Do Pets Need to Take Supplements to Stay Healthy?

The story of how one kitten almost died from eating a purely vegan diet was top news some time ago. The feline’s owners were strict vegans. And they decided that their pet will be, too. So the cat ended up eating a diet of potatoes, rice milk and pasta. Unfortunately for all concerned, cats are carnivores.

The little kitten was saved, thankfully. All it took was feeding it meat.

That was one situation where humans, obviously, didn’t know any better. Talking to The Herald Sun, Dr. Leanne Pinfold of the Lort Smith Animal Hospital said, “You can’t force your ideology on the cat”.

That sentiment is true, not just on food but with pet supplements as well.

In the United States, more than half the population is taking vitamin supplements. And more and more of them are deciding their pets need it, too. Of all the pet dogs and cats in America, at least 33% are receiving vitamin supplements from their owners. There are also some getting more than just multivitamins. Supplements for arthritic joints, to reduce shedding and improve coat shine are also popular.

It’s no wonder then that the pet supplement industry is worth over a billion dollars. But are pet supplements really needed? As a pet owner, how can you even tell what is the right kind of supplement to give to your dog or cat?

According to Veterinary Clinical Sciences professor C.A. Tony Buffington DVM, PhD of the Ohio State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, “Most people are doing it because they want to, not because it’s necessary”. And that statement really sums it up very well.

So once and for all, when is it necessary to give your pet a supplement?

There may be signs and symptoms you need to keep an eye out for. A weak rear end in a dog could be indicative of neurological problems. A poor coat could mean skin, hormones or metabolic problems. But really, the first thing to do is to check with the vet.  A vet can recommend sticking to standard care, or he can advise you to use supplements as they were intended, as supplements.

Doggy Vitamins

Anyway, according to the FDA, most dogs already get a complete and balanced diet from commercially processed dog food.  If you’re giving your dog a homemade diet, however, supplements may be needed to ensure he gets all the needed vitamins and minerals.

That doesn’t mean you can just pop in the pills or pour vitamin syrup with the treat mix. Giving excessive amounts of supplemental vitamins could be harmful, as both the FDA and veterinarians would tell you. Too much calcium for example, can cause skeletal problems. An excess of vitamin A can actually cause dehydration, joint pain and harm blood vessels. And excess vitamin D might result in your pet refusing to eat. Worse, his muscles may atrophy.

So, how much is too much? Best to seek professional help to find out.

Do Pet Supplements Work?

But the big question is this. Do pet supplements even work?

The answer is – it depends. Mainly on these two things:

  • what the supplement was manufactured for
  • what the supplement was used for

Take the case of dogs with osteoarthritis. They’re usually prescribed glucosamine-chondroitin supplements. A 2007 study showed that dogs receiving the said supplement showed less pain. They’re also more mobile after a couple of months of treatment. Interestingly, the same test was done on humans. The result was vastly different. Glucosamine-chondroitin wasn’t effective in treating even mild pain at all.

Here are a few more supplements that may be good for your pet:

  • Fatty acids – known to help make coats look better
  • Fish oil – proven to reduce inflammation
  • vitamins C and E – aids with memory problems in aging dogs, also useful in reducing inflammation

So do pet supplements really work? The short answer is yes. They really might, but only if used in the right capacity.

Is it absolutely necessary to give your pets supplements to keep them healthy? No, not really. If you’re already feeding them right, with a good balance of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, then supplements aren’t needed.

If you’re not sure, then consult with a vet. You just might be in the market for a pet supplement after all.