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Archive for January, 2015

Supplements – An Overview (Golden Rescue Newsletter February 2015)

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Supplements can literally be life savers. Over the past several weeks I’ve seen two ‘friend of the family’ dogs live considerably longer than expected simply due to supplements (and both dogs were terminal due to diseases caused by medical treatments prescribed for non-fatal diseases). My own dog recovered from spinal surgery at an astonishing rate, a rate the vets had never seen, simply due to a healthy home prepared diet and a good regiment of supplements. Compare this to the mantra of many traditional medical practitioners, that supplements simply make “expensive urine”, and the decision to use them can become a complex and confusing one. How do you know which ones to choose? Where can we get more information about supplements? What supplements match which diseases?

Supplements can be used both as preventative (preferred) or as an active treatment for disease. My favourite source of information on supplements, aside from a holistic veterinarian, is Dogs Naturally Magazine. Their vets and writing staff put together helpful information about a whole range of supplements, including brand recommendations and dosage requirements. Their site is set up in such a way that you can easily search articles by supplement type or disease. Another site that works in this way is Healthy Pets by Mercola, hosted by the amazing Dr. Karen Becker. She provides both written and video tutorials about making natural choices to manage or cure a whole host of health conditions.

The most important decision you can make when choosing a supplement is ensuring it’s quality. Using a poor quality supplement is literally creating expensive urine and doing nothing for your dog. In the case of supplements, you really do get what you pay for. Unfortunately, most of the supplements you find in pharmacies, grocery stores (though the organic sections have improved quality supplements lately) and sometimes even vet clinics are not of the highest grade, and some studies have even found them to be completely lacking in the ingredient touted by the brand to be what will save you or your dog. That’s right – I’m even talking about human grade supplements you can give to your dog. More often than not, supplements made just for dogs but by human product manufacturers are waste product of the human product manufacturing, and don’t come close to meeting the standards set in the human supplement world. There are a few exceptions, and Omega Alpha is one of them! I am in love with this company – I can call them anytime and ask questions, a real person picks up the phone and gives me immediate answers, and if they can’t, they find out. They provide an above-grade series of products for a whole range of health issues, they’re reasonably priced, and they are a North American brand (with head offices in Scarborough, Ontario). A few other companies that make great products for both humans and dogs include Purica (Recovery), Ascenta (oils), and Burt’s Bees. Be sure to do some research, such as on the sites I mentioned above, and get some references before you choose a supplement. Remember, dogs don’t know what a placebo is, so the supplement will either work or it won’t – there’s no lying in the dog world! Another great test is to take your dog off the supplement for a couple of weeks and see if you notice a difference – if you do, the supplement is working. If you don’t, it’s time to find a new brand.

Here’s a list of my favourite supplements (and companies) and what they are used for:

Probiotic 8 Plus Omega Alpha Gut health and allergy management
Recovery Purica Joint health and pain management
Milk Thistle Omega Alpha or Naka Liver health (should always be given in conjunction with medications that affect the liver)
Apple Cider Vinegar Braggs or Omega Nutrition Alkalinizing the body, treating yeast
Turmeric Simply Organic, Frontier, Mountain Rose Herbs Pain management, general health and well being, cancer treatment
Green Lipped Muscle Dr. Peter Dobias Joint health
Bio-Calm Centaur Vet Anxiety

Supplements don’t always have to come in a pill form. A supplement is anything natural that’s added to the diet to improve or promote health. Even adding pureed veggies to a kibble or home prepared diet can function as a supplement, and often not only improves vigor, but also improves stool quality and general health. Turmeric is a great example as to why the quality of the supplement matters. Used properly, it is probably one of the most powerful food supplements in the world, managing everything from general malaise and joint pain to being an effective treatment for many types of cancer (especially skin cancers). However, it is often stripped of it’s medicinal ingredient, curcumin, for the purpose of making supplements. Unfortunately, the pill form of turmeric/curcumin is dangerous for dogs as the unnatural amount of curcumin (95% in pills, versus 5% in nature) can be damaging to their kidneys. Choosing an organic powdered turmeric, where the curcumin has not been stripped, is crucial to it’s effectiveness. Another important aspect to feeding turmeric is that it is fat soluble, meaning that if it’s not fed alongside a fat source (like coconut oil or fish oil), it simply won’t be absorbed. Mixed with a little (fresh only) ground black pepper, it can work magic. But it goes to show how important the quality, and mix (with fat and pepper) are to it’s effectiveness on the body. This is a great example about why one brand of supplement may not work at all for your dog, when another brand of the same supplement could save his/her life.

As I mentioned earlier, my own dog had major surgery on his cervical spine in November of 2013. He was in an incredible amount of pain, but within just one week he was able to come off the heavy pain meds, replaced with turmeric, Recovery, Egg Shell Membrane (Natural Factors brand), Probiotic 8 Plus (gut health is an important component in bone and joint health), and a chinese herb called Body Sore prescribed by his Traditional Chinese Medicine veterinarian. These supplements, combined with a healthy diet and physiotherapy, got him off the harmful drugs fast, and if you were to see him today you’d never know that he has spinal issues. In my opinion, they literally saved him from a life of pain and discomfort, or even worse, a loss of life.

Did you know that humans are the only species on earth that cannot generate it’s own Vitamin C? It’s an essential vitamin for us, meaning we can only obtain it through food or supplements. But it’s also a great example of why it’s important not to supplement on a whim. Vitamin C is a popular supplement in the dog sports community, but in my opinion, it’s not always a safe supplement (I’d prefer to offer it in a whole food source, like raspberries, where it occurs and metabolizes in natural balance with other vitamins). Creating abnormally high levels of vitamins and minerals (Vitamin D, Calcium and Magnesium are other good examples) can create havoc on your dog’s system, and end up doing more harm than good. If unsure, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, even if you love your traditional vet there is no harm in seeking complimentary services from a holistic vet who can advise you accordingly. Personally (for myself, my family and my dog) and professionally, I’m a big fan of choosing supplements in place of pharmaceuticals wherever possible, but I also know that dosage, quality and type need to be carefully considered and researched before being tested on your dog.

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