In our health crazy society, the use of supplements for any number of things is widely talked up. Read just about any fitness mag or article related to fitness, and we hear all about the superfoods, antioxidants, use of this to burn fat, improve your heart function, build more muscle, burn more calories and on it goes. While our pet market has not entirely gone to all that extreme, we still deal with advertising urging us to believe these things can be helpful. Are they?

What we do know is good nutrition, clean water and exercise are a proven benefit. What constitutes good nutrition – grain free, no GMO’s, gluten-free, whole foods ???? – Depending on who is selling what, all the previous are important. I shall leave nutrition for another day, and focus on supplements to that good nutrition. The human or canine or feline body is a fantastic thing. The system has been designed to deal with almost everything that damages it on a daily basis, with an equal and opposite repair system. It is one such system that I would like to focus on further.

Activity is essential to good health, and as we age or as our pets age, it continues to be important. People smarter than I coined the phrase “motion is lotion”, and it is so true. We need to keep our ageing pets moving, but that movement has a downside in some cases. A life of extreme activity, injury, overweight, poor nutrition can lead to a premature breakdown in the skeletal system. Remembering that balancing act I mentioned earlier, every time we are active we break down parts of our joints. The body has a natural repair process to counter that. With age in general, that repair process struggles to keep up with the breakdown. Injuries and weight problems contribute further to the gap between break down and repair.

Supplements such as glucosamines are NOT drugs. They are mostly trying to catch the repair process back up with the breakdown. With that said, they work better BEFORE the joint is severely compromised that bone changes have developed. Talk to your veterinary team to see if this type of supplementation would be beneficial, and which specific one would be helpful for your cat or dog.

If research and numbers drive you, well you might be a little disappointed. Even in the human field, studies are not very common, and the results are hardly slam-dunk convincing. I know personally with my ageing Shepherd, they kept him from needing actual pain medications for years, but with my Springer, the results were not as noticeable. Like us, our pets are individuals with different genetics, environments etc. It would likely take a trial to know for sure if they would be helpful.

Most of these supplements are in easily administered forms, quite cost-effective, and if helpful, usable on a very long-term basis without adverse effects. Many are in types of treats, and we all know most dogs love treats – or maybe it is just my Golden!

Written by: Tim Blatt, DVM