Supplements are a great way to help keep your senior dogs (and cats) happy, healthy and aging well. It can be a very difficult process however to wade through the plethora of information out there to find the best and safest options for your pet. Here, I will briefly talk about some supplemental recommendations and some additions to your pet's diet that will really help add comfort and longevity to his or her life.
1. Antioxidants- A very important supplement that all dogs (and cats) will benefit from as they age. Antioxidants are molecules that circulate in the blood stream and combat debris that is left in the body after any inflammatory process has occurred. This is important for long term health and comfort because this debris can cause damage to other organs and body systems if allowed to circulate and come in contact with other tissues.
Arthritis in any joint, muscle pain and soreness, liver or kidney disease, asthma, heart disease... and the list goes on and on, are all inflammatory conditions that leave behind this debris. Most antioxidants contain a mixture of vitamins A, C, E, and selenium. Others are more specific and contain only a few ingredients like CoQ - 10 (or coenzyme Q 10) which has been found to be extremely beneficial in humans to help combat the damage of heart disease.
The Honest Kitchen makes a wonderful organic and holistic antioxidant formulation that I recommend to all of my patients called Invigor. It contains a combination of ingredients that are high in antioxidant power with high levels of vitamins A, C, E, and selenium. Check out www.thehonestkitchen.com for more details and to find out where to purchase their products.
RxVitamins has a CoQ10 product specific for pets that is a wonderful supplement I recommend for dogs with heart disease, kidney disease or arthritis problems. 2. Essential Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids- A naturally occurring anti-inflammatory that soothes any inflammatory condition in the body. These fatty acids or oils, work by interfering with what is called the inflammatory cascade. They slightly change the body's immediate response to damage and help soothe the pain and discomfort that usually comes along with inflammation like arthritis. They have been found also to help reduce the risk of heart disease in people due their high antioxidant power! These wonderfully naturally occurring molecules can be found in a number of dietary sources like prepared salmon or sardines, soy beans, tofu and many other nuts and legumes.
For dogs however, the best source, if not found in food like Royal Canin's Skin Support Diet, or Eagle Pack's Holistic Select Anchovy, Sardine and Salmon dry dog food is a supplemental and very tasty oil put directly on the food such as NuHemp's Omega Sauce for pets found at www.nuhemp.com or Welactin found at www.nutamaxlabs.com 3. Fiber- Fiber is something of which we all need more! Fiber helps pets regulate their Gi tracts by helping to lubricate the inside of the large intestine. This helps stool to move more easily through the tract so that the waste material from food does not sit as long in the large bowel itself which can cause damage, and allows for less material left within the tract that can potentially cause damage over time. Fiber also helps to regulate blood sugar and curb extreme fluctuations in appetite.
Since 80% of the immune system is found in the GI tract, a healthier intestine leads to a healthier pet! An excellent supplement for dogs and cats is The Honest Kitchen's Perfect Form which combines a number of high fiber natural ingredients to give your pet a healthy and organic fiber supplement option. (see their website above) 4. Probiotics- This is a supplement that will also help keep the GI tract happy and healthy. These little good bacterial compounds help to regulate digestion and keep the numbers of "good" bacteria in the gut up and the numbers of "bad" or unhealthy bacteria down. This regulation will help the body to better break down and therefore absorb much needed nutrients from food. As we age on the outside, our bodies age internally as well, including the GI tract.
As it ages it has more difficulty getting all of the beneficial products from the food we eat. To help our pets stay healthy, regular and nutritionally balanced, good digestion is key. These are best offered in powdered food supplements like Total Biotics for pets, www.totalzymes.com or in the food itself. This can be done by a number or processes, but The Honest Kitchen carries dehydrated raw diets (never cooked above 119 degrees F) that contain these essential nutrients to aid in digestion. (see website info above)
Lastly, I would like to advocate the use of whole clove or minced garlic for its antioxidant, prodigestive and anti-inflammatory effects. There is quite a bit of dated information about the use of garlic in dogs and it's potential negative effects on their health. There is very little clinical or study information that support this claim. When garlic is given to dogs in measured and reasonable amounts, it is very safe. One medium sized clove per 40 pounds once daily has wonderful beneficial effects for dogs with chronic diseases like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease or cancer. I strongly recommend the use of garlic with almost all of my patients because it is a healthy and all natural way to support immune function, cardiovascular health and digestion.
Hopefully this has been a helpful introduction to the 4 most important supplements for your aging canine companions. For more information feel free to visit the sites above, or below or contact me directly with questions.
About Cara Gardner, DVM, CVA: Dr. Gardner received her DVM from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. Originally from Knoxville, TN, Dr. Gardner received a bachelor of arts and science in 1999 from Xavier University in Cincinnati, majoring in Natural Sciences and minoring in Women and Minority Studies. While there she was vice president of the collegiate soccer club team, attended the School for Field Studies Marine Park Management Program in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and was a veterinary assistant at a local clinic. She graduated with the class of 2003 form the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine and has a strong interest in brachiocephalic (or ’smush-faced’) breeds, dermatology, behavior, nutrition, and integrative alternative medicine. She completed a dermatology externship with Dr. Terry Grieshaber at the Animal Allergy and Skin Disease Clinic (now Circle City Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital) and has obtained her Certification in Veterinary Acupuncture through the Chi Institute for Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. Broad Ripple Animal Wellness Center | @holisticpetdr