, in both human and animal health, there has been a lot of research into the benefits of a healthy gut biome. The idea behind a probiotic is that it provides beneficial bacteria to aid in digestion," she explains. "Before starting a probiotic, ask the company for independent analysis showing that their product contains the amount and type of probiotics claimed on the label and, if they are unable to provide it, look elsewhere."
If your dog or cat is eating a well-balanced diet that meets AAFCO standards, Dr. Waxman says to stay away from multivitamins. "If your pet's diet is formulated to meet AAFCO standards (see official AAFCO statement required on the back of every pet food bag), then additional vitamins and minerals are not needed and can even cause some health concerns if given in excess," she explains. "Therefore, I do not recommend any commercially available vitamins or minerals without explicit recommendations from your veterinarian."
Touted to treat everything from behavior issues to seizures, Dr. Waxman says CBD oil is the trendy new supplement in town. "Initial studies looking into the benefits of CBD show some promise for it being to help with seizure control and arthritis," she explains. "The CBD market is unregulated as well, so make sure the product you are using comes from a trusted source that optimally employs or consults with a veterinarian, such as ElleVet."