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Vail pets: Supplements and your pets

Stephen Sheldon
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –Do your Vail Valley pets need supplements? I know mine do! They need a supplemental brain. If you read my articles, you know I take great joy in making fun of my dogs, but in all reality they are just like everyone else’s dogs: crazy, active, lovable and a big part of our family.

And like the rest of our family, they get their daily share of vitamins and supplements.

The market for pet supplements is one of the fastest growing segments in an already red hot sector of our economy. Consumer spending on pets continues to rise. Surveys from 2007 show 71 million Americans, or 63 percent of households, own a pet and spent – are you sitting down? – $41 billion on them. As Dr. Evil would say, “41 bill-yon dollars!”



Another survey showed 17 percent of people give their pets supplements to the tune of $1.3 billion annually. The supplement biz is growing anywhere from 15 to 40 percent annually, depending on who you ask. The recession is not slowing it down either.

The good news is that it is having a very positive effect on how long pets live. In 1987 only 32 percent of dogs were 6 years or older; now 44 percent of dogs are that age or older. Better medical care is also responsible, in my opinion. Supplements are now made specifically for pets and for most medical conditions. Better yet, they are now regulated. In 2001 the, Nutritional Animal Supplement Council, or NASC, was founded because regulatory agencies for human supplements did not include pet supplements. That loop-hole is now closed.



Enough statistics. What, if any, supplements should you be giving your pets?

Joint supplements are by far the most popular as arthritis is very common in cats and dogs. Most contain glucosamine, chondroiton sulfate, perna mussel extract, creatinine, MSM and some fish oils. They work very well; we are even using them preventatively in dog breeds susceptible to problems.

Skin supplements are also common. Dry, itchy skin, ear infections, and anal gland problems are all thought to be primarily immune system related. Supplements commonly contain fish oils (DHA and EPA are the most important ingredients), natural anti-histamines, anti-oxidant vitamins and natural anti-inflammatories.



Supplements for anxiety, stress, calmness and senility are also popular. A clinical trial on a newer supplement containing a mix of amino acids and vitamins had over 90 percent owner satisfaction. I am one of the satisfied owners; my knuckle-heads are doing well on it. They work directly on neurotransmitters, like the prescription drugs prozac and clomipramine, but have virtually no side effects. Senility supplements contain brain-friendly ingredients.

Pet specific supplements are also available for heart conditions (coenzyme Q, taurine, carnitine), liver disorders (SAM-e, milk thistle, glutathione), kidney disorders, (fatty acids, amino acids etc.), eye disorders (lutein, lycopene, etc.), and GI disorders (probiotics, b vitamins, etc.).

There is a nutritional supplement for almost every medical disorder and life-stage of your pet, from pup to old kitty. Most veterinarians agree supplements are beneficial for your pet.

If you are starting a new supplement, be patient. They often take three to four weeks to exert their effect, though the calming ones work immediately. Our goals with supplements are to change things at the cellular level first. This takes a little time. My other advice is to use NASC approved supplements. You wouldn’t take “Billy-Bobs’ Joint Pills” would you? Neither should your pet.

Stephen Sheldon is a veterinarian at Gypsum Animal Hospital. He is a frequent supplement taker and amazes his children by downing a fist full of pills each morning.


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