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Supplements

Supplements

Supplements, vitamins, & herbs; we hear a lot about their benefits in human medicine, but are they necessary or safe for our pets? In general, feeding a quality commercial pet food should supply your pet with all the required nutrients for general health. Different age groups, specific breeds, or pets with medical conditions may require different nutrients.

Glucosamine & Chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally occurring compounds that are often paired together in joint supplements. They are commonly recommended for elderly, arthritic, or patients with joint injuries. These supplements are a chondroprotectant, which means they help to alleviate joint pain by boosting repair of damaged cartilage, helping to retain fluid to lubricate the joint, and protect against cartilage break down. These supplements often work behind the scenes and results are usually not seen immediately after starting these supplements; they need time to build up in the patient’s system and take effect. Sometimes owners will notice more of an effect when they stop these.

Glucosamine and chondroitin can be found in many forms. These supplements are sold over the counter and can be found in tablets, capsules, and powder form. It is often included in senior pet foods and foods marketed for joint health (Hill’s Science Diet j/d®, Purina Veterinary Diet Joint Mobility®, Royal Canin Advance Mobility Support®). Prescription treats made with Glucosamine and chondroitin are also available. Make sure the supplements have been FDA approved, otherwise the ingredients, dosage, etc. may not be reliable.

Fatty Acids

Not all fats are bad. Essential fatty acids are found naturally in a balanced diet. Pets that lack adequate fatty acids can have dry, dull hair coat and skin. Adding Omega-3 is commonly recommended to improve skin and coat health. Fatty acids can also improve heart health by reducing inflammation in the body that can damage blood vessels and lead to heart disease. Studies also suggest it may help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and may also help with arthritis.

Fatty acids can be found in certain oils, flax seed, chia, and safflower. Studies suggest that pets may have difficulty converting these into the correct form to provide the most benefit. Cold water fish, algae, and krill oil have been shown to already contain the correct form that does not need converting. Therefore, the source of the fatty acid is important when choosing a product. Supplements are commonly found in either liquid or capsule form.

Excessive amounts of fatty acids can cause undesirable side effects such as gastrointestinal upset or blood clotting issues. Avoid these supplements within two weeks of any surgical procedure. Pet owners may not appreciate the fishy breath and “fish burps” that often accompany the use of these supplements. Most products require refrigeration or can become rancid, and the efficacy can be affected by exposure to light, heat, or oxygen. Be sure to read the labels regarding storage and expiration.

Note: Fatty Acid supplements may need to be discontinued before surgical procedures.

Probiotics

I could write an entire blog on probiotics, but in summary probiotics can be beneficial to most patients. The benefits range from aiding in digestion and GI health to supporting a healthy immune system. Probiotics can be found in many forms; including powder, capsules, tablets, liquids, pastes, and in treats or food. Powders have been found to be most effective. Attention to bacterial strains, ingredients and dosages are important no matter which product is used. Probiotics tend to work best when they are given to the species they are formulated for. For example, human probiotics work best for humans, canine probiotics work best for canines, and feline probiotics work best for felines.

Fiber

For patients with gastrointestinal issues, adding more fiber to their diet may improve symptoms. Fiber aids in regulating bowel movements, which can benefit pets experiencing either diarrhea or constipation. Canned pumpkin is an inexpensive and palatable addition to a pet’s diet to increase fiber. Make sure to use canned pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling, which has ingredients that may cause gastrointestinal upset.

The anal glands are normally expressed with a solid bowel movement. Patients with loose stools or altered anatomy near the rectum may have issues expressing their anal glands naturally. By adding fiber to their diet, the stools become firmer and more regular, aiding in expressing the glands regularly. Products such as Glandex®, No Scoot®, and Express Ease® are marketed for patients with chronic anal gland issues. Fiber is a main ingredient in these products.

