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8 Weeks To A Healthy Dog

< Sample chapter from the book: Choosing Nutritional Supplements For Your Pet>

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All dogs can benefit from nutritional supplementation. In Week 4 of our 8 Week plan, I'm going to ask you to work with your doctor to find what supplements will be most beneficial for your dog. I will give you guidelines in this chapter, but as with all of the information in 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog, your own dog is an individual. I'm not able to talk with you and evaluate your dog's unique needs. By learning about some of the commonly recommended supplements, you and your doctor can best determine which supplements are most likely to be beneficial to you keeping your dog healthy.

Later in this chapter I'll present an overview of supplements I like to use both for healthy pets and for pets with a variety of diseases. This list is by no means comprehensive, as there are hundreds of supplements that might help your pet's particular needs (you can learn all you ever wanted to know about supplements in depth by reading my award-winning book, The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, Prima 2001.) Each doctor has his own favorite supplements, and later in this chapter I'll share my favorites with you. If your doctor recommends something else, don't fear. Simply discuss the supplement with him so you'll understand why he chose that particular supplement.

One question you might be asking is why your normal, "healthy" dog, eating a good healthy diet, would need any supplements. This is a great question to ask, and I always encourage my clients to ask "Why" because this is an important part of a holistic approach to pet care.

First, as I mentioned in Chapter 3 when I discussed diets, many dogs are not eating good diets. If your dog is typical of most of the dogs I see in practice, he is probably eating either a grocery store inexpensive food (I hesitate to label some of this stuff "food") or a premium food recommended by a conventional veterinarian, slick advertisement in one of the various media (magazine, television, radio) or the local pet "expert" minimum wage employee at the neighborhood giant pet superstore. Obviously, there's not much nutrition in the bag of food made from the least expensive ingredients containing byproducts and chemicals bought at the pet store or grocery store. Regarding premium diets, some are pretty good (especially the more "natural" brands mentioned in the appendix) and others are not always much better than the least expensive pet store or grocery store stuff (the only thing "premium" about some diets is their cost.) While it is usually true that the more expensive premium diets are better than the less expensive foods, that still does not make them as healthy as a natural processed food or (better yet) a nutritious homemade diet. Therefore, most normal healthy pets eating any processed food will benefit from the supplements discussed in this chapter. And don't forget what I said in Chapter 3 regarding the value of proper diet and supplements in preventing disease. It is estimated that 50% of diseases in people and pets could be prevented with proper diet and rationale use of nutritional supplements.

Second, even if you're feeding a cooked or raw homemade diet, supplements will balance the diet and easily provide some ingredients that you may not be able to easily supply as food (for example, it's often easier to provide fish oil than actually feeding fish.)

Finally, some pets are by nature picky eaters. My Cavalier King Charles spaniel Rita is a picky eater. She loves her natural treats and any food our family eats, but occasionally she skips her meal. By giving her and pets like her supplements, this ensures an adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other important "nutrients." And sometimes, simply adding the supplements right to her food improves the taste of the food and encourages her to eat.

Even though the best natural, premium diets are far superior in nutritional content to generic foods, they will still benefit from nutritional supplementation. Unless you make the diet at home (which would still need to be supplemented to ensure the pet receives a balanced meal,) the high temperatures and pressures used in the processing of prepared dry or canned food mean that certain nutrients such as enzymes and helpful, friendly bacteria that would be found in the wild, natural, healthy diet of the dog are missing. Supplementation is used to bring our premium or homemade diet "up to par" with those foods ingested by wild canines.

Remember that the wild relatives of our dogs eat a variety of fresh food. They eat fresh meat from prey they kill, and they ingest small particles of the bones they gnaw on after stripping them of the meaty muscle tissue.

They also ingest a variety of enzymes and helpful bacteria. By eating organ meats, they are assimilating a number of vitamins and minerals in their fresh states. And since they also eat the intestinal contents of their prey, which contain predigested vegetable (plant) material, they fulfill their need to ingest grasses and other plants.

I've never seen any harm come to dogs which received high quality nutritional supplements. As we discuss the supplements below, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. I recommend starting with just 1 or 2 supplements. If your dog eats the food with the supplements, feel free to add another supplement or two. If your dog won't eat the supplemented diet, stop the supplements for a few days and reintroduce just one of them at the tiniest dose possible. Your goal should be to work up to the recommended dosage of each supplement (which is usually the label dose for normal, healthy pets.)

There is no right or wrong here. Take your time and make this fun. Remember that by adding any supplements you are improving your pet's health.

There are a number of supplements that can be used to make your dog's diet more nutritionally complete and improve his health. Most owners are familiar with the popular vitamin and mineral supplements available at pet food stores and groceries. These supplements will help make sure that your pet is receiving the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals required for optimum health.

Vitamins and Minerals:Whole Foods or Chemicals
Whenever possible, I prefer for most pets to get vitamins and minerals through food rather than chemicals. Many vitamin supplements are made in a chemistry lab, and the "vitamins" in the pill are nothing more than chemicals. For example, many supplements contain ascorbic acid and call it vitamin C. Ascorbic acid is not vitamin C but rather a part of the vitamin C complex (the antioxidant coating of the vitamin C molecule.) While small amounts of ascorbic acid will not hurt dogs, unless there is a medical condition which would respond specfiically to ascorbic acid administration, I would prefer the dog get vitamin C through a vitamin pill made of whole foods. (I know that dogs make their own vitamin C, but supplementation is not harmful and may be needed in sick pets which require extra antioxidants and don't make enough vitamin C.)

So many vitamin supplements are simply an alphabet soup of chemically created vitamin parts (beta carotene rather than vitamin A which contains many different carotenes, alpha tocopherol instead of vitamin E, etc.) While some of my favorite supplements still contain some of these chemical vitamin fractions, whenever possible I like to use and recommend those supplements which also contain whole foods to provide added nutrients not found in chemical "vitamins."




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