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Are Supplements Important To Your Pet's Health?

Updated on October 30, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock, and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.


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 there has been 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.

However 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.

Common Supplement Ingredients And 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.

Do You Feed Supplements To Your Pets?

See results

© 2012 Bob Bamberg


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    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      6 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      I think I'd keep a couple of extra mother boards in a safe deposit box downtown, ready for quick installation. Maybe you can get a discount if you buy in bulk. :) Sorry, don't mean to make light of your situation.

      To someone like me who falls asleep to traffic noises and sirens, a couple of mother boards a year would be a fair price to pay to have waves lapping at the shore sing me to sleep. The other guy's lullaby often has more appeal.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      My latest "cure"is to keep my mother board in a back room, but even then it only lasted a year, as opposed to less than 6 months (my earlier boards). If you try covering the computer after using, the humidity condenses and causes corrosion at the contact points. The depressing part was not replacing the mother board (which I knew would happen again sooner or later), it was the fact that my still functional processor does not work in the new boards, and my RAM was still good but it no longer fits. Technology marches on, and I have to pay for it!

      In many parts of the world, the salt is not a problem. I think it is because of the high winds here, and the rough ocean. Great to listen to, not great for computers. Oh well.

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      6 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      It never occurred to me that you could have technical difficulties. I figured either you were sick or on vacation, hoping for the latter. Isn't there some way to insulate the mother board and other computer guts from the salt air? There must be millions of coastal residents worldwide with the same problem.

      Thanks for noticing the improvements to my hubs. My son, the software engineer, came over a couple of Sundays ago and showed me how to do the stuff. I picked up on it pretty quickly. I needed to see it done; I just can't wrap my mind around it by reading instructions.

      Not only did he get me up and running to more attractive hubs, he and his wife took my wife and me out to dinner as a thank you for when I babysat his cat while they were on vacation. It was a two-fer Sunday! Woohoo.

      I've got 40-odd hubs now and all but a couple of them have been edited to include the improvements made possible by my new-found skills. I should have them all done pretty soon.

      Now that I'm such an accomplished techie, maybe I can turn my attention to solving the "salito subversion." :)

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks for the great response. My entire computer was ruined from the "salito", heavy salt content in the air ruined my mother board, and since I had built it myself I had to replace the processor and RAM. One of the bad parts about living here, of course, is that none of that is available here so I had to have it all shipped in from another part of the country. Expensive, too.

      Oh well, at least it gave me an excuse to get back to my carpentry!

      Congrats on the improved format, by the way. I see you have your 1000 page views! You will be up to 10,000 before you know it!!!

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      6 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hey DrMark welcome back!! You had me activity for several days. I figured maybe you were on vacation. The dilemma: where does one go for vacation when one lives on The Beach of Brazil!

      I have read your hubs and know you're very much into supplements. I would guess that some nutrients are lost during the cooking process, although some are added after that, according to various manufacturers.

      I just think people can go crazy with them sometimes, and if their pet is on a high quality commercial food I would have more confidence in the vitamin and mineral package.

      The raw trachea must be a real treat. It's a great source of chondroitin. I don't know how much chondroitin is in the dried, smoked trachea we sell in pet stores. I would guess not a whole lot. Owners can buy raw frozen, though.

      I have a friend who sells a ridiculously expensive chocolate...for healthful reasons, they say...and the big selling point is the acai berry that's in it. I'm a chocoholic, but in remission due to T2 diabetes, and would love to eat my way to health through chocolate. Sigh...

      I used to think that pet parents should only supplement when nutritional disorders or deficiencies present themselves, but I've learned from you that they also have a preventive role.

      Thanks for stopping by, it's great to have you back, and thanks for the votes. Regards, Bob

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      I´m definitely into supplements--did you see my article on dog food supplements? I give my dog dendê (palm oil) for vitamin E, acerola for vitamin C (antioxidant), açai, and I buy trachea and give it to her raw (despite those idiots at the AVMA). Having seen dog food, even premium food, at the time of production, I am sure they are always deficient. Maybe not enough to kill your pet; the deficiencies in premium food are just enough to make animals do poorly.

      Great article Bob, voted up and interesting!

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      6 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Rachel, nice of you to weigh in. I agree with your last line but not everyone has the time or even the inclination to cook for their dogs. Unless one is really committed, there's always a chance of slacking off a bit and not providing a nutritionally complete and balanced diet.

      Until last October I owned a feed and grain store and did business with a lot of PA companies...King of Prussia, Souderton, Hazelton, Easton, and I'd attend a trade show every February in Hershey. Nice country down there! Thanks for stopping by. Regards, Bob

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota

      Nice hub! Voted this one up. Low-quality animal feed should be supplemented for sure. Horses do best on good pasture and with access to a salt and mineral lick. For my dog, I prefer to cook. Natural is always better than artificial.

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      6 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Trish, nice to see you. If the pet food says it's formulated to be complete and balanced, I'd be confident about the vitamin/mineral package. But, in the low-end food you refer to, one might have to supplement for skin and coat because of ingredients such as wheat.

      Some canned foods, labeled as "topping" or for "supplemental feeding," are not complete and balanced and should not be fed exclusively.

      With the high end foods you referred to one would not likely have to supplement if the animal's general health is good. Supplementing in that case could contribute to what vets call over-nutritionalization, which could lead to nutritional disorders.

      Thanks for stopping by. Regards, Bob

    • Trish303 profile image


      6 years ago from Springfield, MO

      With dogs and cats, yes because of the food on the market dose not have all the vitamins they need. If you keep there diet full natural meats, fish and vegetables, or feed a organic food then you may not need to use a supplement. If you are like on the other hand and buy your pet food at wal-mart or other stores like that then you might need to. I would ask your vet and see if your pets needs a supplement.


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