When we got our first dog, I lived in the suburbs, had a part-time job, three very active boys under 8 y.o., and a husband who was on the road 80% of the time. Needless to say, I was busy beyond belief.
So, the topic of how and what to feed Cody was never high on my agenda. Dry food is convenient and easy to use - dry food it is! We were first-time dog parents and just went ahead with a popular and widely available commercial brand our breeder had recommended.
Unfortunately, Cody developed some digestive issues later in life which forced us to do extensive research, and eventually, upgrade his food. Although it was a different brand, our choice was still small, dry pellets of processed food, also known as kibble.
Granted, dry food is a quick and viable option for busy families like mine but it has some drawbacks: lack of digestive enzymes that are found in raw foods, too few essential fatty acids, lack of variety, and oftentimes, lots of grains that many dogs’ digestive systems are ill-equipped to handle.
However, there are ways to compensate – just use the very best kibble you can find, and supplement your dog’s diet to ensure he or she gets adequate nutrition.
According to the FDA, most dogs in the United States receive a complete and balanced diet - including necessary vitamins and minerals - from commercially processed dog food.
If we are to believe manufactures, they make these foods to contain everything a dog needs, so why give them anything extra? The answer is, simply because what is now called an adequate dosage may not be the optimum dosage.
Many people (including a growing number of veterinarians) feel that the values set forth by the National Research Council for minimum daily requirements of vitamins for dogs are inadequate.
As humans, we know that the minimum daily requirement is not necessarily the optimum daily dosage. It is just the minimum that is required to keep signs of major deficiencies from appearing.
Same goes for dogs. It’s difficult to show deficiencies from these things, because our four-legged companions don’t die, they can still have puppies, they look pretty healthy, they have roughly the same lifespan. However, when a dog is deficient in a certain nutrient, and he begins to receive the optimum dosage of that nutrient, his health will visibly improve.
Sometimes, correcting a deficiency of even a very small nutrient will make improvements in dogs that already seem fairly healthy. Very often you will see that their coats have a better sheen to it, a little bit of dandruff might go away, there is an extra spring in their step.
Generally, giving a dog who eats standard commercial foods a vitamin supplement – one that contains no “mega doses” of any nutrients – can be a good idea. However, there are several
important things to consider:
Look for whole food supplements. Unlike their synthetic counterparts, whole food dog supplements are made from entire plants with the whole complex intact.
More is not necessarily better. Anyone artificially supplementing their pet with certain nutrients should be careful – especially, if you are using the maximum recommended amounts. Giving too much can cause the pet to cease its own production of the nutrient.
For instance, dogs manufacture their own vitamin C. If you feed a dog a maximum dose of vitamin C daily, the dog will stop making its own vitamin C. And if you were to suddenly stop that maximal dose, you might even see a temporary case of scurvy!
Read the labels on food and on any potential dog supplements, and always look to your dog for cues.
Another common situation where dog parents inadvertently over-supplement is when they feed their dogs one of the “kitchen sink” supplements (as we like to call the ones that have everything you have ever heard of in them), and then feed additional single-ingredient supplements as well.
You have to read all the fine print, go over the ingredients to make sure that you are not over-supplementing.
Choose wisely. Even the most responsible, well-intentioned dog owners can find intelligent and appropriate supplementation rather challenging. Everything one reads these days says give this oil or give that herb – ginger, turmeric, vitamins, yeast - the list goes on and on.
But what should we really give our dogs on a regular basis?
If you believe everything the sources say, you would have to give your poor pupper over a dozen pills or supplements a day! Even if you have the best reasons in the world for adding so many things to your dog’s diet, you will run into certain problems.
For example, you can make a dog refuse to eat if his meals are overly laden with all sorts of supplements. Also, you can cause digestive upset – nausea, vomiting or diarrhea – with a lot of supplements.
The good news is you don’t have to give your dog 12 pills a day. When considering giving dog supplements, you have to ask yourself, “What is going on with Buddy?” and prioritize the issues. IF YOUR DOG IS LESS THAN SIX YEARS OLD, seems basically healthy and your major concern is his general well-being and disease prevention,
there are just a few things we would recommend
Fatty acids, especially the Omega-3 fatty acids, are often lacking in prepared foods, and are helpful for many conditions, including any skin and heart problems, cancer prevention, circulation, and problems with the nails.
Omega-3 by Pawsomely Healthy contains fish oil from wild cold-water fish to deliver the most authentic and nutritionally effective form of fish oil. Unlike many omega-3 supplements, our Omega-3 has a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, an essential "good" type of fat that helps your dog’s body and brain.
Another very effective ingredient that is naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, is Green Lipped Mussel. Stabilized and freeze-dried, this giant mussel from New Zealand is also rich in natural proteins, glucosamine, chondroitin, zinc, and magnesium, which are beneficial for joint, heart, eyes, skin, bone, and brain health.
It is always advantageous to add antioxidants, especially vitamin C. Vitamin C has numerous benefits and can help fight many diseases and prevent other health conditions, just keep in mind what we mentioned earlier about potential dangers of giving the maximum dose.
Other types of supplements that are helpful for dogs are digestive enzymes and probiotics - most dogs do better if they have the digestive enzymes all the time while probiotics should be added occasionally.
IF YOUR DOG IS MORE THAN SIX YEARS OLD, now would be the time to start thinking about warding off degenerative conditions (arthritis and joint problems) that start happening at about that time. Consider adding a glucosamine supplement to your dog’s daily diet.
As with anything else, it’s important to talk with your pet’s veterinarian before starting any kind of supplement or vitamin for dogs. Be wary of claims that sound too good to be true.
Remember, vitamins supplements are just that - supplements. They are not cure-alls or medications. To address a health condition, ask your vet for prescription supplements that can help.