Pet Care and Supplements
Can supplements play a role in pet health?
From the ancients to you and your own pets, domesticated animals have long been integral to society. There is a reason dogs are called ‘man’s best friend’, after all, and there have been studies that have found that just stroking your pet can lower your blood pressure and reduce anxiety.
Since pets are so important, we need to know how to look after them properly. From making sure that they’re on the right diets, to regular vet checkups, taking care of our animal companions is a high priority. This has extended, in recent years, to supplements, to ensure that our pets are in the best shape possible.
But why exactly are pet supplements needed, on top of their proper diets? Let’s have a look at some of the problems facing our beloved pets that supplements may help with.
The health of our pets’ joints are often quite a considerable concern, as it’s a common problem. Many pets will suffer with some type of joint problem or impaired mobility at some stage in their lives, and often this is first noticed during the cold, damp weather.
Because of that, keeping an eye on your dog or cat’s ability to run, jump, and generally get on with life will often enable you to spot any developing joint problem early on, which is obviously very important for the health of your pet.
Since most pets will experience some form of joint issue, knowing the factors that increase the risk of developing a problem is essential. Some of the factors that increase the risk of osteoarthritis and general joint problems include genetics, any kind of injury or trauma, obesity, and general wear and tear due to age.
Since obesity can have a role in the development of joint pain, it’s really important to make sure that you are providing your pet with a healthy lifestyle, to the best of your ability.
However, because genetics also contribute, it is helpful to know which breeds are particularly susceptible to issues. Some breeds that are more prone to osteoarthritis in dogs are ones that are larger, like german shepherds or labradors, simply because they have more weight to carry.
In cats, the risk is more often due to abnormal development of the hips or cartilage, and this affects breeds such as persian, scottish fold, and siamese cats.
Another major issue affecting a lot of household pets is digestion. Like humans, the digestive systems of common household pets (particularly cats and dogs) are complex, and can often be problematic.
Some of the main symptoms to look out for if you think your pet might have a digestive problem are changeable appetite, weight loss, loose stools, wind, and vomiting after eating (this generally applies to both cats and dogs).
Obviously it’s important to visit the vet if the symptoms persist, in order to rule out any serious medical problems, but also to see if there is any gut sensitivity or specific gastrointestinal conditions. They may suggest a change of diet if they think the cause might be an allergy or sensitivity, but if this means introducing a new diet, it’s important that it’s done gradually, over a period of around a week.
 In cats, digestive disorders can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, or other serious health issues, so it’s critical to tackle them as quickly as possible. In the case of dogs (if a serious medical condition has been ruled out), digestive issues could also be caused by chronic or frequent bouts of stress. This is because on the whole, dogs love predictability.
If you know that they can anticipate when you’ll arrive home, when meals will appear, and when walk time is (and can keep this consistent), it will go a long way towards helping them find order and peace.
How can supplements help?
In veterinary medicine, just as in human medicine, the use of nutritional supplements has become extremely popular over the past few decades. As a result, there are a number of supplement ingredients that are commonly used to help digestion and joints for both humans and pets.
For digestion, one of the most frequent components used is Ginger. It has a long tradition of medicinal use for humans and has been used for more than 2,500 years.[9, 10]
Ginger contains a very complex mixture of compounds, and beneficial properties of these compounds are thought to be the reason why it is such a versatile ingredient.
Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, Ginger is often used by patients with osteoarthritis, and it is thought to have the same effect on pets. That's why Ginger is recommended for dogs and cats as an anti-inflammatory agent, for controlling pain, for controlling nausea, and for minimising gastrointestinal ulcers.
For joint pain, a common combination is Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Both compounds are present in cartilage, and help to keep joints healthy.
Glucosamine is made from glucose that is incorporated into articular cartilage. It is the most common chondroprotective (joint-protecting) supplement used in patients either diagnosed or suspected of having osteoarthritis.
Chondroitin’s role in cartilage is to absorb water and hold nutrients, enhancing the thickness and elasticity of cartilage and increasing the ability of the cartilage to absorb and distribute force during movement.
A number of really encouraging studies in humans and animals have shown that Glucosamine is as effective as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, e.g., aspirin-related drugs) for patients with osteoarthritis, making it an ingredient to look out for!
As a result, these two ingredients are recommended for osteoarthritis in dogs and cats, and for joint pain.
The final common ingredient to mention is Hyaluronic acid. It’s become very popular recently in the skincare field because of its possible anti-ageing properties, but it has been suggested that it can also play a role in improving osteoarthritis.
This is due to the fact that it can reduce swelling and inflammation, through decreasing white blood cell migration to the affected area.
After looking at these particular ingredients and their properties, it’s easy to see why so many people are using supplements to help their pets!
In addition to these conditions, since it’s now summer, it’s important to consider how the seasons can affect the general health of your pets!
The most notable thing is that pets need a bit of help to deal with the heat properly. For most pets, this means things like making sure that they have constant access to water and shade (even fish need it!), and trying to keep them out of conservatories, as they can quickly overheat!
Another obvious thing to remember during the summer is to never leave your pets in a hot car. Not only can they get heatstroke, it may prove fatal as well.
There is also specific advice for certain pets - for example, the pads on dogs’ feet can easily burn if the walking surface is too hot, so try to take them out for walks before 8am and after 5pm. If in doubt about the pavement’s heat, try the 5 second test! If you can’t place your palm on the floor for 5 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog.
Also, when driving, don’t let them lean out of the window (despite how cool it looks). This is because debris or small stones could fly into their eyes, or they could fall out.
For more unconventional pets, like chickens, giving them a dust bath means they can ‘clean’ themselves and cool off, which they will appreciate! Make sure that their coop is well ventilated, and if they have bald patches in their feathers, it’s important to protect them from the sun with special pet sun cream.
You can ask your vet about this if you aren’t sure where to get it.
If all this fails and your pet gets heatstroke, it’s essential to be able to spot it quickly. Some of the symptoms to look out for in common household pets are: excessive panting, extreme salivation, distress, and collapse.
Pets more likely to suffer from heatstroke include flat-faced breeds, like pugs, bulldogs, shih tzus, persian cats, and netherland dwarf or lionhead rabbits, as well as pets with very thick fur, old or very young pets, overweight pets, and pets with breathing or lung problems.
If your pet gets heatstroke, they will need to see the vet. However, while you wait, there is some first aid that can help them to cool down. Putting your pet in front of a fan, pouring small amounts of cold (not ice cold) water on them, and letting them drink a bit of cold water can all help to make your pet feel much better before they see the vet.
For smaller animals like hamsters and guinea pigs, it’s better to use a wet towel to dampen their fur rather than pouring water, but it will be just as effective.
One more thing to keep in mind in summer is the garden. Having pet friendly plants and pesticides can go a long way to ensuring your pet stays healthy all year round. It’s also a good idea to keep grasses short to reduce the presence of ticks and other nasty insects.
To conclude, making sure our pets are happy and looked after is crucial to them living a happy and fulfilling life with us.
Part of this is general care and making sure the weather doesn’t affect them too badly, but when it comes to certain conditions or issues, sometimes more intervention is needed.
For common problems to do with digestion or the joints, some supplements (such as the ones we have gone over) can help, but it’s also extremely important to always check in with the vet to see if they can help with the issue, or to work out if it’s something more serious that you can’t deal with at home.
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