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Pet Supplements


To supplement or not to supplement is a long-standing question among pet owners.

Some people don't supplement their pet's diet as they feel their dog or cat obtains all of their nutrients from the foods they eat. Others choose to supplement due to the polluted nature of the environment, low mineral levels in the soil and variability in individual needs. With some pets, supplements may be provided to protect against certain diseases or to improve chronic health conditions.

Vitamins and Minerals
Dogs and cats need vitamins for normal body functions, mental alertness, and resistance to infection. Vitamins enable the body to process proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Certain vitamins also help produce blood cells, hormones, genetic material and chemicals in the nervous system. Vitamins and minerals don't provide energy (calories); however, they help the body release and use calories from food. There are two categories of vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are stored in the body's fat. Some fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A and D, can accumulate in the body and reach toxic levels. Water-soluble vitamin C, choline, biotin and the seven B vitamins: thiamin (B-1), riboflavin (B-2), niacin (B-3), pantothenic acid (B-5), pyridoxine (B-6), folic acid/folate (B-9) and cobalamin (B-12) are stored to a lesser extent than fat-soluble vitamins.

Minerals needed in larger amounts include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride. Calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium are important in the development and health of bones and teeth. Sodium, potassium, and chloride, known as electrolytes, are important in regulating the water and chemical balance in the body. In addition, smaller amounts of chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc are necessary for normal growth and health.

The right balance of vitamins and minerals is essential as prolonged deficiencies can cause specific diseases or conditions. On the other hand, inappropriate supplementation can upset the body's nutrient balance and may even interfere with the absorption of other nutrients. For example, supplements with extremely high calcium can interfere with absorption of iron, zinc, and manganese. Excessive zinc can interfere with iron and copper absorption. Some vitamins, such as vitamins A and D can build up in the body's tissues and cause illness when they are taken in high amounts in a supplement.

Why Supplement Your Pet's Diet?
While it is commonly agreed that food is the best source for nutrients, a wholesome raw diet does not necessarily mean that your pet is getting optimal amounts of the nutrients he or she needs. When nutrients are not present in the soil, they cannot be present in foods. The food chain plays an important role in the nutrition of your pet. For instance, plants take up nutrients from the soil, grazing or browsing animals get their nutrients from the plants and carnivores obtain their nutrient requirements from both the plants and animals they consume. Healthy bodies are connected to healthy soil. If any element is inadequate in the soil, it will also be inadequate in the foods your pet eats and he or she may not be properly nourished. Unfortunately, modern methods of agriculture are not only depleting the soil of precious minerals, they are also destroying the ability of plants to be able to utilize these elements. Consequently, food is often nutritionally deficient right from the start.

Historically, nutritional deficiencies were only recognized if they actually manifested as diseases. If a dog or cat had no overt symptoms or disease, they were regarded as healthy. Today, we are beginning to recognize mild and moderate nutritional deficiencies, the symptoms of which may be often subtle. Many times these symptoms are taken for granted as being part of the aging process when in fact they may be signs that respond to nutrient supplementation and/or dietary improvements.

Supplementation not only protects against deficiency but also bridges the gap between average nutrition and optimum nutrition. The extra nutrients that supplements provide prevents free radicals from harming healthy cells, speeds the repair and regeneration of damaged cells, and facilitates renewal. The upshot of all this is a longer, healthier, more vital life for your pet.

Whole foods have nutritional benefits you can't find in a pill. Whole foods are complex, meaning they contain a variety of the nutrients your dog or cat needs not just one. For example, raw meaty bones supply calcium but also phosphorus, magnesium, and other nutrients. A calcium supplement may lack these other nutrients. If you give your pet only calcium supplements and skip raw meaty bones, you may be short-changing him or her on all the other nutrients needed for a healthy skeletal system.

Supplements made from chemicals can never compare favourably with what nature created. Although chemists maintain synthetic vitamins and minerals are identical to natural sources, synthetic supplements are a combination of some of the separate factors, rather than the whole complex of synergistic factors found in nature.

There are many individual and combined blends of concentrated whole food supplements available to help dogs and cats maintain peak health. These nutrient-dense "superfoods" include spirulina, kelp, dulse and other sea vegetables as well as young cereal grasses such as wheat, barley, and alfalfa. Naturally derived, they contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, co-enzymes, phytochemicals, and other important compounds. With these types of supplements, the body can choose to assimilate its needs and excrete what it does not need. This is referred to as "selective absorption". In contrast, fractionated or synthetic supplements allow no choice - the body must deal with the chemical in some manner and may suffer consequences of biochemical imbalances and toxicity.

