Supplements to enhance your pet's well-being

Your animal deserves a life filled with love, good food and exercise. Based on his individual needs, you can often help nature along with supplements that will enhance his health and happiness even further, whatever his age.

Whether you feed your animal a raw or home-cooked diet, or a premium canned or dry food, the bottom line is that each animal is as unique as we are, with varying needs that change through the seasons of their lives. While many packaged diets contain the necessary vitamins, minerals and other nutrients for maintaining good health, there are times in our cat or dog’s life when supplements may come into play for a particular situation. It’s also important to remember that, just like us, our animals have different needs at different stages of their life.

As with anything else, you need to consult a holistic veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist before adding supplements to your animal companion’s diet plan. In the meantime, here are some supplements that can be used for different situations and at different times in your animal’s life.


Is your puppy teething? Are you dreading your cat’s next vet visit? Chamomile may be just what you are looking for. Young or old, our animal companions can benefit from the soothing properties of this gentle herb. Pour boiling water over an organic tea bag filled with chamomile flowers. Steep for 15 minutes, cool, then add this special brew to your animal’s drinking water or food. Another alternative is Herbs for Kids Chamomile Calm. Although designed for children, this product is a safe, gentle, alcohol-free formulation that will help balance and nourish your dog or cat’s nervous system.


We have all seen TV commercials that begin: “Upset stomach, diarrhea…” There are also going to be times in our animals’ lives when they will benefit from the addition of probiotics to their diet. Many strains of beneficial bacteria are normally present in the gut, and they perform a variety of functions critical to overall health and well being, including digestion, nutrient absorption, the elimination of toxic substances, and the maintenance of a healthy immune system. Probiotics contain billions of beneficial bacteria, including lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium bifidum, which help control yeast and other harmful bacteria, and can be beneficial to animals under stress or who are experiencing problems with their digestive system. It may take only one round of antibiotics to destroy the healthy bacteria in the gut along with the pathogenic bacteria that caused the problem in the first place.

This is where probiotics come into play. Many holistic veterinarians recommend that a probiotic be given at the same time as an antibiotic, to help maintain beneficial bacteria and to restore any healthy bacteria that have been destroyed. It is generally recommended that you continue supplementing probiotics for at least two weeks following a round of antibiotics. If your animal has additional digestive problems, you may want to consider supplementing with probiotics for one to three months.

Normal levels of lactobacilli in the intestines enhance the absorption of essential trace elements, including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. Adding acidophilus to your animal’s diet also helps him synthesize B vitamins, especially folic acid and biotin. One brand of probiotics that you may want to check out at the health food store is SISU Non-Dairy Dophilus Plus Acidophilus, which contains four billion active cells of lactobacillus acidophilus, l. bifidus, and enterococcus faecium per capsule. Simply add two capsules to your animal’s daily supplement regimen.

Probiotics become even more important as our animals age and the secretion of gastrointestinal juices lessens. Don’t forget to check the ingredient list carefully before purchasing a product. Paying a lot does not mean you are getting a lot. Check laboratory assays, whenever possible. Remember, too, that it’s always a good idea to have stool samples checked by your veterinarian to ensure that the good guys have truly run the bad guys out of town. Interestingly, dogs appear to develop more problems with antibiotics than cats.

Grapefruit seed extract (GSE)

GSE is a broad spectrum, non-toxic, antimicrobial product derived from the seeds, pulp and white membranes of grapefruit. In hundreds of laboratory tests, GSE has demonstrated its ability to kill or inhibit the growth of a wide range of potentially harmful bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoan parasites. Grapefruit seed extract should be in everyone’s first aid kit, and make sure to take it when you go on trips with your animal, since their systems can be stressed by travel. For diarrhea, use one drop for each pound of body weight. For more information, check out

Essential fatty acids (EFAs)

Requirements for EFAs vary for dogs and cats. While dogs have the ability to produce their own arachidonic acid, for example, cats need to get this EFA directly from their diets. You can consider giving your feline companion evening primrose oil or borage oil.

Gregory Tilford, co-author of All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets, points out that dogs and cats deficient in EFAs typically develop chronic skin and coat problems, digestive issues, and cardiovascular and degenerative eye disease. Add an essential fatty acid supplement to the diet, and you will see a softer coat, less shedding, and healthier skin. Wild salmon oil is an excellent choice as an Omega 3 essential fatty acid for both dogs and cats. It’s rich in eicosapentaeoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaneoic acid (DHA), which are important for blood pressure, the immune system, reproductive health, and blood clotting ability. It also helps support animals with inflammatory conditions, like arthritis and allergies.

