By Jean Hofve, DVM

There are four nutritional supplements I recommend for every cat and dog, no matter what diet they’re eating or what else they’re taking. These four supplements will help your pet live a longer, more comfortable life!

Now, I know it can be hard to get a pet to take supplements, and four is a lot for a cat or small dog. So I’ve listed these in order of priority. If you can only give one thing, make it Omega-3s. Then the others.

If I could add a fifth, it would be prebiotics, which work with probiotics… and there is a product that I formulated for Only Natural Pet that includes probiotics, digestive enzymes, and prebiotics. I spent weeks researching how to put such a product together without having the enzymes chew up the probiotics before you even open the jar! It took more time to find the right blend, and the right manufacturer. The whole process took a couple of years, but I am very pleased with how it came out! It’s called “Complete Gut Health.” (I wanted to call it “Super Tummy,” but I was overruled!) Only Natural has a lot of great products. I formulated some, and am in the process of updating and reformulating the rest (Be sure to see the info below the article on where to order and how to get a nice discount!.)

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I’m a big proponent of Omega 3 fatty acids for dogs and cats. These are essential nutrients, meaning that their bodies cannot make these particular fatty acids; they must be obtained in the diet. The typical American diet is very unbalanced toward pro-inflammatory Omega-6s. Because pet food is made from the ‘leftovers’ of human food processing, dogs and cats receive loads of Omega-6s (from vegetable oils and animal fats) in their food, but little if any Omega-3s.

The fatty acids EPA and DHA are the most important Omega-3s for pets. EPA is a crucial part of every cell membrane; and it has potent anti-inflammatory properties. DHA helps develop and maintain the eyes, brain, and nervous system.

Some pet foods claim a benefit for Omega-3s because they add flaxseed or other vegetable sources of Omega-3s. But dogs and cats can’t convert plant-based oils into EPA and DHA to any meaningful extent. Therefore, the preferred best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids for pets are marine oils (such as fish body oil, cod liver oil, or my personal favorite, green-lipped mussel (GLM) oil) containing EPA and DHA, which can be used directly by the body. GLM is great because the capsules are tiny and much easier to give a fussy animal. They’re not high potency but the bioavailability is outstanding.

Select a product from marine sources that live in clean waters (generally south of the equator), are harvested sustainably, and are independently tested for freshness and purity; it must also be free from toxins such as mercury, PCBs, and dioxins, which pollute much of the world’s oceans. Why south of the equator? Northern oceans are increasingly polluted with radioactive debris from the Fukushima meltdown, which continues to pour 100 tons of contaminants into the ocean every day, with no end in sight.

2. Probiotics

Probiotics, such as L. acidophilus, Bifidobacteria, and other ‘friendly’ beneficial bacteria maintain a balanced, healthy gut, and prevent “bad” bacteria, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter from gaining a foothold. A healthy intestinal bacterial population is also needed to manufacture B vitamins and Vitamin K.

For pets with gastrointestinal issues, such as chronic vomiting or diarrhea, hairballs, or constipation, probiotic supplements may be especially helpful. They absolutely required for animals who are, or have been, taking antibiotics. Give probiotics during the course of antibiotics (give 2 hours apart from the medication) and for at least 2 weeks afterwards. Probiotics also support and moderate the immune system so it isn’t so over-reactive.

Probiotics also work hand-in-hand with the immune system to protect the body from a variety of invaders and conditions; and a healthy gut is directly linked to a healthy brain. That’s why I believe every pet should be getting them.. Only Natural Pet Probiotic Blend is a good example.

3. Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes help our pets to fully break down foods so nutrients can be efficiently absorbed and used by the body. When food is not properly digested, some particles may trigger inflammation, allergies, and other chronic health problems. Processed foods have had their native enzymes destroyed, so it is important to add them to your pet’s food. Plant- or fungal-based enzymes work in the widest range of pH and temperature. Make sure that the product you select contains at least protease, amylase, lipase, and cellulase. Even if you’re feeding a great raw diet, digestive enzymes will still be beneficial, and make for a happy pancreas! I like Vital Digest as a complete enzyme product.

4. Antioxidants
Antioxidants scavenge and neutralize ‘oxygen free radicals’ in the body. Controlled amounts of free radicals are made by the body as weapons against viruses and bacteria, but excess free radicals can damage normal cells and create chronic inflammation. This chronic inflammation and free radical accumulation (oxidative stress) are major factors in aging.

All pets will benefit from additional antioxidants to cope with the stresses of modern life. For pets eating processed pet food, which is typically high in Omega-6 fatty acids that promote inflammation, supplementing with antioxidants is especially important.

Antioxidants work synergistically together, so look for a product that has a range of antioxidants in it, such as Vitamin E, carotenoids (such as beta-carotene and lycopene), and flavonoids (such as Vitamin C and quercitin) from whole fruits and vegetables; like this Whole Food Antioxidant Blend.

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