Let’s talk supplement basics. It is overwhelming to walk into the supplement aisle at the pet store, feed store or tack shop and even more so when you look up animal supplements on line. So many names, choices and types can leave you unable to make a choice that you feel confident in. While we, of course, recommend Emerald Valley products, we also want you to make the right choice for you and your pet’s needs. We have compiled some of the most commonly asked questions about dog supplements and provided information here for you to be informed and able to supplement your dog’s diet with the right product.
What is a supplement?
A supplement, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.” To take it further, the FDA defines a dietary supplement as “a vitamin, mineral; herb or other botanical; amino acid; dietary substance for use to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake.” A supplement is not a medication, a cure or a treatment for symptoms. Instead, a supplement focuses on addressing the root of a problem and/or provides nutrients for the body to get healthy or stay healthy. It supports the body’s own processes that already occur to keep things in working order.
What are the benefits of using supplements for my dog?
There are many benefits of using supplements for your dog and each specific supplement has its own unique benefits as well. Adding a supplement to your dog’s diet adds vitamins, minerals, enzymes, essential fatty acids, glucosamine or nutrients that his diet may be lacking. Your dog’s food could be missing many if not most of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients he needs due to poor quality or how it is processed. Many nutrients are depleted or made unstable when exposed to heat or air during processing. Your dog may also have unknown digestive issues or an unstable gut causing him to not get the most out of his feed. In this case, even buying the most expensive and high quality food won’t give your dog what his body needs to stay healthy. Adding a supplement not only puts nutrients and vitamins back, it can provide the body with what it needs to heal itself and help the body’s own healing abilities. A vet visit alone can cost a fortune, never mind the cost of the actual treatment. Supplements can support the body providing preventative/proactive care instead of expensive, reactive treatments that only treat the symptoms. Not to mention the many possible side effects of using NSAIDs such as decreased immune response, depressed appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure, liver failure, intestinal and stomach perforations, ulcers and more. Supplements are also safe for long term use unlike pharmaceutical drugs.
What are the most common types of supplements used for dogs?
General dog supplements are basic vitamins and minerals. They provide those that are missing from processed foods. Many feeds add synthetic vitamins, but they do not carry the same nutrients as when they are in their natural form.
Digestive enzymes help break down dog food so the food is metabolized easier and your dog gets more nutrients out of his food. Digestive enzymes are especially important for older dogs.
Joint supplements, most commonly Glucosamine, add the building blocks for new cartilage. Cartilage in the joints is constantly lost and regenerated throughout your dog’s life. However, as the dog ages, the process slows and the body does not have all that it needs in order to regenerate cartilage creating bone on bone contact. Some dogs are born with joint issues while others develop them with age, most commonly dogs over 7 years of age.
Probiotics supply the good bacteria that are depleted by a poor diet, antibiotic and steroid use, NSAIDs, surgery, medications, diarrhea, chlorinated water, artificial ingredients, preservatives, poor quality foods, toxins in food and the environment and stress. Probiotics aid in digestion, fight off pathogens, make nutrients and support the immune system. They aid in balancing the gut so that your dog gets the most out of his food and also help with vitamin and nutrient absorption. It is necessary to also supplement your dog’s diet with prebiotics as these nourish and promote the probiotics so that they can do their job.
Essential Fatty acids, Omega 3 and Omega 6, are fat carried nutrients that all mammals require to maintain healthy smooth muscle organs such as the heart and reproductive system. They also help to protect and build liver cells, maintain healthy skin, coat and joint tissues and are part of the development of the retina. Essential fatty acids support antioxidants as well as the synthesis of glands that mediate many processes in the body. Omega 3 is found in flax and animal fat while Omega 6 is found in vegetable sources, seed oils of borage and evening primrose. Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 are destroyed in the cooking, production and exposure to air of dog food.
Why choose liquids and powders over capsulated dog supplements?
A dog’s digestive system is much shorter than a human’s. Therefore, giving your dog a human supplement in capsule form is not going to meet their needs. The capsule will unlikely break down and be absorbed into the body before it ends up at the end of the digestive system. On average it takes a dog 4-6 hours to digest soft food and 8-10 hours to digest hard food. One could stand to reason that a liquid or powder would be digested much faster than a capsule based on these numbers. Liquids and powders also benefit the entire digestive tract as they are absorbed throughout the digestive process where as a capsule is only beneficial to deeper parts of the GI tract where it is finally broken down. Liquid and powder supplements also allow for dose flexibility and accuracy as they are easily measured with a measuring cup or spoon. This way you know exactly how much your dog is receiving in each dose and have the ability to adjust to his individual needs. Liquids and powders are also easier to administer as they can be added to your dogs food instead of attempting to force him to swallow a pill. Liquid supplements have minimal processing so they more accurately reflect the characteristics of the plant and the nutrients are more bioavailable to the body. The nutrients are already dissolved and therefore will be absorbed easily into the bloodstream. They don’t contain binders and additional additives that are used to keep the capsule form but have no benefit to your dog’s health. Many pills contain up to 80% binders, fillers, chelating agents and film coatings.
How do you choose the right supplement?
When choosing a supplement for your dog, you will want to consult your vet. Discuss what your dog might benefit from or what he may be missing in his diet. It is important to choose a supplement that is dog specific in that is has the correct dosage for a dog on the label. In order for a supplement to be most effective, you need to be sure to be giving the right amount; too much or too little can render it ineffective. The best supplements will be natural with no additives, fillers, artificial colors or preservatives. If they do contain additives, ask yourself: Why are these necessary? When selecting a liquid supplement, it is best to use one that is produced through percolation. It is the more difficult method but it is the best way to obtain the full range of chemicals in the plant.
The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) is the governing body of animal supplements and has very strict guidelines for making pet supplements. Choosing NASC approved supplements guarantees you that they have been tested for quality and authenticity and the manufacturer has gone through rigorous facility audits as well as frequent checks on all information they provide and the labeling of their products. Look for the NASC quality label when choosing a supplement for any and all of your pets. For more information about the NASC https://nasc.cc/
Check out Emerald Valley’s complete line of natural, NASC approved, liquid and powder canine supplements because we love dogs too!