Pet food stores have aisles dedicated to vitamins and dietary supplements for pets, and if you’re a devoted cat owner, you may wonder if you should be giving Fluffy cat vitamins or other supplements.
Ideally, you want to feed a healthy feline diet that provides all the nutrition necessary for your cat’s optimal health. If you’re feeding your cat a premium cat food and she’s in good health, there is probably no reason to add supplements to her diet. But if she has health conditions for which supplements might seem warranted, your vet can evaluate whether they’re necessary and help you monitor their efficacy.
The pet supplement industry is not tightly regulated. A recent FDA-sponsored study on dietary supplements for horses, dogs and cats stressed that clear and precise regulations need to be established so “only safe animal dietary supplements are allowed on the market.” The committee added that current regulations addressing animal dietary supplements are in “disarray.”
For example, garlic can cause hemolytic anemia in cats, but there are numerous garlic dietary supplements for cats on the market. Small amounts might not kill your cat, but the health benefits are questionable and your money is better spent on premium cat food.
Although many cats live long, healthy lives without supplements, there are instances in which supplements can be beneficial to your cat’s health.
Here are the most common dietary and vitamin supplements for cats:
Dietary supplements for pets are available that help treat conditions like dermatitis or gastrointestinal problems. These include essential fatty acids and digestive enzymes and supplements.
Veterinarians often prescribe fish oil supplements containing essential fatty acids (EFAs) for dogs and cats with allergic dermatitis, dry skin and dull hair (after ruling out underlying conditions).
Recent research shows that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to numerous health conditions in pets, including cardiovascular disease, food allergies, dermatitis, kidney disease, arthritis and autoimmune disorders.
If your cat food contains only the minimum daily requirement of EFAs, you may need to add an EFA supplement for optimal health. Check with your vet to see if it’s warranted.
If your cat suffers from chronic gastrointestinal upset or weight loss, she might find some benefit from one or both types of digestive supplements: probiotics and digestive enzymes.
Probiotics are dietary supplements that contain live microorganisms that beneficially affect the host by improving its intestinal microbial balance. For example, probiotic supplements are recommended for the dietary management of cats with diarrhea.
Veterinarians are increasingly recommending digestive enzyme supplements for bowel disease, digestive irregularities, chronic diarrhea, and other digestive problems. Most promise to ensure complete digestion, and some claim to remove toxins.
As with any supplement, consult with your vet before administering probiotics or digestive enzymes. He can point you toward a reputable brand, and monitor your cat to see if there is an improvement with the supplements.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin are proving to be one of the safest and best treatments for the crippling effects of osteoarthritis that affect aging cats. Used as indicated, there are very few side effects. Your vet can help you decide if your cat will benefit from it, and determine the proper dosage.
If you feed your cat high quality cat food and your vet gives your cat a clean bill of health, additional vitamin supplements are probably not necessary.
Researchers and veterinarians are concerned with the possibility of vitamin toxicity with fat-soluble vitamins, especially vitamins A and D, which are stored in the body. It’s important to never exceed the recommended dosage, and not to administer large numbers of different supplements together unless your vet prescribes it.
However, if you feed your cat a homemade diet or a diet high in table scraps, you should give her a high quality vitamin/mineral supplement.
You should also give your cat a vitamin/mineral supplement if she is ill or has a poor appetite since she’s not receiving her daily requirements through the food she eats.
If you’re feeding your cat a non-commercial raw diet, she will need raw food supplements to ensure that her diet is complete and balanced.
With the proliferation of raw food adherents, you’ll have plenty of choices for raw food diet supplements. Most are easily combined with your meat, and most recommend the addition of fruit or vegetables, including cooked green beans, broccoli, pumpkin or bananas.
Some dietary supplements can provide miracle cures for what ails your cat, but others can do more harm than good. Do not assume that a supplement you’re taking will provide the same benefits for your cat, and never administer a human supplement to your pets; always choose a formula for cats.