Posts Tagged ‘Vitamins
Natural Pet Supplements. Or Synthetic?
After they get over the mental hurdle of accepting that, yes, pets too can benefit from dietary supplements, pet owners are faced with an important decision.
Natural or synthetic supplements?
There are proponents for both types, and the debate continues. But, understanding some of the important distinctions between the two can help these new buyers make informed choices.
Natural or ‘whole food’ supplements are generally made from plant matter such as vegetables, fruits, beans and grains, and animal byproducts like fish oil. Pumpkin seed, for example, part of a natural supplement for female dogs, is high in many vitamins and essential minerals, with many specific functional benefits.
Synthetic supplements, on the other hand, are typically created in chemical laboratories and are often derived from sources like coal tars, ground rocks, shells, and petroleum derivatives. Many use fillers and binding agents, as well as artificial food colorings and flavors. Consequently, they’re somewhat cheaper to make than natural supplements, but one would have to admit, not very appetizing at first glance.
No problem, defenders of synthetics would say. Their molecular structure is identical to the active ingredients in whole foods that they are designed to mimic.
But it’s not that simple. A synthetic vitamin stands in isolation from other components that one finds in whole food supplements. It’s all alone, in other words, without the co-factors nature builds into food sources.
Take our pumpkin seed example, an ingredient in a natural canine multivitamin from Vet’s Best. What makes it so attractive as a multi-vitamin is its complex system of trace minerals, macro minerals, amino acids, and bioflavonoid present in every seed. Advocates of whole food supplements say it’s precisely this interaction of elements that make natural supplements superior to synthetics.
Why? Ultimately, the effectiveness of the supplement is directly related to your pet’s ability to absorb it. The interplay of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids in a supplement determine its bioavailability, the degree to which your pet’s digestive system can utilize the active ingredients.
Much evidence points to the simple fact that natural supplements have better bioavailability than synthetic ones. The reasons are complex, but for many pet parents, a simple explanation makes sense: animals have been eating whole foods for tens of thousands of years, so their bodies accept, process, and utilize them better than they do artificially-created synthetic compounds. Naturally!
For many owners, this is reason enough to choose natural supplements. After all, what good is a cheaper synthetic supplement if much of it passes through their pet’s system unused?
Effectiveness aside, concerns about the long-term health effects of synthetic supplements has also pushed many owners to the natural side of the supplement aisle. But once there, they still have more label reading to do, because even natural supplements vary widely in quality and effectiveness.
It makes sense, but it’s worth it at this point to state the obvious: the higher the quality of ingredients, the greater the bioavailability—and the greater the effectiveness at lower doses.
So get out the glasses if you have to and read the fine print. For natural supplements, the differences will be obvious. You’ll see familiar (and sometimes unfamiliar!) plant names and things like omega-3 and omega-6 fish oils listed first; synthetics typically list complicated chemical compounds that are unfamiliar.
While the labels can sometimes be confusing, many natural supplement makers make it easy for diligent owners to learn more about their ingredients online. A quick trip to the Vet’s Best website, for example, informs one that bromelain, an enzyme in pineapple, is used not only to treat joint discomfort, but it supports healthy digestion as well. Who knew?
For many people, discoveries of how natural food supplements improve the quality of their pet’s lives is just now beginning. But there are surely more to follow, as veterinary nutritionists find more benefits from nature’s foods every day.
Of course, as with any change in your pet’s diet and routine, consult with your veterinarian first before adding supplements of any kind.
One of the most commonly used vitamins in human nutrition is vitamin C or sodium ascorbate. It is supplied in either tablet, capsule or powder forms to humans and the same vitamin C, in either regular or ester-C form is often used in pets as well. Ester-C is a more potent form of vitamin C and less acidic. It is also the form which is usually made in the United States and not in China.
I have often recommended vitamin C in dogs which have joint problems. This vitamin is known as a collagen precursor, which means it can help build cartilage which lines the joints. Some years ago a Swedish experiment proved that administration of vitamin C to pregnant German Shepherd females who had hip dysplasia, cut the incidence of that problem in their puppies by approximately 75%. These puppies were evidently born with much better cartilage lining their joints. Additional work since has shown that hip dysplasia is basically a nutritional problem and not a genetic one as once thought. So vitamin C can work to prevent hip problems even in dogs at high risk for it.
With older dogs we use vitamin C in treatment of arthritic hips and joints. Someone once called vitamin C “The poor man’s cortisone”. This statement points to the fact that vitamin C has many of the anti-inflammatory effects of cortisone, but not the side effects. Vitamin C, as we have noted, is also a collagen precursor. It helps build the collagen tissue of which cartilage is formed. Basically, if cartilage can be preserved or repaired, arthritis can often be avoided.
