Many people, including veterinarians, believe that processed commercial pet foods have all the nutrients dogs and cats need for good health. As they begin to realize that excessive processing destroys nutrients, they may switch to better quality or fresher foods. But even when these diets contain a full complement of vitamins, minerals and other required nutrients, there’s still room for improvement. In fact, no matter what type of food you feed your companion, a few specific supplements will complement and improve his diet. Animalwellness.com gives us the top 4 most important supplements for your pet!
1. OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play many roles in the body, but only two fatty acids are considered essential: linoleic acid (LA, an Omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, an Omega-3). All others can, at least theoretically, be produced in the body from those two precursors.
The vast majority of plant-based oils are in the form of Omega-6 fatty acids, which are typically over-supplied in our animals’ diets. Flaxseeds and a few other seeds and nuts do contain Omega-3 in the form of ALA, which has beneficial effects of its own, particularly on skin and coat health. However, even though ALA is technically a precursor of EPA and DHA, dogs and especially cats have extremely limited capacity for converting it (no more than 1% to 2% for EPA and virtually 0% for DHA after weaning). Only marine-sourced oils (fish oil, cod liver oil, krill oil, greenlipped mussel oil, and some algae oils) contain the pre-formed EPA and DHA that our carnivorous companions can absorb and utilize. Dogs and cats must receive EPA and DHA directly.
2. DIGESTIVE ENZYMES
Digestive enzymes break down foods so they can be absorbed and utilized by the body. When food is not properly broken down, larger particles can enter the bloodstream and set off an immune response that may lead to inflammation, allergies, and other chronic health problems. Digestive enzymes also improve digestion, reduce gas, help regulate weight, and in the case of proteolytic enzymes, decrease inflammation throughout the body.
Normally, the pancreas supplies these needed digestive enzymes, although production slows as animals get older. Raw foods contain many enzymes, including an array of digestive enzymes within cellular lysosomes.
Probiotics include beneficial bacteria such as L. acidophilus and certain Bifidobacteria, Enterococcus and Streptococcus species. Probiotics help keep normal gut bacteria balanced and healthy.
Supplemental probiotics have benefits for allergies, including atopy and food allergies. They are also helpful for animals with any type of digestive problem, including vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, IBD, colitis, and even hairballs.
The function of antioxidants is to scavenge and neutralize oxygen free radicals. Cells make controlled quantities of free radicals as weapons against viruses, fungi, bacteria and abnormal cells. However, excess unbalanced free radicals create oxidative stress, which can damage normal cells and create chronic inflammation. Processed pet foods are typically high in pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids, so supplementing with antioxidants is very important.
Free radical damage is at the root of virtually all degenerative and inflammatory diseases, as well as many we don’t necessarily think of as involving inflammation, such as diabetes, cancer, hypothyroidism, heart disease, and cognitive dysfunction. By reducing oxidative stress, antioxidants likely have value in disease prevention as well as treatment. However, the mechanisms are complex, and robust scientific proof is still lacking. Nevertheless, antioxidants can universally be considered helpful for most inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases.
Incorporating these four supplement categories into your dog or cat’s diet regime, regardless of what food he’s eating, will help ensure optimal overall health. Speak with our knowledgeable staff at the Brookside Barkery for more information on the type of food your pet should be eating.