Many of us have friends and family who take supplements on a regular basis, and some of us might even be taking some ourselves. Since our pets spend so much time with us, could they benefit from them as well?
Supplements, or nutraceuticals, are generally over-the-counter oral pills that can offer additional support for normal body function. They provide nutritional building blocks over and above that in regular diets and are typically purified from either animal or plant sources. While your vet may recommend these supplements for certain conditions, many are available without a prescription.
In humans, healthcare practitioners recommend supplements in instances where people are likely to be deficient in a particular nutrient. For example, the NHS suggests considering taking Vitamin D supplements over the winter. This is because our bodies are unlikely to be producing adequate amounts given the reduced levels of sunlight. Anecdotally, veterinary supplements offer the same benefits to animals. Here at Felcana, we take health seriously. This blog post aims to help owners like you make sense of all the supplements out there, and guide you in making the best decision for your furry friend.
Glucosamine is a compound that occurs naturally in the body and is vital for healthy cartilage and joints. It is probably the most widely used veterinary nutraceutical and is commonly recommended for dogs and cats with osteoarthritis (OA). In this painful condition, the joint cartilage undergoes degeneration and this can negatively affect our pets’ quality-of-life. Glucosamine tablets are usually purified from shellfish such as the green-lipped mussel and may be combined with other nutraceutical compounds into multi-supplement “joint-health” tablets. Veterinary clinical research has demonstrated benefits in OA and hence why they are recommended by many veterinary professionals. However, there are anti-inflammatories that have been clearly shown to relieve pain in OA and glucosamine should supplement, but never replace these drugs that your vet has prescribed.
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which the body uses as building blocks to synthesise anti-inflammatory compounds. This is the basis for their widespread use in conditions including OA, eye conditions and allergic skin disease.Like glucosamine, fish oil is being heavily researched, and has been proven to be useful in managing allergic skin disease in dogs. In itchy dogs with allergies, the protective skin barrier is poor and depleted, contributing to their dry and flaky skin. Fish oil provides the skin with high amounts of essential fatty acids and research has shown improvement in coat quality in these dogs. Your vet will prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs in the first instance to manage this disease. Again, fish oil should not be a replacement for these drugs and works best in conjunction with them.
L-theanine is an amino acid derived from green tea, and has been reported to have calming effects in anxious pets. Laboratory studies show that L-theanine modulates the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in the brain, and this is the basis of their supposed calming effect. L-theanine is recommended for use in times of stress, for example during fireworks season, thunderstorms, or exposure to unfamiliar people and experiences. This supplement has been shown to be very safe in animals, even at high doses.
A bit of spice?
Turmeric is a spice that is used in cooking and tastes great in curries. Turmeric contains a mixture of active ingredients and is sometimes recommended for conditions like canine hip dysplasia. There are laboratory studies that suggest turmeric has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-cancer effects. However, there have been occasional reports of upset stomachs after taking turmeric, and owners should be aware of this when considering this supplement.
In terms of other vitamins and minerals, deficiencies are uncommon if your pet is eating a commercial diet, which are formulated to be nutritionally complete. Some pet owners choose to prepare homemade meals instead, which can be a great way to bond with your furry friend. However, these diets are commonly deficient in essential nutrients if fed long-term and if you are doing so, always make sure that the recipe has been approved by a certified veterinary nutritionist.
Overall, supplements are very safe products for our pets and have little side effects if given at the recommended doses. Clinical research has yet to show strong benefits and pet owners must be aware of the limitations of these non-prescription supplements. At Felcana, we are committed to innovation in veterinary technology, and have joined forces with the Royal Veterinary College to support continued research into pet traits and behaviours. Our launch product, Felcana Go, tracks your pet’s activity levels and uses sophisticated algorithms to monitor their health. Choose the right supplement, combine it with Felcana’s wearable devices, and let’s give our pets longer, happier lives.
Please always remember to use supplements as directed by the manufacturers, and always consult your vet when in doubt.
This post was written by Daniel Low from the Royal Veterinary College.