Every year pet owners spend over $60 billion on their pets. This number represents everything from clothing to very pricey medical treatments. In the last few years, dietary supplements for pets have seen a large increase in popularity.

Nutraceuticals and dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, enzymes, botanicals, amino acids, probiotics, fiber, and fatty acids. They can be taken in the form of tablets, capsules, powders, or liquids. There are even energy bars for you and your dog! You may be taking one or more of these dietary supplements yourself. But does that mean that your dog and cat should too?

Despite what the glossy advertisements say, most pets don’t need supplements. Generally speaking, your dog and cat will not need a vitamin or mineral supplement if your pet is healthy and is eating a complete and balanced commercial diet.

Think about the way we humans eat versus the way we feed our dogs and cats. Getting our daily allowance of essential vitamins and minerals by eating healthy food is always preferred, but we don’t always eat nutritious, well balanced meals. Are we getting our daily recommended amount of calcium every day? What about vitamin D? Most people don’t know or don’t think about it. So taking a multi-vitamin makes sense for some of us. It ensures that we are getting adequate amounts of essential nutrients.

On the other hand, your pet’s food is formulated to be 100 percent nutritionally complete. They receive their daily allowance of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fiber in one convenient package. If your pet’s food is formulated, manufactured, and packaged by a reputable company, then it isn’t necessary to give supplements. In fact, giving a vitamin or mineral supplement could actually unbalance their diet and do more harm than good.

According to PetMD.com supplementation with some vitamins can be dangerous. The two main categories of vitamins are fat-soluble and water-soluble. The body can easily get rid of excess water-soluble vitamins like the B vitamins. But fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body and used as they are needed.

Hypervitaminosis A (too much vitamin A) for example can cause anorexia, orthopedic problems, internal hemorrhage, and decreased kidney and liver function. Vitamin A can be found naturally in fish oils, liver, eggs, and dairy products. Cats that eat liver or other organ meat as their main source of nutrition or receive high doses of fish oil supplements are at risk for hypervitaminosis A.

Supplements can help with certain conditions such as arthritis. There are times when dogs and cats may need to receive vitamin supplements, but a pet owner should consult a veterinarian before giving their cat or dog any over the counter supplements regardless of how natural the label claims it is.

Don’t overdo it. Nutritional supplements may seem harmless; after all, you don’t even need a prescription to get them. You can just walk into any supermarket, drug store, or health food store and purchase them without a doctor’s prescription. However, this does not necessarily mean that they are 100 percent safe. Nutritional supplements can sometimes interact with each other or with other drugs. Some supplements contain active ingredients that can have unwanted side effects.

Because dietary supplements are not drugs, they are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The manufacturer is responsible for making sure products are safe and that their claims are not false or misleading. But they don’t have to provide any evidence of this to the FDA before the product hits the shelves of your local store. This is why it’s important to consult with your vet before giving your dog or cat any dietary supplement.

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