Should I supplement my pet’s food?

People ask me every day: “Can I add more to my pet’s diet to make them healthier?”

The simple answer is : Yes.

Now, how far we go from there is up to every individual.

One of our staff was reviewing a raw food presentation which mentioned the inclusion of nuts in the diet. So, she asked if we should be telling people to add nuts to their pets’ diets?

Here is where choice comes in. If we recommended every item that may have a nutritional benefit for your pets, there’d be no room left for the actual food and, in most cases, something containing a component that is nutritionally beneficial may also have something that could be an issue. So, if you want to supplement your pets’ diets, choosing your add-ins wisely is key.

Every pet is different and tailoring the diet to fit specific needs and/or conditions can be both rewarding and daunting at the same time. The most important thing is to start with a balanced base diet. That way you know the pet is getting everything it needs, and then if you want, you can tailor the addition of items to address concerns you may have.

Fresh food of any kind is usually a benefit. If you are feeding a processed food, the addition of something as simple as raw or cooked eggs, kale, or even fresh meat can have great nutritional benefit. If you are feeding a balanced raw diet, well, there’s no fresher food than that.

Back to our example of an add-in: nuts. Yes, they are powerhouses of nutrition, walk into any health food store and you’ll find nuts everywhere. They are not essential, but they do have certain vitamins, such as E, B6, niacin and folate, and minerals including magnesium, zinc, plant iron, calcium, copper, selenium, phosphorus, and potassium, which can benefit some pets.

They can also be high in fat, and can be allergens, and can be expensive. Whenever you look at adding a non-meat food, you must decide what the benefits are, what the negatives are, and whether one outweighs the other.

Another example is carrots. People seek out carrots as a source of vitamin A, beta carotene, fibre and potassium. Yes, they have these, and they are inexpensive, and some breeders recommend them frozen, as a chew or teething toy. Are there better sources of these available in a better form? Yes, and in a balanced diet, your pet shouldn’t be needing vitamin A or potassium. Carrots also contain starchy carbs, which might be an issue for some dogs.

So, just because there are some beneficial components to a food item, doesn’t mean they will be a benefit to your pet. In most cases, a dog being fed a balanced diet should not need any supplements. Keeping it simple is sometimes the best advice.

However, should an issue present itself, we can look at real foods to address these issues, such as fibre or probiotics for stool issues, Omega 3s for coat issues, or specific foods for allergy, inflammation or other health concerns. There are many options that can be addressed just through giving your pets better, cleaner, fresher foods.

The more variety we offer our pets, the more likely they get everything they need, and the less likely they will get bored with their food.

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