Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Do puppies need supplements?

Most important key to growth and development of a puppy is without question proper nutrition. According to what we see at the store, a remarkably high percentage of puppy owners, first timers as well as experienced dog parents is extremely careful when it comes to feeding their puppy the right diet and definitely acknowledges that fact. I wonder sometimes why, strange enough not the same percentage of adult dog owners is nearly as sensitive and picky about their dogs’ food. I guess it must have to do with parental instincts, a feeling that a baby or kid just has different need and needs more of a parent’s care than an adult.

And as much as these puppy owners are concerned about the right food, as often they wonder if it is necessary to supplement the puppy food. The variety of supplements for all life stages being offered these days has become quite impressive and picking the right ones is almost as much a science as choosing the right food. There is also a great number of supplements specifically aimed at and formulated for puppies. So say the labels, whether this is true or not I would like to discuss another time. Reason why I make this statement is that in a press release I just recently read a warning coming from “Problems with Multi vitamins and Vitamin Water: Uncovers Defects in Over 30% of Supplements Selected for Testing and Finds Most Children's Multivitamins Exceed Tolerable Limits “ Aside from criticizing people products, the release also include a paragraph about “Problems with Pet Supplements: In addition to supplements for people, selected two pet supplements for testing, but neither passed. One contained only 46% of the vitamin A and 54.7% of its claimed minimum amount of calcium. Another was contaminated with 6.45 mcg of lead per tablet. This is several times higher than the amount of lead (1.41 mcg) found to be in this same product in 2007. Contamination limits for dogs are not well defined, but, as reference, the FDA notes that children should not be exposed to more than 6 mcg of lead per day and, as noted above, California requires warning labels on supplements for human use that contain over 0.5 mcg of lead per day. “

Therefore, a healthy portion of skepticism may be in order. However, for today and now, let’s just assume the supplements, especially the high quality ones are what they promise to be and to do. The question here is, are they really necessary? Generally opinions among researchers, vets, breeders, pet owners and members of the pet product industry vary widely, just as they do with everything else.

My typical answer usually is simple: If you feed your healthy puppy a high quality food such as the ones we offer at our store, you don’t need to supplement. Of course, as always, double check with your vet and see what he/she has to say. Sometimes they may recommend supplementing with products supporting normal health like fatty acids or probiotics. Keep in mind, every puppy is different and individual needs may vary.

Sometimes it may be necessary to supplement for short periods of time. One example comes to my mind: When the puppy joins the family for the first time it may be too excited to eat correctly, so it may need a little support there. But that is seldom the case. I have yet to see a puppy, which doesn’t get excited about food and gets so side tracked by its surroundings that it doesn’t satisfy its seemingly endless hunger. After all every puppy is a fast growing body and that fast growth needs a lot of fuel.

Actually I could finish right here. You got your answer: Feed the right diet and you don’t need to supplement. But that would be too easy. There are always those of you who do for what ever the reasons may be not feed the best available food or for example feed diets approved for all life stages. In those cases you have different needs. What is to be included in the “right” puppy food to make sure that it does not to be supplemented?

If you recall any of this blog’s previous comments about feeding a puppy you will remember fatty acids, like Omega-3 to provide DHA and EPA (docosahaexenoic and eicosapentaenic acid) for enhanced mental functions, vitamins to build a strong immune system and minerals to support proper skeletal growth. This is just to name a few.

I came up with an idea: Looking for details as to what should be the ultimate supplement? One supplement comes to my mind, which I definitely call the ultimate. You guessed right: Mother’s milk. This is the super premium fuel for all of the youngster’s needs and optimal growth and development. But what makes it so valuable?

It contains proteins with the appropriate amino acid composition needed for growth. These proteins include colostrum which provides immunoglobulins important in building a strong immune system and vitamins, minerals, hormones, complex sugars and growth factors to promote proper development.

Fats included in mother’s milk help to increase resident time in the stomach to optimize digestion of proteins and other nutrients. Healthy fats also make puppies less likely to develop allergies. The fats in mother’s milk also include medium chain triglycerides (MCT). Because bile and enzyme secretions from the liver and pancreas are not fully functional during the first few weeks of a puppy’s life it is important that the fats ingested are easily digestible. MCT require less bile and enzyme for digestion and are transported from the stomach and small intestine to the liver to be utilized for energy more rapidly than other fats, which must pass through the lymphatic system. MCT’s also increase the absorption of amino acids, fat soluble vitamins and some electrolytes.

Then there are omega 3 fatty acids, which are important for the formation of cell membranes, proper enzyme function, development of brain, eye and nerve cells, healthy liver function and energy and protein production.

Lecithin is necessary for the formation and maintenance of cell membranes, nerve transmission and normal brain and liver functions plus additionally it increases resistance to disease.

And finally, probiotics or intestinal micro organisms play a vital role digestion and overall health by improving nutrient availability, synthesizing enzymes and vitamins, enhancing the immune system and regulating bowel function.

Best of all, it is available as a supplement, typically in powder form to be sprinkled onto the regular food or mixed with water into a liquid formula.

Just as important as the question do you need supplements, is the question how much of them. Be careful, some vitamins and minerals can be dangerous if given in too high of a dose. Example: Calcium if given excessively or at the wrong ratio with phosphorus can lead to musculoskeletal disorders, especially in large breed puppies.

My last word of advice to those of you who believe for economical reasons they cannot afford feeding their puppies a higher priced, high quality food: Do the math and add up your lower priced, low quality food and the dollars you will have to spend on supplements: The bottom line is most likely that you are better off feeding the better food to begin with. And this does not even consider the intangible risk of possibly having health issues with your puppy down the road at later ages.

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