We all know that vitamins and minerals are necessary for our health. Thus, many of us take vitamins and supplements regularly, but we may not always know what vitamins, minerals and supplements are necessary or healthy for our pets. This article will attempt to answer this question and will discuss the more common vitamins and supplements used by pet owners. Possible dangers will also be addressed.

If you feed your pet a high quality, commercially available pet food additional vitamins are not typically necessary. However, if you are feeding them a homemade or nutrient deficient diet, it may be necessary to add vitamins and supplements to their food. You should consult with your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist to be sure you are meeting all of your pet’s dietary needs. There are a number of multivitamins available for pets and even more supplements that offer specific combinations of vitamins, minerals and supplements for specific ailments. Again, consult with your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s diet. They can help you determine if your pet needs supplements and advise you on specific supplements to add to their diet.

Never begin using supplements in the treatment of an illness or condition without consulting your veterinarian first. There may be serious underlying problems causing the symptoms your pet is exhibiting. If your pet is showing signs of an illness, take them to the vet for a complete exam and you can discuss at that time whether supplements may be beneficial. Following is a list of the most common supplements pet owners use for helping to treat specific health problems in their pets.

  • Lysine– Lysine is an amino acid used in the treatment of the herpes virus, most common in cats. It may be used in dogs to help alleviate itching due to food or contact allergies.
  • Glucosamine – Used to alleviate joint pain and stiffness. There is some controversy as to whether it is helpful. However, a large number of people (including the author) have reported seeing an improvement in their pets after starting them on glucosamine. It may take a few weeks before seeing any improvement.
  • Vitamin C– Vitamin C has a number of benefits including, but not limited to: strengthening the immune system, treating urinary problems, cancer prevention, and preventing muscle and tissue damage.
  • Vitamin B complex-This is most commonly used in pets that are not eating well, have a liver condition or are experiencing a long convalescence after a major surgery.
  • Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids– These amino acids help relieve itching associated with allergies. They are also used to improve skin and coat health.
  • Fish Oil and Flaxseed Oil– These are used to promote healthy skin and coat. They are high in omega-3 and 6 amino acids and other nutrients.
  • Saw Palmetto– Used to promote bladder and urinary tract health. Supports a healthy gastrointestinal tract and aids in bowel movements. It is also used to help promote prostate health in male dogs and cats.
  • Licorice Root– May aid digestion. It can help alleviate upset stomach and diarrhea.
  • Ginger Root– This is also used as a digestive aid and may help prevent gas and nausea. Some pet owners give their pet ginger root before traveling to prevent carsickness.

As with humans, different things work for different pets. What works for some may not work for others. Also, keep in mind that it may take a few weeks before you see any results from using vitamins and supplements.

It should also be noted that there are some dangers involved with using vitamins and supplements. It is possible to overdose your pet on some vitamins and supplements and the results can be serious. Too much calcium can cause skeletal problems, especially in large-breed puppies. Too much vitamin A can cause dehydration and joint pain. Too much vitamin D can cause a dog to stop eating, damage bones and cause muscle atrophy. Always consult your veterinarian before starting your pet on any kind of vitamin or supplement regimen. For more information on vitamins and supplements for your pet, visit the ASPCA at www.aspca.org.