Many of us choose to supplement a balanced diet with vitamins, minerals, and herbs to maintain—or boost—health. It stands to reason that we want to support well-being and healing for everyone we love, including the four-legged members of our family. We count on them for joy, companionship, and the occasional sloppy kiss. Shouldn’t they count on us to provide the best food and nutritional supplements available?
The Right Diet
A growing number of veterinarians and other experts recommend home-prepared foods, including raw fare. They cite improved health, better coats, increased stamina, cleaner teeth, more desirable behavior, and a natural resistance to parasites.
If there’s just not enough time in your day to prepare pet food at home, choose high-quality dry or canned pet foods with organic ingredients and natural, rather than synthetic, preservatives. Look for whole meats or specific meat meals (such as beef, chicken, or lamb) instead of “meat meal” or “animal fat.”
Whole proteins, vegetables, and grains are the basis for a healthy diet, but proportions are key. “When a pet is out of balance, it’s usually due to the fact that they’re not being fed enough vegetables, or the emphasis is too heavily on grains,” says Andi Brown, director of Halo, Purely for Pets. For dogs, “50 percent veggies, 40 percent meat, and 10 percent grains seems to be the best ratio for maintaining optimal health.” Cats require more protein than dogs, so the best foods for felines contain far more meat or fish than grains or vegetables.
Don’t Fur-get Supplements
“Top energizing fare off with a good multivitamin and a blend of essential fatty acids,” including omega-3 and omega-6 oils, advises Brown. Or you may choose specific vitamins and minerals to meet your pet’s particular needs. Holistic vet Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD, selects his favorite nutritional supplements to mix and add to homemade or commercial pet food. These include nutritional yeast (rich in iron, B vitamins, and more), lecithin (for improved digestion and coat), powdered kelp (a good source of iodine and trace minerals), calcium, and vitamin C.
Enzymes found in raw foods aid digestion and help assimilate vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. If your pet is not on a raw-food diet, supplements may help replace some of the enzymes that are destroyed when food is cooked and processed. “Veterinarians who have tested enzyme supplements report improved coats, higher puppy survival rates, and increased mobility in older dogs,” says natural pet expert CJ Puotinen.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that form cells throughout the body. They help regulate blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy heart, and aid detoxification. While eggs, raw meat, some fish, and bones are excellent sources of essential amino acids, supplemental amino acids may be useful for a pet eating a commercial diet or recovering from a serious illness.
Unlike most animals, cats cannot synthesize the amino acid taurine. Deficiency has been linked to eye disorders and cardiac problems among cats, making taurine an especially important nutrient for our feline companions.
To Learn More
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, 410-569-0795, www.ahvma.org (visit the association’s search engine www.holisticvetlist.com to locate a holistic vet in your neighborhood).
Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, 866-652-1590, www.theavh.org (offers referrals to veterinary homeopaths).