Question: does my pet need supplements?

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Multivitamins and supplements are popular in the pet care world. From fish oil to probiotics, there’s a variety of products to complement your pet’s diet. But does that mean your cat or dog should be taking them? And do all pets need a supplement to keep healthy?

Your pet’s nutritional needs

As humans, what we eat every day varies. We like to switch things up and may choose to follow a specific diet. We also have busy lives and sometimes pick easy, convenient meals over healthy ones. So supplements help us cover those gaps. However, dogs and cats usually eat the same food every day – and pet food manufacturers know this.

Pet food companies spend years studying the nutritional needs of cats and dogs, working with scientists, nutritionists and veterinarians to develop the perfect diet for each pet. So when you choose a pet food labelled as ‘balanced’ or ‘complete’, you know it has been specially formulated to contain all the nutrients that your pet needs.

This means pets given a commercial pet food that is good quality and suitable for them should not need to take vitamins or supplements. That is, unless recommended by their vet.

When additional support is needed

Now, let’s say you feed your pet a homemade diet exclusively. This is one of those times when your vet may recommend a supplement. While it can be tempting to have control over the quality and quantity of ingredients that you feed your four-legged friend, homemade pet food requires careful planning – and could result in nutritional deficiencies. This is why you should seek advice from your vet.

Another reason you may consider supplements is when your pet has been diagnosed with an illness, like arthritis or kidney disease. This is another example of when the right supplement (and perhaps even a change of diet) could help reduce discomfort.

But just because pets don’t have a long-term health condition doesn’t mean certain products can’t be beneficial. Supplements can also provide extra support when your pet has a minor health issue or is getting on in years. For example, they can help address problems like plaque build-up, dry skin or digestive problems. What’s important is that you always speak to your vet first.

Recommended supplements

Joints: Supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin promote mobility and increase joint lubrication. While they may not eliminate the condition, they can help alleviate joint pain and prevent further damage. Some of the top brands our resident vets recommend are Seraquin and YuMOVE.

Digestion: If your pet experiences frequent stomach issues, a supplement can aid healthy digestion. From Protexin Pro-Fibre, which helps digest food and absorb nutrients more easily; to Laxapet, a hairball and constipation remedy; or a range of probiotics to heal an imbalance in the gut with a boost of friendly bacteria.

Oral health: Brushing your pet’s teeth is the best way to prevent gum disease, but there are also many products designed to reduce plaque and fight oral bacteria. These can be added to drinking water (like Vet Aquadent), sprinkled onto food (like Plaque Off) or used as toothpaste (like Logic Oral Hygiene Gel).

Coat & skin: Supplements enriched with Omega-3 fatty acids are a good remedy for dry and itchy skin. They can also be beneficial when the temperature drops, as the combination of cold weather and indoor heating can cause skin irritation. Skin allergies can have different causes, though, so your vet will want to identify the root of the problem. They may also recommend YuMOVE Skin & Coat Care to help calm and nourish your pet’s skin.

The bottom line

Most times, a complete diet will take care of your pet’s nutritional needs. Supplements are just a great ‘add-on’ when your pet has a deficiency, a health condition or needs a little health boost. Just to err on the side of caution: always check with your vet before giving your pet supplements.

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