This vitamin also has a general anti-inflammatory effect in the body tissues as well. This, in turn, thus relieves pain in those tissues. Recently I treated an extremely painful episode of plantar fasiculitis (heel spur) in myself with huge doses of vitamin C and was symptom free in two days despite my friends and clients telling me how many cortisone injections they needed for the same results.
In addition to this, years ago, when canine distemper was a very deadly common virus disease, I used vitamin C to defeat it. Taking a page from Nobel prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling’s notebook, I devised an intravenous treatment of distemper with large doses of liquid vitamin C. In just 24 hours their high temperatures would begin to fall and by the day following the snotty noses and discharging eyes would be clearing as well. A second intravenous administration of vitamin C would clear them up completely. I know this saved the lives of many of my patients. For Dr. Pauling had discovered that vitamin C can actually destroy virus particles in the body. So that is what my huge i.v. doses would do to the distemper virus.
Vitamin C is also a water soluble vitamin and thus readily removed from the body via the urine thus making it virtually impossible to overdose. This fact makes it valuable in acidifying both cat and dog urine. For pets suffering from chronic bladder problems it is easy to add the powder form to their food and produce a nice acidic urine which defeats most bacteria. From approximately 100 mg in the cat to a maximum of 500mg in large dogs, vitamin C is usually well received by the pet. This dose can be given multiple times a day as needed.
So check with your veterinarian if you think vitamin C could be in your pet’s future. You might find it will bring surprising benefits in many different areas and at a cost far less than many medications.
We recently have discussed the importance of vitamins and the benefits they will afford to your pet’s well-being. This week I would like to discuss a number of dietary additives called neutraceuticals. The last few decades have brought about an increasing awareness that even so-called “complete” diets may not afford all the nutrients a pet might need for optimum health. The presence of certain medical problems, age, low intestinal absorption rates and various other factors all play a part in dietary needs.
One of the more popular neutraceuticals in both human and veterinary medicine has to do with maintaining healthy joints. In addition to the use of vitamin C, many humans, as well as many pets, need a product called glucosamine to maintain smooth joint function. Glucosamine is used widely in veterinary medicine and often is combined with chondoltin and/or MSM (methlsulfonylmethane).
At Fairview Pet Clinic we carry a number of products that contain these nutrients. Some of them also contain such things as green lipped mussels, shark cartilage, vitamin E or C, brewer’s yeast and manganese. All these products are intended to maintain healthy cartilage, since this is what lines each joint. They also assist in promoting healthy lubrication inside the joint. Glucosamine is particularly effective in this task since it promotes formation of synovial fluid in the joint.
MSM, which is frequently combined with glucosamine, is an excellent product to give to pets that have had damage to their cartilage, either from age or just hard use. Not long ago I had a small dog come into the clinic with a very badly damaged hip due to an automobile accident. By combining vitamin C with the above products we were able to allow this pet to build a new joint without having to resort to major surgery. It took a number of months and a caring owner, but the results were worth it when we saw this wee patient scamper across my exam room floor.
With flea season fast coming on, allow me to finish up with one last additive that you may find helpful. It has long been know that fishermen and others in mosquito areas could gain protection from these little blood suckers by dosing themselves on high doses of vitamin B complex. At our clinic we furnish a mix of brewer’s yeast (for the vitamin B) and garlic powder. We find it makes a dandy internal bug repellant for fleas and other parasites.
So keep these tips in mind the next time you are shopping. Perhaps you have a pet whose quality of life could be greatly improved by just a few small changes.
Bud Stuart DVM is a local veterinarian and owner of Fairview Pet Clinic (CA). He stresses nutrition and preventative medicine.
A common question asked of veterinarians is, “What is the best food for pets?” Of course, the answer is, “It all depends.”
The first thing to consider is your pet’s age. As with humans, there is a variation between the needs of young animals and old ones. A young pet, rapidly growing, will need more frequent feeding, say three or four times a day. It will also need a higher protein level for growth, and building tissues.
At Fairview Pet Clinic, we recommend all growing pets be supplied with a multivitamin until their growth is completed. To help get rid of baby teeth and to keep permanent teeth clean we supply Hill’s TD (Tooth Diet) biscuits to our clients.
If you have an older pet, its needs change. Two, smaller meals a day are sufficient. Senior pets should also be supplied a geriatric vitamin to slow aging changes.
Besides age, there also a pet’s special needs to consider when meals are discussed. Should a pet be showing food allergies, which are quite common, there are a number of diets that can control such a problem. Consult your vet if you think your pet has food allergies.
Perhaps your dog is an agility performer, or another working dog. In that case, the need for calories and protein would increase to supply the energy needed for such activities. Active dogs should also be supplied joint protecting supplements, such as glucosamine, MSM, and vitamin C.
