health helpers: supplements for every life stage
Since 2002, the American Medical Association (AMA) has recommended that everyone, regardless of age or health, take a daily multivitamin. Recent surveys indicate that 89 percent of nurses and 72 percent of physicians take at least a daily multivitamin (vets weren’t asked in the study but I bet it’s pretty similar!).
What about pets? Should they be taking supplements? Advances in research say yes. Current estimates find that one in three pets receives a daily multivitamin or supplement, totaling close to $1.5 billion in sales.
But with so many choices, how can a pet parent decide what to give? How do you know if a supplement is safe and contains what it claims? These are important questions to ask in an age of food recalls and tainted imports.
For starters, do your homework. Ask your veterinarian for specific supplements and brand recommendations to best fit your pet’s needs. If they are unable to offer advice, look for third-party validation such as the ConsumerLab.com, United States Pharmacopeia, National Animal Supplement Council, Good Housekeeping’s Seal of Approval and others.
A supplement may be fine without these validations, but those that have gone through the rigors of testing are more likely to be better. And don’t think that the most expensive products are best. Studies have shown that even the most expensive brands can fail when it comes to quality. My best advice is to find a product you trust and continue to be vigilant. Today’s top choice may be tomorrow’s loser.
When it comes to giving your pet supplements, there are certain nutrients I believe every pet needs, especially as they enter new life stages.
Multivitamin – Just like people, pets can benefit from a daily dash of essential vitamins and nutrients. While many claim you don’t need multivitamins, take out this easy health insurance policy (but remember – this still doesn’t replace getting actual pet insurance!). Look for a multivitamin rich in B vitamins, Vitamin D and E and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (“Fish oils”) – Perhaps no other supplement has been as hyped as fish oils over the past five years. Believe the hype. There’s hardly a month that passes by without another study extolling the power of the fatty acids DHA and EPA. I encourage all dogs, cats and people to add DHA/EPA to their daily diet. Whether it’s to reduce the inflammation of arthritis, improve brain health, boost the immune system or aid kidney function, this supplement packs a healthy punch.
Probiotics – Seems as though they’re adding bacteria to everything! Recent research has shown how important those tiny bugs found throughout our bodies are. Once incorrectly thought of as “good” and “bad” bacteria, we’re now learning they’re all essential for health. I recommend that all pets be given probiotics. Look for a product with at least one billion bacteria and containing strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Glucosamine/Chondroitin – For creaky joints! Many breeds of dogs (Labs and Retrievers, Bulldogs, Shepherds, etc) and some cats (Persian, Maine Coon, Devon Rex) have a high risk of developing arthritis. For this reason I recommend all at-risk dogs and cats take a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement. Dogs over age 7, cats over age 12 and overweight pets certainly benefit from the joint support this supplement provides.
SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) – As pets age, liver and brain function may falter. SAMe is a supplement that helps both. SAMe helps protect these vital tissues from oxidative damage and may even help reduce some of the personality changes seen in many older pets. I advise my pet patients over age 9 to take a daily SAMe supplement as part of an antioxidant longevity program.
The key to helping your pet live a longer, more vital life is though nutrition and lifestyle. While modern pet foods have certainly helped, the science of nutrition and longevity are teaching us that we need to do more. Talk with your veterinarian about simple supplements that can help your pet enjoy optimal health for many years to come. Feed your veggies, take a walk and don’t forget your supplements!