Q: “Does my pet need vitamins or supplements?”
A: Healthy dogs and cats have a requirement for various nutrients such as protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals such as calcium. Dogs and cats have different dietary requirements than humans. For example, dogs and cats have a higher protein requirement compared to humans, and cats have some very unique requirements such as a dietary requirement for the amino acid taurine. Nutrients must be present in the diet above the minimal requirement to prevent a deficiency but certain nutrients can cause medical problems if provided in excess. More detail about your pet’s nutritional needs can be found on the National Research Council’s website for dog owners (http://dels-old.nas.edu/banr/dogs.html) or for cat owners (http://dels.old.nas.edu/banr/cats.html). Healthy pets on a properly formulated diet (either a commercial pet food or a home prepared diet formulated by a veterinary nutritionist) do not require additional vitamin or mineral supplementation. Your veterinarian can advise you on selecting an appropriate diet for you pet. Please let your veterinarian know if you are giving your pet any additional vitamins or dietary supplements. Pets with certain medical conditions may benefit from certain specific supplements in specific amounts, but this should be discussed with your veterinarian to ensure the supplement is safe, effective, and not potentially harmful to your dog or cat. Many owners are interested in providing dietary supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin or omega-3 fatty acids. Several websites geared to human dietary supplements such the National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (http://ods.od.nih.gov/) provide useful information including “how to evaluate information on the internet”. These sites are only a starting point to provide you with some background information. It is critical to remember some sites discuss supplements used for human health which may not help or can potentially harm your pet, so always discuss any specific products with your veterinarian before giving them to your pet.