Many people take dietary supplements or vitamins. And increasingly, they’re likely to give them to their pets, too. It is, however, not suitable to use supplements meant for humans in dogs as the composition of the formulation is not suitable for dogs. But one may ask if dogs need those vitamins and supplements. And are they even safe? The answer to this frequently asked question is that it depends on what the supplement is used for and how much the dog actually needs that supplement. Ingredients in some supplements, such as herbals, may interact with other prescription medicine the pet is taking. Your vet can also assess whether your pet needs a supplement at all. So it is imperative, that you consult a vet before starting or changing any supplement(s) your pet may be taking on the vet’s recommendation.
Some diets that are prescribed by vets to treat particular conditions such as diabetes, kidney ailments and joint ailments actually contain therapeutic quantities of required vitamins, minerals and trace elements vital to the pet’s health. Such specialised diets need not be supplemented by added supplements.
The following are the broad categories of nutrition supplements available for dogs:
- A number of combination multivitamin supplements are available for dogs. They may be in capsule, liquid or palatable chewable tablet forms and include the following:
- Antioxidants such as :Vitamins A, C and E
- Vitamin B Complex
- Vitamin D
- Folic acid
- Calcium and mineral supplements for bone health contain one or more of the following main active ingredients:
- Calcium carbonate
- Calcium gluconate
- Calcium phosphate
However, the absorption and utilisation of these salts in the dog’s body depend on many factors which need to be carefully assessed by your vet before he/ she chooses the best possible supplement for your pet.
- Protein Supplements which help the dog gain muscle and build strength in active working dogs mostly contain:
- Chicken Digest, Fish Protein Digest, Dried Egg Product, Chicken Liver Meal, Fish Oil or whey Protein
- Amino acids such as: Alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, cysteine, cystine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, hydroxyproline, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tyrosine, tryptophan, and valine.
- Digestive supplements meant to reduce flatulence, complement treatment for constipation and promote healthy digestion contain ingredients like :
- Brewer’s yeast
- Whey protein
- Probiotics such as seaweed extracts
- Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product
- Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product
- Bifidobacterium Bifidum Fermentation Product
- Fibre content
- Digestive Enzymes
- Supplements containing essential fatty acids usually contain the following fatty acids:
- Omega-3 Fatty acids include: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), ALA can be converted into EPA, however, this conversion does not occur in the skin. EPA is the workhorse of the omega-3 fatty acids and is incorporated into the cell membrane.
- Omega-6 fatty acids include:
Linoleic acid (LA), Gamma linolenic acid (GLA), Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), Arachidonic acid (AA) LA can be converted into GLA, but not in the skin. However, DGLA can be made from GLA in the skin. LA is important because it optimizes water permeability in the skin. AA, on the other hand, in increased amounts, is the troublemaker among the fatty acids.
- Bone and joint health supplements containing Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are extracted from sea mollusks (such as Perna canaliculus, also known as the New Zealand green-lipped mussel), from shark skeleton, and from cattle as well. They are components of cartilages and by taking these precursors orally, the pet’s body can use them to repair and rebuild cartilage where it is damaged. Manganese is a co-factor in joint fluid synthesis and is often included in glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate supplements.
CONDITIONS IN WHICH SUPPLEMENTS ARE INDICATED:
- Pregnancy and lactation: During pregnancy and lactation, your vet may put the bitch on supplements required by her body to ensure adequate nutrition for the growing litter to develop into healthy pups. The supplements usually indicated in this phase are vitamin, mineral and calcium based preparations.
- Growing puppies: During the little one’s early days, nutritional requirements are high as its body is growing rapidly. The development of a health nervous system and cognition is aided by vitamins, minerals, calcium and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), an essential fatty acid of the omega-3 group. Your vet may also suggest puppy food specially formulated for weaning young puppies and in addition may prescribe a supplement with the food.
- Allergies and Autoimmune Conditions: Allergies and autoimmune conditions occur because the immune system over-reacts. Certain fatty acids can lessen the harmful effects these diseases can have on the body. Your vet may also prescribe a specialised diet for food allergies or intolerance .
- Arthritis: Research is showing that omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA, may be helpful in reducing the inflammation associated with arthritis. Supplements that contain chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine help improve bone and joint flexibility in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates might be used in any joint condition involving the classical joint structure (two bones with cartilage covered ends articulating, a fibrous capsule with ligaments connecting the bones, and lubricating fluid assisting the smooth motion of the joint).
- Other Inflammatory Diseases: Other diseases which are accompanied by inflammation such as ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis may respond to the anti-inflammatory effects of certain fatty acids and digestive supplements or specialised dog food containing gluten free ingredients.
- Dull and Dry Hair Coats: Hair coats which are dull, brittle, and dry often respond to supplementation with essential fatty acids, especially LA. It has also been found that in some cases of seborrhoea, there is a deficiency of LA in the skin. In these cases, supplements high in LA are useful. The addition of EPA and GLA is also beneficial in that it would help negate the release of AA from cells damaged because of this skin condition.
- Heart Problems: Evidence suggests, omega-3 fatty acids may prevent certain cardiac problems as well. Ventricular arrhythmias (Skipping heart beats) in dogs have been prevented and high blood pressure has been reduced in dogs supplemented with fatty acids. Animals prone to thromboembolisms may be helped by the anti-clotting effect fatty acids have on platelets.
- Cancers: Antioxidants and vitamin supplements may be prescribed along with Omega-3 fatty acids as these have been shown to slow the development and metastasis of certain cancers. Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, have been shown to stimulate tumor development.
In case your pet is not on a balanced or specialised diet, these supplements may be absolutely necessary for its growth and good health. Although it may be quite tempting to pick food supplements that promise a shiny coat and stronger bones and joints just off the shelf as these are so readily available and widely advertised as essential, caution is advised before you make any such purchases. Your vet can advise you on which supplements can benefit your pet as not all commercially available supplements are standardised with proper quality control. Also not all claims made by supplement manufacturers are supported by clinical studies. Such supplements may not benefit your pet at all. In fact, they may turn out to be counterproductive if their dosage is not monitored by a vet. The goal of a canine nutritional supplement is to give your dog optimal health so that he can live longer and healthier.