The NAVC (North American Veterinary Community) conference was 5 days of learning and fun with a bonus trip to the Magic Kingdom. Overall I feel like there was a big focus on new pet supplements out on the market that can help support a healthy lifestyle for our pets. In general, pets fed a commercial pet food do not need any additional vitamins to round out their diet but there are some pet supplements one can give that may help our pets thrive.
The first is my all time favorite, a fish oil supplement for the omega 3 fatty acids. The lectures I attended at NAVC confirmed my belief that all pets regardless of age should be on a fish oil supplement. For growing puppies and kittens the DHA component of fish oil is critical to brain development and has been clinically shown to help with learning in both people and pets. In adult and senior pets fish oil is good for every body system acting as an anti-inflammatory in joints, protecting brain cells during aging and supporting organ function in the heart, kidneys and liver.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Another staple is a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement. This combination has long been recommended for older dogs we suspect have arthritis to help protect and repair the cartilage. In addition to the glucosamine and chondroitin there are many new additives that help repair cartilage and decrease inflammation such as green-lipped muscles, Boswellia extract, and avocado/soybean unsaponifiables.
But why are we waiting to start it after clinical signs of arthritis have set in? Instead we should be more proactive by starting these supplements in pets that are at risk such as large breed dogs that are predisposed to arthritis of the hips or those with known orthopedic issues such as toy poodles with luxating patellas (knee caps). Overweight cats would also benefit from this type of pet supplement, as their joints are not made to carry all those additional pounds.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
I attended another fascinating lecture about weight loss in senior cats and the connection with vitamin B12 deficiency. The veterinarian giving the lecture presented findings of his most recent research that showed many of these older kitties are experiencing low grade inflammation and bacterial overgrowth in their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts that results in decreased nutritional absorption and weight loss. Perhaps a majority of senior kitties should be supplemented with a B12 vitamin and a probiotic to help improve the health of their GI tract. Since seventy percent of the body’s immune system is located in the GI tract it makes sense to keep this body system functioning well in order to maintain systemic health.
Senior Pets and Dementia
Finally, for senior pets, there are many pet supplements that claim to help repair normal aging changes to brain cells that can lead to dementia. I have noticed a decline over the last 6 months in my fourteen-year-old rat terrier Sparkle. She gets confused easily and is definitely not as sharp as she used to be. If these supplements could help prevent additional changes or even restore some of the function she has lost that would be ideal to keep her as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
There are a lot of products out there with fantastic and often unfounded claims so one must be selective in what they choose to give their pets. You should speak with your veterinarian about what he or she recommends for your pet. I know that I will be reevaluating what I am giving my crew to hopefully improve their health and well-being.
Ashley Gallagher, DVM