The most frequent question I get is: What supplements are the most beneficial for dogs and cats? Let me start by saying that dogs and cats are not the same. These separate species have different anatomies and physiologies; and therefore differing metabolic and nutritional needs.
In my practice, I believe the most important thing I do is to determine the most appropriate and nutritious diet for each of my patients. This is not as easy as it sounds; as all animals are unique, I have found their metabolic and nutritional needs to be unique as well.
That being said, most of our current dog and cat foods that claim to offer a “complete and balanced diet” to our fur babies are lacking in a few specific ways. This is where I believe supplements play an important role:
1. Probiotics. These are the “good” bacteria and yeast that naturally colonize our pets’ (and our) guts. They are found in rich soil (where nutritious veggies are grown and prey species live), as well as foods like yogurt and unpasteurized sauerkraut. In most commercial pet foods any bacteria is deliberately killed; and brands that add probiotics often aren’t able to add them in an effective quantity or quality.
2. Digestive Enzymes. While being super convenient and decently nutritious; most commercial pet foods contain ingredients that aren’t quite “whole foods”. These processed and/ or synthesized ingredients are often taxing on the gut, and difficult to digest. Digestive enzymes can help dogs and cats break down their food, and assimilate as many of the nutrients as possible; as well as promote a healthy stool. I have found enzymes to be especially helpful in older patients with digestive issues.
3. Omega 3 fatty acids. Similarly to people, our dogs and cats can often benefit from omega 3 fatty acid supplements. Unfortunately, due to their unique digestive processes, our furry friends do not benefit from the omega 3’s in flax seeds in a similar manner as people. Thankfully, fish oils are a wonderful omega 3 rich addition to our dogs’ and cats’ diets. These special oils have numerous potential beneficial effects, including anti-inflammatory properties which can help with arthritis, allergies, and inflammatory bowel; as well as potentially helping the skin and coat, and chronic diseases like kidney disease.