The right supplements can add a boost of nutrition to your canine companion's regular diet. The key is to invest in quality!

The right supplements can add a boost of nutrition to your canine companion’s regular diet. The key is to invest in quality!

According to the American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, about 73% of horse caregivers give supplements to their equines. However, only about 23% of dog parents supplement their canines’ diets.

Why the disparity? It may be due to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) requirement that a pet food must be deemed “[nutritionally] complete and balanced” in order to be sold in the U.S. commercial market. This language may lead consumers to believe that if a dog or cat is given a complete and balanced food, there is no need to provide supplements.

“Complete and balanced” is really just about nutritional adequacy, though. It means the pet food has adequate macronutrients (fat, protein, fiber, moisture, fatty acids) and other required micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) to sustain life. But there’s so much more a dog could benefit from that goes above and beyond adequate nutrition. And these missing pieces are an absolute necessity when supporting and optimizing health and wellness. The only way for dogs and cats to get these additional benefits is through supplementation.

For example, Omega 3 fatty acids are a requirement per AAFCO, but their required levels may not be enough to achieve all the potential benefits as your animal ages. AAFCO’s maximum amount of Omega 3:6 is a ratio of 1:30, which is very pro-inflammatory. Ideally, the Omega 3:6 ratio should be between 1:1 and 1:5. To achieve this ratio, you can supplement with krill, algae, anchovy or salmon oil, or even incorporate grass-fed meats into your animal’s diet.

AAFCO requirements also don’t allow pet food companies to adequately address a dog or cat’s need for antioxidants (i.e. free radical neutralizers). Our animals are under daily siege from free radicals simply because of the metabolic processes that take place in their bodies. Antioxidants neutralize or remove the free radicals that damage healthy cells. That’s why all dogs and cats should get antioxidants. To increase dietary antioxidants, you could add a supplement or fresh food. Brightly-colored fruits and vegetables, especially green vegetables, will add antioxidants to the diet.

If a pet food label claims that antioxidants are included, be leery. There may be some antioxidants present, but likely not enough to provide maximum benefit. Most kibble is made with a high-heat extrusion process, which would damage the antioxidants because they’re heat-sensitive. Similarly, probiotics are generally not found in kibble because they also won’t survive the high-heat production process. You can add a probiotic supplement to help increase the beneficial bacteria in your animal’s gastrointestinal tract and strengthen his immune system.

A number of other beneficial nutrients that can help your animal live a long and healthy life may not be found in “complete and balanced” pet foods. Supplementationadding to the diet — is the only way to provide everything your dog or cat needs.