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Michael Dym, V.M.D.
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Michael Dym, V.M.D.
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Dr. Michael Dym
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What Supplements Should Your Pet Take?

Most pet foods available, including kibble, canned foods, and many dehydrated, raw, and fresh cooked foods are formulated to meet AAFCO standards for your pet’s species. So, most likely, you don’t have to worry about your cat or dog getting essential vitamins and minerals each day.

However, you can use supplements to help support your pet if they’re struggling with certain health issues, if they live a very active lifestyle, or if you just want to make sure they’re feeling their best.

Does My Pet Need An Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplement?
Essential fatty acids have many roles in your pet’s body. They help your pet’s body absorb other nutrients, provide energy, protect joints, support immunity, and help keep their skin and coat healthy.

Pets need both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, though omega-6 fatty acids are readily found in many foods. What’s more, omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. While a ratio of 5:1 omega-6 to omega-6 fatty acids is ideal, the typical pet’s diet contains a ratio of 20:1. So, many pets can benefit from an omega-3 supplement.

An omega-3 fatty acid supplement, typically derived from fish oil, can boost brain development in puppies and kittens, help protect arthritic joints in senior pets, and soothe itching in pets with sensitive skin.

Some pet foods contain sufficient omega-3 fatty acids, particularly those made primarily with fish and those formulated for joint or skin and coat support.

Does My Pet Need Probiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial micro-organisms that reside in the gastrointestinal systems of animals, including humans, cats, and dogs. The micro-organisms help break down food, fight off invasive, potentially harmful bacteria, and there is even some evidence that a balanced gut microbiome can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety.

Vets often recommend probiotic supplementation for patients suffering from diarrhea, especially if caused by stress, travel, or changes in your pet’s living situation. Probiotics can also be helpful anytime your pet needs an immune system boost. You can give them daily or on an as-needed basis.

Some pet foods contain added probiotics, but since these live active micro-organisms are delicate, they may not always survive the cooking process, or may have otherwise broken down before reaching your pet’s bowl.

Does My Pet Need A Joint Support Supplement?
The majority of cats and dogs will experience osteoarthritis in one or more joints by the time they are in their senior years. Injuries, obesity, athletic activity, and genetics can all increase your pet’s risk of arthritis.

You can start to give a joint support supplement upon first noticing signs of stiffness. You can also give joint supplements as a preventative, especially if your pet participates in high impact sports like agility.

Joint support supplements can help alleviate pain and stiffness in several ways. They may contain glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, naturally-occurring substances that are found in your pet’s body that help protect the joints. Some supplements contain nutraceuticals such as turmeric for their anti-inflammatory effects. Many joint supplements also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and protect joints.

When Not To Give Your Pet Supplements
For pets that eat a balanced diet, supplements such as a multi-vitamin are typically not necessary and can, in some cases, be harmful. For example, if your pet is getting too much of a fat-soluble vitamin such as vitamin A, it can build up in their body and lead to toxicity.

If your pet eats a home-cooked or homemade raw diet, they may need extra supplementation to ensure all of their nutritional needs are being met. Work with a veterinary nutritionist to ensure your homemade diet is balanced.

Keep in mind that prescription medications can interact with natural supplements, so let your veterinarian know before adding a new supplement to your pet’s diet.