Overweight patients will also benefit from added fiber. Eating more fiber allows them to reduce caloric intake but still feel full. Studies show that diabetics who consume a high fiber diet experience less fluctuation in blood sugar levels. Weight loss and diabetic diets (Hill’s Science Diet prescription w/d® and r/d®, Purina Veterinary Diets Overweight Management® and Diatetic Management®, Royal Canin Satiety Support®) are formulated with increased fiber and fewer calories.

Antioxidants & Vitamins

The benefit of adding antioxidants and vitamins to a pet’s diet is debated. Some evidence supports the possibility that they counteract the effects of aging, such as cognitive dysfunction. For example, vitamins C and E may reduce inflammation and help aging dogs with memory problems. A patient may be diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency or disease that would be slowed by the addition of a supplement. In these cases, the supplements should be prescribed by a veterinarian and monitored closely.

Herbal Medicine

Ancient civilizations have been using herbal medicine to treat ailments for centuries. Many of the same herbal blends are still used today. There are many different ingredients with multiple benefits such as controlling urine leakage, aiding in blood clotting, and even slowing the progression of cancer. These supplements should be prescribed and closely monitored by your veterinarian. It is important to obtain them from a trusted source since the ingredients, dosage, etc. can widely vary. Counterfeit products are also a risk when ordering online.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

You may have heard the phrase “Too much of a good thing ain’t a good thing.” This rings true for supplements. For example, too much calcium can cause skeletal problems. Excess vitamin A can harm blood vessels and cause dehydration and joint pain. Too much vitamin D can prompt a dog to stop eating, effect bones, and cause muscle atrophy. Though studies have been done on the short-term benefits of supplements, they often don’t examine the long-term effects. As veterinary medicine advances, more knowledge of the effects of supplements will evolve.

Each individual patient is unique. Always consult your veterinarian before starting any supplements and report any side effects. Please bring any supplements along to appointments so they can be documented in the patient’s medical history.

Anal Glands

Anal Glands

A very common subject of phone calls received at veterinary clinics is a pet that is “scooting”. A common misconception is that it has worms, but often the cause is anal glands that need expressing. Most people are not even aware that pets have anal glands and what they do.

Purpose & Location

Photo Credit: Hill’s Atlas of Clinical Anatomy

Anal glands are small sacs located just inside the rectum with ducts that exit at the anus. Also called the “scent glands”, they produce a foul-smelling, yellow to brown colored, liquid substance used for marking. The contents are excreted with the pressure of a normal, firm bowel movement. Most pets do not have issues expressing the material on their own. However, due to loose stools, allergies, diet, or differing anatomy, some patients need help expressing the glands. Anal glands can become impacted, infected, and can abscess. Also, leaks can occur when pets are either very relaxed or scared/startled.

Symptoms

Some symptoms are very noticeable, while others are more subtle. Pet’s may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Scooting
  • Excessive licking at rear end
  • Foul odor
  • Sudden need to sit down
  • Lethargic
  • Not eating

Treatment

The glands will need to be expressed manually if the patient cannot express them naturally. Though this can be done from the outside, it is much more successful to express them internally. It is highly recommended that a veterinary professional express them, but with proper training and patient cooperation a client can do them at home. If any abnormalities are noticed, please seek veterinary care.

Abscessed anal glands may need oral antibiotics, and in severe cases may need to be infused with liquid antibiotics. Most patients will need to be sedated for this procedure. Tumors can also develop in or around the anal glands, which is a good reason to have them expressed by a veterinary professional.

Prevention

There are multiple products on the market that claim to alleviate anal gland issues. The key ingredient in all of them is fiber. Fiber helps to keeps pet’s gastrointestinal system regular, which helps to naturally express the glands. A low-cost home remedy would be to add a small amount of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) to your pet’s diet.

For patients with known anal glands issues, expressing them regularly can prevent them from becoming impacted and abscessing. All patients are different, but it is common to need expressing monthly. If your pet is having anal gland issues, give us a call at 444-5797 to schedule an appointment.