Nutritional Supplements for Your Pet

pet supplementsA recent study showed that nearly half of adults in the U.S. take one or more nutritional supplements regularly in an effort to improve their overall health and well-being. Supplements do just as the name suggests – they supplement our diet with the vitamins and minerals that may otherwise be lacking. Ideally, we would get all that we need from the food we eat, but with today’s society of fast, processed and pre-packaged food, that just isn’t the case. So, if people benefit by adding supplements to their daily diet, wouldn’t it make sense that your precious pet would benefit as well?

Your pet’s nutrition is important for living a long, happy and healthy life. As with the food we eat, many of the pet foods on the market today are overly processed and contain fillers to provide non-nutritional bulk. While premium foods are ideal and often provide a well-balanced diet, a bit of supplementation based on your pets needs can be quite beneficial.

Choosing the Right Supplements

The most common supplements for pets are used to aid joint health, condition and protect the skin and coat, improve digestion, and increase overall well-being. While there are several marketed supplements, it’s likely you have what your pet needs right at home in your kitchen pantry or medicine cabinet.

Coconut Oil. We’ve all heard of coconut oil’s many benefits for humans, but did you know it is also safe and effective for your pet? Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a “healthy” saturated fat that boasts antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Fed regularly to your furry friend, coconut oil can clear up skin conditions, prevent yeast and fungal infections, soften and deodorize coats, improve digestion and nutrient absorption, increase energy, reduce kitty’s hairballs, aid in ligament and arthritis issues… just to name a few.

Pumpkin. It’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore! Fiber-filled pumpkin is safe for your pet and can aid in constipation relief; promotes a sense of fullness for pudgy pooches, possibly aiding in weight loss; helps with hydration (pumpkin is composed of 90% water); and is a natural source of vitamins and minerals that benefit day-to-day cellular function. Be sure to use all-natural, canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling!

Vitamin E. Key for healthy skin and eyes, as well as strong immunity in people, those Vitamin E softgels in your medicine cabinet can also be beneficial to your pet. Great for dry skin, softgels can be popped and the liquid inside massaged directly into your four-legged friend’s skin, added to bath water, or dribbled onto your pet’s meal. Vitamin E, when ingested, also benefits pets who experience mild arthritic discomfort.

Yogurt. Plain yogurt is a delicious treat for your cuddly companion. Just as with humans, the live cultures in yogurt keeps the good bacteria in Fluffy and Fido’s gut balanced. If you have a puppy or a dog on antibiotics – both of which are prone to yeast infections – a little yogurt as a snack can help keep the infections at bay. Keep in mind, adult cats are lactose intolerant, so don’t overdo it!

Turmeric. This pungent, bitter flavored spice is used as a supplement for preventing cancer and to reduce inflammation from arthritis. Simply sprinkle on your pet’s food, beginning with just a quarter teaspoon per day, and gradually increase to up to one teaspoon. Introduce the spice slowly to avoid shock to the digestive system, and discontinue if side effects appear.

While the above supplements are safe for most pets, always consult with your veterinarian before using, to determine the proper serving size, and to avoid any possible adverse reactions, particularly in pets taking medication.

Selecting Your Child’s First Pet

pet ratChoosing a first pet for your child can be a daunting task. A young child may not comprehend the needs of a pet or be able to recognize the proper way to handle one. And, with pets having much shorter life spans than humans, introducing a new pet may also result in your child’s first experience with death. Yes, there are many questions to ask yourself before making the commitment to bring a pet home for your child – Is my child old enough? Will he be kind to the pet? What pet would be best suited for him?

If you have a toddler, it likely isn’t a good choice to introduce a pet such as a hamster or fish. Not only do they have short lifespans – which will inevitably lead to the explanation of death – they are small, fragile and require sensitive care. Yes, it may be a good learning experience, but always keep the animal’s safety and needs in mind.

Hermit Crabs. Believe it or not, hermit crabs are actually an ideal first pet for a child. They are interesting, low-maintenance, extremely social and can live ten plus years with the proper care. And their regular molting and new shell growth will likely intrigue your child. Yes, a hermit crab is a great option for introducing your child to the world of responsible pet ownership.

Rats. If you and your family aren’t the skittish type, a rat may be an ideal first pet. Though they come with a negative association, rats are actually quite intelligent, social and easily tamed creatures. They often become emotionally attached to their humans and even enjoy a good cuddle. Despite popular opinion, rats are quite clean, when purchased from a reputable source. They can live up to two or three years, with proper care and exercise, and thrive when they have a rat companion by their side.

Cats and Dogs. Of course, when most of us think of a proper pet for our child, we think of a cat or a dog. Indeed, cats and dogs are wonderful pets, but be conscientious of the fact that cuddly kittens and precious little pups usually aren’t an ideal choice. They require a lot of patience and training in order to grow into well-adjusted adults, and a child likely can’t fulfill that need. Sure, you can take on the task yourself, but do you have the time and the composure to handle a child and a fur baby? Instead, consider adopting a more mature dog or cat. Adult animals are typically more tolerant of children and have likely been trained to some extent, making it an easier transition into your home and into your child’s heart.

A first pet can be a lesson in responsibility for any child. To ensure a pleasant experience for everyone – including the animal – be confident that your child is ready for a pet and do your research before making a pet choice. And, as importantly, be willing and prepared to take on the responsibility yourself, as any pet comes along with certain expenses (food, veterinary care, etc.) and requirements (regular feedings, exercise, training, etc.).