Whole Food Supplements
Dulse is a sea vegetable that grows in the region of shore line found between high and low tides, along North Atlantic and Northwest Pacific coastlines. Dulse is a rich source of iron, potassium, iodine, and vitamin B-6 and dietary fiber. It provides a complete array of minerals, trace elements, enzymes, and phytochemicals, as well as some high-quality vegetable protein. The organic content of dulse is composed of about 25% protein and 26% trace elements. Dulse is particularly rich in potassium, magnesium, iodine and vitamins B, B12, C and D. Dulse is useful as an antioxidant, as a tonic for skin problems, vitamin deficiencies and it is also traditionally used to treat worms.

Kelp is a valuable source of iron, sodium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, selenium, silicon, sulfur and calcium, as well as magnesium and potassium. It is a source of vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D and E, plus amino acids. Kelp contains iodine, which is essential for the production of the hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine, which are required for the maintenance of metabolic rate, cellular metabolism, and the integrity of connective tissue. Kelp has been recognized for its anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and immune enhancing properties and also for its ability to cleanse the digestive tract. Kelp has a unique detoxifying capacity to help remove pollutants. It improves digestion and promotes healthy skin and coats. Kelp increases the utilization of all the nutrients in the diet, which is important for maintaining the health of your dog!

Alfalfa is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Specifically, alfalfa contains vitamins A, D, E, K, C, B1, B2, B6, B12, niacin, pantothenic acid, inositol, biotin, and folic acid. Alfalfa also contains the following minerals: phosphorus, calcium, potassium, sodium, chlorine, sulfur, magnesium, copper, manganese, iron, cobalt, boron, and molybdenum and trace elements. The plant has been used as a treatment for anemia and loss of appetite. Alfalfa alkalizes and detoxifies the body, especially the liver. It is good for colon disorders and promotes pituitary gland function. Because of the estrogenic effects of some of alfalfa's components, alfalfa is not recommended during pregnancy.

Wheat Grass and Barley Grass are complete superfoods rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Cereal grasses offer a powerful protective effect on cellular aging and aid immune function. In addition to a wide variety of nutrients, cereal grasses offer digestive enzymes. Also present is the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) and the special fraction P4D1. Both of these substances slow cellular deterioration and mutation and are therefore useful in the treatment of degenerative disease and in the reversal of aging. SOD is a powerful antioxidant enzyme found in healthy cells, protecting the body against the damaging effects of free radicals. The enzyme P4D1 works by stimulating the renewal of RNA/DNA and also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Cereal grasses control the growth of unwanted micro-organisms, detoxify the liver and deodorize the gastro-intestinal tract. They also offer a potent combination of effects to help overcome inflammation.The high chlorophyll content of cereal grasses makes them a useful blood tonic/builder.

Spirulina is gaining more and more attention from medical scientists as a nutraceutical and source of potential pharmaceuticals. Spirulina contains the most remarkable concentration of nutrients known in any food, plant, or herb. It is a rich source of beta-carotene, vitamin B-12, iron and trace minerals and the essential fatty acid GLA. These make spirulina a great whole food alternative to isolated vitamin and minerals. Spirulina acts as a functional food, feeding beneficial intestinal flora, especially Lactobacillus and Bifidus. Maintaining a healthy population of these bacteria in the intestine reduces potential problems from opportunistic pathogens like E. coli and Candida albicans. Studies show when spirulina is added to the diet, beneficial intestinal flora increase.

This tiny aquatic plant is loaded with unique phytonutrients like phycocyanin, polysaccharides, sulfolipids and it is rich in natural carotenoid antioxidants that promote cellular health. Spirulina has gained attention from medical scientists as a nutraceutical and source of potential pharmaceuticals. A number of animal studies by immunologists at UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center have shown spirulina to be an effective immunomodulator (an agent that can effect the behavior of immune cells.) In rats, spirulina inhibited allergic reactions by suppressing the release of histamine in a dose-dependent fashion. In cats, spirulina enhanced the ability of macrophages to engulf bacteria, and in chickens, spirulina increased antibody responses and the activity of natural killer cells, which destroy infected and cancerous cells in the body.

Whole foods are still the primary source of all nutrients; however, concentrated food supplements rate a close second. If you decide to supplement your pet's diet, do ensure the supplements you provide are in the best interest of his or her health. Keep in mind that nourishment found in nature comes "packaged" with an abundance of nutrients in an interrelated, balanced arrangement to ensure optimal absorption and use in the body. This is always the best way - Nature's way - of providing nutrition.