When shopping for salmon oil, it’s critical to select products that say wild on the label, because that means the fish was caught in the wild and is not a farmed fish that likely contains high levels of PCBs and mercury. There are a variety of excellent products to choose from. Monica Segal Brand Premium Supplements from Natural Sources’ North Atlantic Wild Salmon Oil for Dogs comes in a gelatin, glycerin, and purified water base, with no artificial preservatives, color, milk, soy, corn, wheat or yeast. Grizzly Salmon Oil for Cats is an all-natural salmon oil extracted from freshly harvested wild Alaskan salmon. You can also choose from Only Natural Pet Salmon Oil, made from 100% salmon oil from Iceland, and Timberwolf Organics’ Wild Deep Sea Salmon Oil, from the cold, pure waters of the North Atlantic. Organika, Natural Factors and Enerex also produce excellent wild salmon oil products.


Given the number of dogs and cats with urinary tract issues, it’s not surprising that cranberry extract has been getting more and more great press. When it comes to the treatment and prevention of struvite crystals in cats, and bladder stones in dogs, cranberry is the one supplement that should always be in your kitchen cupboard. Cranberries contain bioactive components, including the antioxidants proanthocyanidins and anthocyanidins, ellagic acid, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. But cranberry’s real claim to fame is that it prevents e-coli bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall.

Try supplementing your animal’s diet with pure cranberry juice. Swiss Natural Sources makes a couple of excellent products: Cran-Max (250 mg) comes in caplet form, while Cranberry Extract (1,132 mg) comes in a soft gel capsule. Whichever you choose, it can help you maintain your animal companion’s urinary tract health.

Vitamin E

When it comes to aging cats and dogs, Vitamin E may be the most important supplement. It plays an essential role in the healthy function of every cell in the body. Aging is associated with many degenerative changes, and Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties help prevent or slow down the process. Studies have shown that when companion animals are given Vitamin E from the time they are young, age-related problems such as cataracts, cardiovascular disease, and compromised immune systems do not appear as readily.

Make sure you choose a d alpha tocopheryl formulation, like Natural Factors Clear Base Natural Source Vitamin E, which is free from allergens and contains no artificial preservatives, color, dairy, soy, starch, wheat, or yeast. Small dogs can benefit from 100 IU per day, medium dogs 200 IU per day, and large dogs 400 IU per day. Cats can be given from 2 to 20 IU of Vitamin E per day.

Slippery elm

This is another good supplement for aging animals. Though perfectly suited to all ages and for a variety of ailments, slippery elm can be the perfect supplement to reach for when your animal has gone off his food.

Slippery elm is a nutrient and food for very young, old, or very weak cats and dogs. It coats and heals inflamed tissues, and is used for the stomach, kidneys and bowels for problems such as ulcers, constipation, diarrhea, dysentery and colitis. It can be used externally for wounds, burns, rashes, abscesses, boils, or insect bites, and internally for the coughing, vomiting, and even for stomach or bowel cancer.

Slippery elm is rich in calcium, magnesium, protein, iodine, manganese, trace minerals, and soothing mucilage, as well as vitamins A, B, C, and K. For ailing animals, try mixing some slippery elm with honey and water. Tree Barks Powder is available from and Nature’s Way also makes a very good slippery elm product.

C.J. Puotinen, author of The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care, suggests giving ill animals one teaspoon of slippery elm per ten pounds of body weight every two to three hours. In their book, Gregory Tilford and Mary Wulff-Tilford suggest making a nutritional digestive tonic by combining one teaspoon of the dried inner bark steeped in eight ounces of hot water to which one teaspoon of honey has been added. If constipation is a problem, one teaspoon of organic yogurt with live cultures can be added to the mixture. The entire mixture, inner bark and all, is then fed to the sick animal.


Suzi Beber has been successfully creating special needs diets for companion animals for two decades. She founded the University of Guelph’s Smiling Blue Skies® Cancer Fund and Smiling Blue Skies® Fund for Innovative Research. She is the proud recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and was honored with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, for her work in cancer, from the University of Guelph/Ontario Veterinary College. The Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund is also the recipient of the “Pets + Us” Community Outreach Champion Award.