Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My thoughts on supplements

Hi guys, a lot of people talk about supplements and what your dog may or may not need. Technically, by the book, if you feed a quality kibble, a healthy, young dog does not NEED any supplements -- but supplements can definitely help prevent problems or reduce potential problems during stress or illness.

Arthritis & Joint Support
I feed all of my dogs over 8 years old a daily dose of Glyco-Flex 3, which is an excellent source of glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and other nutrients for joint and connective tissue support. Two good sources to buy Glyco-Flex 3 are from Amazon (link to Glyco-Flex on Amazon) or Drs Foster & Smith (link to Glyco-Flex on Foster & Smith). Many pet stores (online and brick & mortar) stock Glyco-Flex 3.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids
I also supplement all of my dogs with omega 3 fatty acids (ALA, DHA, and EPA) for healthy skin and shiny coats, and many other health benefits, including immune system support. Specifically for dogs, omega 3 fatty acids can help reduce allergies (including flea bite allergies, inhalant/contact allergies, and food allergies), lessen dry skin and dander, can help cortisone and antibiotics work more effectively, boost the immune system (which is often weaker in aging dogs), and decrease inflammation. Inflammation can play a role in arthritis, kidney disease, brain disease, and heart disease.

Supplementing with omega 3 can also help suppress autoimmune responses and thus protect against autoimmune problems such as IMHA, which have been increasingly common in whippets.

Fatty acids also improve circulation throughout the body. One caution, because omega 3 fatty acids can increase blood flow and circulation, they can also decrease clotting, so if your dog is on an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as pain medication), check with your vet before supplementing with omega 3.

The easiest way to supplement with omega 3 is to use fish oil capsules. If your dog is not accustomed to eating fish oil capsules, you can nick the end of the capsule with kitchen scissors, squirt the oil into her food, then toss in the gelatin capsule. Eventually, you can just toss the whole capsule in and your dog will eat it.

You can purchase fish oil in any drugstore or grocery store, and you can often find them in a "buy one get one free" sale and use coupons (with some stores you can use two coupons on a BOGO offer). I prefer the Nature Made brand which is a good quality product and often on sale. Nature Made also has a "rewards" program where you can sign up online, then enter the codes on the bottles and accrue points towards coupons for $3 off or $7 off future purchases. With any brand of fish oil, check the bottle to make sure it has been purified to remove any mercury.

Another method of supplementing with omega 3 is to use ground flaxseed. I often use flaxseed, because I stock up on it to add to our (human) meals and it is convenient to store and use. My routine is to measure out one teaspoon of flaxseed per dog (6 in my case), mix thoroughly with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then mix with 1/3 can of a good quality canned food (I use Blue Buffalo or my own "dog food mash" which I make by cooking down meat and vegetables in the crock pot for many hours). Then I add warm water (not hot) to make a "gravy" which I divide equally among the bowls of food. The olive oil is also beneficial for the dogs' skin and coat.

I buy whole flaxseed and grind it myself in my coffee grinder, which is best for freshness. I store the flaxseed in an opaque container in the refrigerator. After grinding, I store the flaxseed in an empty fish oil bottle that is black and stores easily in the door of my fridge. I purchase the Bob's Red Mill brand whole organic flaxseed (link to Bob's Red Mill flaxseed on Amazon).

Probiotics for Digestion
Many vets and canine nutritionists are advising supplementing with probiotics for better digestion, gastrointestinal health, and to prevent disease. Keeping a healthy level of beneficial bacteria in the GI system is vital for your dog's health.

Probiotics are essential when changing food, after vaccinations, while giving antibiotics or steroids/cortisone, after surgery, during stress (travel, moving, household changes, etc.) and during/after boarding.

Supplementing with probiotics can be as simple as adding a tablespoon or so of fresh plain yogurt to your dog's meals. Yogurt is an excellent and inexpensive source of probiotics. Make sure you avoid flavored yogurt and absolutely no sweeteners, especially artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.

You can also purchase probiotic medication and digestive enzymes made specifically for dogs. Two of these products I have used are Prozyme (link to Prozyme on Amazon) and FortiFlora (link to FortiFlora on Amazon). You can also purchase probiotic capsules from your vet in a specific dosage for your dog.

In summary, supplementing your dog's diet is purely your decision, and when using a well-balanced diet, no supplementation is critical. Supplements can and do help, however, and you can see measurable improvements in your dog's health over time -- just keep in mind that when using any supplement, give it 3 or 4 months to evaluate the effectiveness. You can jot some notes about your dog's health (coat condition, allergies, activity level) and check your notes in a couple of months to see if there are improvements. You might also want to only add one supplement at a time, evaluate its effectiveness, then make additional changes as needed. Feel free to ask questions or discuss what works for you. I'd love to hear from you!