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Nutritional Supplement Therapy for Dogs and Cats - Part 2
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How do you go about looking for the right nutritional supplement for your pet?  Firstly, consider whether the supplement was specifically designed for your animal.  The physiology of each animal, and even certain breeds of animals are different.  Just as we shouldn't give our pets the same supplements that we use, I advise you not to give a nutritional supplement to your pet unless you know it is specifically formulated for your type of animal by the manufacturer.

Human Dosages vs. Animal Dosages

Fortunately, the pharmacological actions of numerous herb and vitamin therapies work about the same in animals as they do in people. However there are some important things to consider:

1. Animal size - The dose for a small dog will be different than that for a large dog. 

2. The metabolic process of each animal is different - therefore amounts to achieve therapeutic levels can vary.  For instance, cats do not convert beta-carotene to vitamin A, so don't bother giving them that supplement. Also, cats need four times as much B6 vitamin as dogs so you should be looking for products with higher concentrations of that vitamin.   Their blood is extremely sensitive to certain substances found in onions, which can cause severe anemia so read labels carefully to make sure those are avoided.  Compounds preserved with benzyl alcohol are toxic to cats. Essential oils such as thyme, cinnamon, and tea tree (also known as melaleuca) should not be used topically on cats because they contain benzene rings that are toxic to them.

3. Similar symptoms can be caused by entirely different aging or disease processes.   For example, liver disease in a terrier may be caused by the inability to excrete copper.  Cats with liver disease often have hepatitis, and respond well to anti-inflammatory agents.

4. Different diseases are commonly seen in different species and breeds of animals.

  • German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Saint Bernards and many other large breeds are highly susceptible to degenerative osteoarthritis (breakdown of the vertebrae).
  • Poodles are known to get spinal deformities, short limbs, skin allergies, nervous system defects, epilepsy, and collapsed trachea.
  • German shepherds have an increased risk of acquiring epilepsy, kidney disease, cataracts, hemophilia, and bladder stones.
  • Collies are known to get epilepsy, deafness, hernias, and hemophilia.
  • Cocker spaniels frequently suffer from hemophilia, spinal deformities, kidney problems, and cataracts.
  • Labrador retrievers commonly get bladder stones, cataracts, and hemophilia. 
  • Dachshunds are known to acquire spinal deformities, bladder stones, and diabetes.

Specialized dosage forms of herbal remedies and nutritional supplements are being developed, studied, and offered just for dogs and cats by forward thinking companies. For those of us who are eager to use safe and natural products on our pets, this is great news.  Also, if you have ever struggled to get a pill down your pets throat, you will be pleased to know that many supplements taste like great treats and pets are begging for them.

Supplement Treatment for Arthritis

Veterinary medicine has improved to the point where our pets are regularly reaching their senior years.  Just like humans, the joint pains of arthritis and old injuries often plague older pets.  Nutritional supplement therapy can reduce pain, increase strength and mobility, and slow or stop the progressions of arthritis.  Veterinarians diagnose osteoarthritis in pets using x-rays and blood work and often prescribe a pharmaceutical drug.  What they don't uncover is if the arthritis is being caused by nutritional deficiencies or an immune system weakness.  In many cases the best treatments could use nutritional supplements in addition to the prescribed drug and regularly I find that many pets do very well on the nutritional supplement alone.  A combination of antioxidants and herbs that prevent and fight inflammation, some natural pain relievers and supplements, which strengthen the immune system, are incredibly beneficial in the healing process. People report to me all the time that their pets are the best they have been in years following the right nutritional supplementation.

Unfortunately, no treatment can be expected to fully reverse or cure arthritis once permanent damage has occurred. Your best bet is to use natural preventions beforehand if your pet is one of those who is prone to joint problems, or has suffered an injury as a younger animal..  If your pet is already having problems, you will want to catch them as early as possible to prevent permanent damage.

Immediate Pain Relief

In cases where a dog or cat needs immediate pain relief or is in a life-threatening situation, veterinarians usually use conventional methods of treatment.  However, it is to your pet's benefit to still look long term to restore health and balance to the animal's system. Natural methods of treatment should be considered to  "complement" conventional treatments.  Few veterinarians will consider dietary supplements as part of the treatment regime, and the pet owner often has to do their own research to find the most appropriate treatment regime.

Positive Side Effects

Although nutritional therapy may be administered for specific conditions, they have broader positive effects because they support general health. Often a variety of aggravating conditions are positively affected.  For example, an antioxidant used to treat hip dysplasia may improve the immune system in general, therefore alleviating allergies, and preventing viral infections.
Don't underestimate the importance of the daily diet
The key to good health and a healthy body is directly related to what is put into that body, and this applies to both animals and people. Good nutrition is the basis of a healthy pet. I can't stress how important it is to feed your pet a healthy diet.  Avoid commercial pet foods, which include by-products including chicken heads and legs, tumors, diseased organs, and many other things that are not considered good for human consumption. If you wouldn't eat it why should your pet? Ideally a natural, home prepared diet is a lot healthier, providing that an appropriate vitamin and mineral supplement is added. Foods that are good to feed include natural whole grains, such as brown rice, organic vegetables, and meats such as chicken, beef or rabbit. Realistically, most of us have enough trouble finding time to prepare our own dinners.  Don't worry.  There are many good quality commercial pet foods.  Look for one, which is preserved naturally, and keep away from artificial additives or by-products. Read the labels, and don't just look at the bag, as this can sometimes be misleading. Along with your natural pet food try to add some leftover vegetables and meat in modest quantity, provide the right supplements and your pet will start to look and feel more healthy, vibrant and energetic.

We all want our pets to live a longer, healthier life.
Research and clinical studies show that diet and nutritional supplements gently usher our beloved pets into a healthy and happy old age. This is wonderful news to pet owners. The life span of dogs varies greatly depending on the particular breed. Great Danes are notorious for breaking their owner's hearts, because they generally live only eight years.  On the other hand, 20-year-old Pomeranians are not uncommon.  Most cats live around 12 years, but some reach 20 or more years of age.  Species genetics, breed genetics, and bloodlines come into play.  However other important factors, which determine a pet's life span, include lifetime nutrition, lifestyle, and environment.  By paying attention to these factors, we can enjoy the healthy companionship of our pets for a longer time.

By Dr Ronald Breteler
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Nutritional Supplement Therapy for Dogs and Cats - Part 1
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