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Does your pet need nutritional supplements?

Supplements may not be needed in every case. Diet, regular exercise and medical care are important for your pets

 Do pets actually benefit from supplements, and, if they do, to what extent?
Do pets actually benefit from supplements, and, if they do, to what extent? (iStockphoto)

I frequently see pet parents making it a point to inquire about nutritional supplements for their pets.

This increased interest is due to a significant change in the philosophy towards caring for pets. There are several reasons for this. First, there is a better understanding of pet nutrition and health. Second, as the number of pet owners rises, more people are looking for ways to give their companions a holistic and enriching lifestyle. Third, there is, in some circumstances, a need for supplements made specifically to treat issues of joint health, skin and coat disorders, digestive problems, cognitive function and anxiety. Additionally, it has become simpler to buy supplements thanks to the availability of reliable brands and increasing access to information through internet platforms.

It’s crucial, however, to recognise that more research is still needed to properly understand their function within the context of pet nutrition. For instance, are supplements necessary for all pets? Do pets actually benefit, and, if they do, to what extent?

Also Read: How to figure out the best diet for your pet

Take the store-bought calcium supplements frequently given to puppies. Excellent marketing has led pet owners to believe their puppies won’t grow properly without these. This isn’t always the case, though. If a puppy is fed age-appropriate food from a reputable brand, calcium is already present in it. If home-cooked meals are balanced and prepared with the assistance of a trained pet nutritionist or veterinarian, this supplement may be more harmful and negatively impact bone development, especially in large-breed puppies. The same holds true for multivitamins. If administered in excess, fat-soluble vitamins D and E can be harmful.

That said, pet parents should look out for signs of deficiency in growing pets. Obsessive eating of walls or one’s faeces are common indicators of mineral deficiency. In such cases, it could be necessary to supplement with a multi-mineral supplement that contains calcium. Consult a veterinarian on the nutrients your puppy or kitten requires.

I frequently suggest omega-oil supplements. Essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 are known to support healthy skin, lessen itching and inflammation, and enhance the coat’s general condition. They have anti-inflammatory effects that reduce joint pain in ageing dogs or cats with arthritis. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid, is essential for maintaining brain health and functionality. It promotes learning, memory and general brain growth.

Also Read: 4 reasons why your dog needs more toys

So, pets of all ages can benefit from an omega-oil supplement. It promotes healthy skin, avoids recurrent skin infections, aids in the mental development of puppies and kittens, and improves the cognitive abilities of elderly pets.

Prebiotics and probiotics are currently generating considerable interest. All living things have probiotics, helpful microorganisms, in their digestive tracts. The efficiency of probiotics increases significantly when combined with soluble fibre and prebiotics. Prebiotics improve the likelihood of probiotic effectiveness by specifically promoting the growth of the beneficial bacteria already present in the pet’s gut. Regular use of these supplements reduces the likelihood of gastrointestinal issues.

There are numerous herbal, calming supplements for anxiety. But treating anxiety-related issues with supplements alone is insufficient. Long-term treatments include behaviour modification and conditioning. Many herbal treatments can even interact with other medications your pet might be taking. Consult your veterinarian before introducing any of these supplements.

Also Read: Would you switch to insect-based pet food?

Joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate do help older pets with arthritis to some extent. However, relying just on supplements is not a solution; even dogs with arthritis require frequent exercise and physiotherapy to manage their condition.

What’s important, then, is to ensure your pet’s health and happiness by establishing a balance between a good diet, regular exercise and good medical care.

Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai.

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