Are Supplements Important To Your Pet's Health?
A Look At The Yeas and Nays
Supplements are gaining in popularity by leaps and bounds…both for us mere humans and for our animals as well.
Store shelves are full of them, infomercials for them clog radio and TV downtime, and the print media are loaded with ads for them.
Of course, this column will only serve as a primer on pet supplements; and there’s no shortage of those.
There are some that claim benefits for joints, skin and coat, or teeth.
Others claim to benefit various other bodily systems such as the urinary tract, vision, the brain, and functions such as digestion.
Do they work? Some do and some don’t. And it’s not universal. Several factors contribute to how a person or pet responds to a supplement.
There are many variables, such as genetics, health, and lifestyle that come into play. A certain supplement may bring positive results for you or your pet, yet another person or animal with the same symptoms may not enjoy the same benefits you realize by using the product.
About 43% of us are buying supplements at pet specialty stores, 27% at veterinary clinics, 14% at natural food stores, and 10% at mass marketers.
I guess the other 6% are bought at outlets ranging from flea markets to mail order.
Horses still lead the herd in supplementation, even though our slowly recovering economy has seen a slight downturn for equine supplementation in recent years.
They still accounted for about half of the sales, while dogs account for over a third, and cats and other pets account for the rest of all supplement sales.
While supplements engender great hope, there are some cautions to observe. For example, herbal products, a large part of the market, are naturally occurring substances and consumers may not realize that sometimes they can affect the body as strongly as pharmaceuticals.
An example I read about is St. John’s wort, used to ease depression in people.
That herb can also change the way the liver functions and it can interfere with other medications processed by the liver.
And bear in mind supplements that are safe for people may not be safe for animals; and that pet supplements don’t meet the FDA definition of drugs and therefore aren’t regulated the way human supplements are.
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Here, for your edification, are some common ingredients in supplements and a little bit about what they do:
●ANTIOXIDANTS slow down the oxidative damage of aging in cells. Common sources of antioxidants are vitamins A, C, and E. A lot of pet foods and treats contain botanicals such as cranberries for their antioxidant properties.
●GLUCOSAMINE AND CHONDROITIN have anti-inflammatory properties that help maintain joint health and promote cartilage repair. Common sources are sea mollusks, shark cartilage and cow tracheas (often sold as moo tubes in pet supply stores).
●CHOLIDIN supports brain function by providing building blocks for acetylcholine, a chemical messenger between nerve cells.
●ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS are so named because the body (human or animal) cannot manufacture them. Essential fatty acids, most notably Omega 6 and Omega 3, provide powerful anti-inflammatory effects and support the immune system and the skin and coat.
●L-CARNITINE is an amino acid that promotes efficient energy use in cells, especially the heart, and promotes lean muscle mass in weight loss.
●LUTEIN is an anti-oxidant used for eye health products.
●POLYPHENOLS are anti-oxidant/anti-inflammatory compounds from plants.
Generally speaking, a pet that is in good health and on a high quality food usually doesn’t need supplementation; otherwise consider supplements carefully and preferably in consultation with your veterinarian. And take advertising claims with a grain of salt.