The pet supplement industry is not tightly regulated and consumers are relying heavily on veterinarian and marketer recommendations.
“Certain supplements for specific ailments can be very beneficial to cats,” said veterinarian Lorie Huston. “But they should be administered in moderate doses under the advice of a qualified veterinarian, and a premium diet should always be a first consideration prior to adding supplements.”
Strolling down the supplement aisle of a local pet store can leave customers overwhelmed with questions. For those who may be in need of an additional enzyme or vitamin, stocking an aisle by ailment can be helpful. The first rule is to ensure employees are well-educated on the subject of supplements.
“Pet owners ask if they should add multivitamin and mineral supplements to their pet’s diet to ensure that they get enough to meet their needs,” said Dr. Jennifer Deming, veterinarian for Zuke’s. “While it’s true that pets with special dietary requirements may indeed benefit from supplements, for the bulk of the pet population getting antioxidants directly from food is preferable.”
According to Tufts University, omega-3 fatty acids have a number of potential benefits in dogs and cats with heart disease, such as reducing inflammation and helping to protect against abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia). In most cases, supplements are needed to achieve the necessary dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
These supplements are best administered through treats or in a normal diet. Luckily, most cats enjoy fish oil, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids can also assist cats who may be having some skin issues, respiratory ailments can be alleviated with certain amino acids, and immunity can be boosted using a combination of supplements.
“Taurine is also quite commonly used to supplement cats with heart disease that do not have a documented taurine deficiency,” said Dr. Huston. “Evidence that this supplementation is helpful is anecdotal, but many veterinarians believe there may some benefit.”
If a cat suffers from occasional gastrointestinal upset, they might find some benefit from probiotics or digestive enzymes. FortiFlora from Purina Veterinary Diets is a supplement designed to help nutritionally manage intestinal and immune health in cats with chronic problems.
The Honest Kitchen introduced ProBloom last year, which is a shelf-stable instant goat’s milk with digestive enzymes and probiotics. Goat’s milk is a rich, complete source of protein including the amino acids leucine, threonine, tryptophan and lysine, as well as calcium, potassium and vitamins A, B2, B6, C and D. It rarely causes digestive upset because it contains slightly less lactose than cow’s milk and is more easily digested.
“ProBloom can be served alone, or used to hydrate The Honest Kitchen’s foods,” said Lucy Postins, The Honest Kitchen’s founder and CEO. Before selecting a probiotic, Dr. Huston recommends that customers, “…choose a probiotic that is formulated specifically for cats, because different species require different bacteria.”
Popular products for joint health, particularly in senior cats suffering from osteoarthritis, include glucosamine and chondroitin. Cosequin has been formulated especially for the support and maintenance of healthy joints. This reliable supplement contains a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin and comes in chicken and tuna flavors.
“Keeping your cat at an optimum weight is the most valuable thing you can do to help alleviate joint pain,” said Dr. Huston. “When giving your cat supplemental treats, be sure to deduct those calories from their regular diet.”
“All species can benefit from antioxidants,” said Susan Weiss, president of Ark Naturals. “We have grown an audience of senior dogs and cats and you typically don’t get to advanced years without some type of medical issue – be it life threatening, or not. When health is compromised, additional antioxidants are very necessary to help build, support, aid the animal’s immune system.”
Ark Naturals manufactures Nu-Pet Feline Antioxidant, which is formulated with the amino acids taurine, cycteine, glutathione – all of which are essential for cats. It is one of the few antioxidant products specifically formulated to meet the needs of cats and contains powerful “live” whole food phytonutrients that support your cat’s health with all known enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.
PureLife 4PETS is another supplement that focuses on antioxidants.
“Our patented key ingredient, Microhydrin, gives your pet the necessary protection he requires,” said Oscar Tenorio of PureLife 4PETS. “In order to protect against free radical damage, an abundant supply of electrons are needed to generate energy. Microhydrin provides the highest number of electrons of any antioxidant available to combat free radicals and provides your pet with the building blocks to produce energy on a cellular level.”
There are hundreds of natural remedies that have been in use for dozens of years within the pet industry. These natural remedies can benefit overall health.
“NUPRO Health Nuggets for Cats is a superior supplement formulated to provide your cat with the raw vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids and omega fatty acids that may be lacking in commercially processed cat foods,” said Janis Gianforte, founder of NUPRO. “NUPRO Health Nuggets for Cats is designed to boost your cat’s typical diet using whole, fresh, nutrient-rich ingredients that are health-store quality. They can be added to wet or dry food. If your cat prefers, the nuggets can be easily crushed and mixed with water or broth to make a delicious fish/liver gravy.”