Viewpoint: Nutrition for Pets Taking Center Stage

Natural food and supplements for pets is a growing industry. What a contrast to the years past, where often pet foods were comprised of human food by-products. Now we hear of “human grade” ingredients, the movement of raw and natural dog foods, and the use of ever advancing supplements. Here is our wish list, what's yours?

The Good

The movement towards more natural dog foods.

When the  “conventional pet food” recall happened a few years back, it seemed to usher in the "natural dog food" movement. This is great news! Now, simplified foods that contain basic, healthy, and real (found in nature) ingredients are going to greatly help the health of dogs. This will be especially true for dogs with sensitivities. Food is the foundational component to health, so this has been an important event for pet owners who are dedicated to making their pets life as great as possible.

The strategic use of supplements to improve the health of pets.

Supplements have been benefitting human health for some time, so it’s about time that pets are getting that benefit as well. Just like humans, pets can have nutritional gaps or the need to augment the diet to

  • increase wellness,
  • prevent disease, or
  • deal with specific ailments

Supplements can at times serve as a graduated step for more challenging concerns, while allowing an alternative to conventional medications. In case medications may be needed, supplements can be used to compliment therapy, and thus shorten the duration of the medication's use or make the medications more effective.

The Bad

Not enough specific pet research:

The pet supplement market came about primarily as an adjunct to the human supplement market. The general thought has been, “if it’s good for humans, then it will be good for pets too.” This is mostly true, but as one would expect when this is further investigated there are differences. For example, let’s look at probiotics; there are numerous strains with varying benefits. Dogs actually have an inherent gut bacteria composition, which is different than humans. The small amount of studies that have been done, have shown these types of strains to be especially effective in pets, more so than those that are found typically in pet formulas. We look forward to more and more pet specific research, and it will come as this field continues to grow develop, and mature. (See Understanding Probiotics for Pets: CFU and Strains)

Overuse of medications; especially antibiotics and anti-inflammatories

It’s a risk vs. reward ratio. Sometimes the ratio favors the use of medications and sometimes it favors lifestyle approaches. To make that decision you have to understand if you are in an “acute” scenario, or a "chronic" condition.

acute: something that needs to be addressed with urgency or serious health consequences will imminently ensue, like death.

chronic:  something that is bothersome and painful but not life and death

In an acute situation the stronger medications are often needed, and the side effects can be accepted. In the chronic situation, lifestyle is often the better choice as the relief can be acceptable and side effects non-existent. The problem is that, often, medications are used in chronic conditions where the side effects can outweigh the benefits. Thus, the need for more strategy.

Antibiotics can do damage to the healthy gut flora as well as to the bad, so it is critical to administer probiotics after the antibiotic therapy is complete. This should really be a strategy utilized by all vets. In the case of anti-inflammatories, anti-inflammatory medications should be used as a last resort; if desired results can’t be achieved through diet, supplementation, and exercise protocols.

Why? Because most of the conditions they are prescribed for are chronic and not acute situations. So the risk reward ratio favors natural approaches. Our hope is that with more education and awareness of natural options the proper strategies will be utilized much more often.

Now, let's hear from you!

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