We strongly advise against cat diets heavy in dry foods. Male cats especially, due to danger of urinary blockage, should never be fed more than one third dry food. The remaining two-thirds should consist of canned foods, leftover meats, fish or poultry. Female cats may be allowed slightly more dry food, but always at regular, twice daily meal times, with absolutely no food left out during the day. We also suggest feline Hill’s TD for tooth cleaning.
Dry diets are usually high in carbohydrates, a reason for our current obesity epidemic in pets. Small dogs under 20 pounds get along just fine on no dry food at all, just canned and fresh foods.
So just use your common sense and feed a mix of dry, canned and leftover food in reasonable amounts for a long, active, healthy life for your pet companion.
Bud Stuart DVM is a local veterinarian and owner of the Fairview Pet Clinic. He stresses nutrition and preventative medicine.
We have often been hearing discussions about vitamins and the role they play in nutrition. One group of vitamins is the family of B vitamins. You may recognize them by such names as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and such. The latter has been found to be of extreme importance in preventing spina-bifida in human babies. Whatever they may be called they all play an essential part in any wellness program. From the very largest to the smallest animals, deficiencies of these important elements can produce major problems.
I have always remembered a class in equine medicine at Cornell. We were examining a lovely young horse afflicted with a problem called “moon blindness”. This meant that every month or so the horse’s eyes would whiten and it would lose its vision for two or three days. Our large animal professor, Dr. Francis Fox, informed us that had the horse been given just 50 milligrams of riboflavin in its diet each day, it would never have gotten the disease. Such a little thing, but oh so important. It was one of the first cases during my college training where I saw how really vital nutrition could be to maintaining an animal’s health. It was also the case that sparked my interest in preventive nutrition, which has played a major role in my career ever since.
It is also felt that B vitamins also play a role in preserving retinal health in dogs and cats as well. Along with vitamins E and C, the B vitamins help preserve circulation and general good health of the retina. This would be similar to preventing macular degeneration in humans which is a major problem in senior citizens.
As an example of just how important diet in pets can be, recently there was an article in one of my veterinary journals about a cat that ate a diet consisting largely of tuna. Tuna is a diet we warn against due to its very strong addicting power for the cats which consume it. The cats will get so they refuse all other foods. However the tuna is deficient in the B vitamin, thiamine, and the kitty mentioned became quite ill with some rather bizarre symptoms. Fortunately the problem, called ‘yellow fat disease’ and which can be fatal, was recognized early and quickly corrected with thiamine injections and supportive treatment.
Senior pets are especially prone to vitamin B deficiency diseases. As we age, our kidneys lose the B vitamins at an increased rate and this is true with animals as well. Many of the cognitive or so called “senile” changes seen in older dogs and cats are related to lowered vitamin B levels since this vitamin is very important to the health of brain cells. I have treated many a cat which could not remember where its kitty litter box is located. Also a lot of dogs which became so senile they could not figure out how to turn around out of a corner they had walked into. It was always very satisfying to make these problems disappear with proper nutrition. There is a product called Cholodon on the market which contains the necessary B vitamins plus cholin and methionine. A chewable tablet or two of this daily will often produce dramatic clearing of the mind. I have even used it to successfully treat mild seizures.
So every cat or dog 10 years or older should be treated as a senior citizen and be on a good geriatric multivitamin supplement which will contain the B vitamin group. Your veterinarian can advise you how to pick a good one and most are chewable, as well as tasty, so act as a treat. This and a good senior diet will put an excellent health platform under any older pet. Many of the problems attributed to a pet “just getting old” are really nutritional and can be prevented. There is not a great deal we can do about preventing ourselves or our pets from getting older. But there is a lot we can do to keep us both from looking, acting and feeling old. So let’s do it.
Bud Stuart DVM resides in California after a 45+ year as a small animal veterinarian.
NOTE: There has been a recall issued by the FDA for a pet vitamin – see news flash below:
A news release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
United Pet Group, Cincinnati, Ohio, is voluntarily recalling all unexpired lots of its PRO-PET ADULT DAILY VITAMIN tablets for dogs because of possible salmonella contamination.
The product was sold nationally at various retailers. The product comes in 100-count white plastic bottles with a light blue label, and UPC code 26851-01800. These products are being removed from retail stores, and consumers should immediately stop feeding these supplements to their pets. The affected products are those with expiration dates on or before 06/13. The expiration date can be found imprinted vertically on the right side of the product label.
Laboratory testing has shown that one lot of this vitamin product was contaminated with salmonella. All lots are being recalled for safety assurance.
Pets with salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, contact your veterinarian.
Consumers who have purchased the product are urged to contact United Pet Group or the place of purchase for further direction.
Consumers may contact United Pet Group at 1-800-645-5154, Ext. 3, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.