The biggest changes in health care and nutrition in Pets.
If I was asked about the biggest changes in health care and nutrition since I started practicing twenty years ago, dietary supplements and nutraceuticals would be one of the first things that came to mind. When I graduated veterinary school there were virtually no vitamins or supplements for pets, and even for people the product range was limited. These days there seems to be a supplement for whatever ails you, from anti-aging to vitality, both for humans and for our furry four legged friends.
And I do think there is valid science and definite health benefits behind a number of these supplements, but I also think with the explosion in range of products there’s also been a few whose benefits are questionable, and it’s important to sort out what works from what’s just hype.
Firstly, I believe that one of the cornerstones to good health is a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet. Whether it’s raw or cooked, home-made or commercial, a good diet is vital for the health of your pet, and no supplement or vitamin pill will ever replace what a bad diet lacks. However, some supplements and add additional benefits that we can’t easily get from normal diets.
Some of the areas that supplements are most beneficial include arthritis and joint pain, skin health and age-related issues.
Arthritis, Joint Stiffness and Back Pain.
Arthritis is possibly the most common issue I see in dogs in Hong Kong, and it’s unfortunately also all too common in cats. One of the biggest misconceptions is that arthritis or joint pain only occurs in older animals – one of my dogs started limping at six months old due to hip issues.
The good joint supplements contain nutraceuticals which help nourish and lubricate the joint surface, reducing wear and tear, improving function, stimulating healing and reducing pain and stiffness. I prefer the joint supplements which contain glucosamine or glycosaminoglycans, such as green lipped mussel, and recent research has shown that these are the most effective of the arthritis supplements. There are a number of good products, such as Technyflex , Missing Link and Glycoflex .
These products are excellent in mature dogs and cats who have stiff and aching joints, but are also an excellent preventative strategy and are very useful for young dogs at risk of developing joint problems in later life, such as Labradors, Retrievers and Shepherds.
One other area where these supplements can really help is dogs and cats prone to back pain. The glycoasminoglycans help strengthen the intervertebral discs and stabilise the back. One of my favourites for back pain is Vetri-Disc.
Skin health is also a key issue in Hong Kong, and an area where supplementation can really help. Supplementation with Omega-3 oils, such as Nutravet-NutraCoat and NatureVet-Unsecnted Salmon Oil, have clear benefits for the skin and coat, reducing itching and irritation whilst improving the skin barrier. And the great thing about Omega-3’s is that they also help boost immunity, reduce inflammation and help with general health. It is my feeling that all pets (and maybe people) will benefit from an Omega 3 supplement.
Brewers yeast is another popular skin supplement, which has been shown to improve the coat and hair growth, as well as nourishing a healthy skin barrier. Cocotherapy-Coconut oil has also developed a real following in recent years, and many people have mentioned good results with allergies and dry skin – although I do prefer to give coconut oil in the food rather than apply directly on the skin.
I also find real benefits in starting older animals on supplements. There are often specific needs, such as arthritis, liver or kidney issues, and we can tailor a supplement plan specifically for these pets. In a general sense, I think again that Omega 3’s supplements are an excellent choice in older dogs, along with a resveratrol supplement such as Resvantage to help reduce oxidative stress and age-related deterioration. Lastly, I think Ling Zhi can be very useful in older pets to help prevent cancer and maintain immune function.
Supplements are also useful in a number of other conditions, including:
- Anxiety ( Vetri Science-Compousre Pro, NatureVet-Quiet Moment)
- Digestion (NaturVet-HairBall Catnip Gel, VetriScience - GI Balance PRO)
- Urinary tract health (Nutravet - Nutraease (Healthy Urinary Tract for Dogs & Cats)
- Dental issues ( VetriScience - Perio Support PRO Oral Care , Vetri Science - Coenzyme Q10 )
- Cardiac heatlh ( VetriScience - Cardio Strength , Vetri Science - Coenzyme Q10 )
- Behaviour ( NaturVet - Bitter YUCK! No Chew Spray for Dogs & Cats)
Supplements can be an excellent way to improve health and function, and reducing reliance on drugs and medications. Of course I feel these supplements should always be used sensibly and appropriately, and as part of a balanced and healthy diet. If you’d like any more information please let us know and we’re happy to help.