Nutrition

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There is nothing more important to your pet’s health than what you feed - and how much of it you feed. Supplements are becoming increasingly important in the management and prevention of many disease problems. We’d love to talk with you about nutrition and supplements for your specific pet. In the meantime, we have a lot of information for you here on how to choose a great food for your dog or cat.

Is your dog getting heavier and heavier with each passing year? Have you tried cutting back only to get frustrated and relapse into old treat habits? Have your friends at Best Friends been encouraging you to take your dog’s weight gain seriously? Being overweight has dire consequences for pets, including a two year shorter life expectancy. Nutrition on YouTube

Raw Meat Diet - See Below
Nutrition Makes a Difference in Joint Health - See Below

Nutrition in Puppies and Kittens

Nutrition Primer (PDF)

Nutrition in Senior Pets (PDF)

Bone Development (PDF)



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Nutrition Makes a Difference in Joint Health
especially if supplemented early in life - before symptoms begin

If you have a pet, you should be worrying about arthritis. pets are living longer nowadays and most older pets will eventually develop this disease. In fact, one in five dogs suffers from joint problems - that's more than 11 million dogs in the U.S. alone. Elderly cats (over age twelve) usually are arthritic also. Joint health problems, especially arthritis, are among the top 10 pet health insurance claims and one of the top six reasons dog owners visit veterinarians.

Not all supplements are good. Excess calcium or vitamin E from food, treats and supplements can be harmful. Many treats contain excessive amounts of fat and salt. Fatty acid and fish oil supplements are popular nowadays. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids must be present in the proper ratio to be beneficial in reducing inflammation and improving skin and coat health. A recent study showed that in the right ration allergic pets were less itchy on fatty acids and with a different ratio between the two kinds they were more itchy!  

Studies have shown that early identification and intervention in degenerative joint disease (DJD, the typical old age form of arthritis) can delay the condition's progression. In other words, the earlier you begin to treat it, the slower the progression of the disease will be and the less your pet will suffer from painful joints.

Nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining healthy cartilage within the joint. good nutrition should be part of an arthritis management regimen that includes exercise, weight management, and anti-inflammatory drug therapy. good nutrition means a high quality diet, or diet supplement, that includes glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate. These nutrients - the nutritional building blocks of joint cartilage - help to stimulate synthesis of cartilage and joint fluid, inhibit degradation of the cartilage and provide anti-inflammatory action within the joint.

 Osteoarthritis is classified as mild, moderate or severe based on the symptoms of the patient, not on the x-rays. There is often little correlation between the severity of pain a pet is feeling and the amount of arthritic change on a radiograph.  

More and healthier cartilage means increased mobility, energy and activity levels, as well as reduced pain. In the early stages of arthritis, nut11changes in a pet's activity level and joint function may not be obvious. Many clients are unaware of the gradual reduction in activity that accompanies slowly progressing arthritis, or they attribute it to old age. They may not notice that their dog doesn't lift his leg as high anymore when urination or no longer jumps in the car without help. by the time symptoms are obvious, in many cases the arthritis is severe and the cartilage has been almost entirely eaten away within the joint, never to return.

Be proactive when it comes to arthritis prevention. Almost all dogs over 50 lbs in weight and ten years of age suffer from at lest some degree of arthritis. By age twelve, 90% of cats and small dogs have arthritic changes on x-rays as well. Since it's almost certain your pet will develop arthritis if he or she lives long nut3enough,

start thinking about preventive  medicine early on - when your pet hits middle age at 7-9 years of age. That's the time to start a glucosamine supplement. Dogs, rabbits, horses, and presumably cats, do better if glucosamine is begun before arthritis starts.

The number of pets foods promoting "high vitamin" content grew by 94% in 2003, and pet foods packaged as "natural" nearly double from 2002 to 2003, with more than 350 new products hitting the market. The term "natural" means that products are minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients. ("Organic", on the other hand, refers instead to how producers either grow crops or raise animals, and has specific criteria and certification parameters.) Unfortunately, oversight of pet food manufacturing is not very stringent and many times both of these terms are used in a misleading fashion. Just because a concept is popular doesn't necessarily make the "natural" pet food any better or worse. Many times it's just an advertising gimmick.   

For dogs, diets are available with extra glucosamine. Our favorite is Eukanuba Senior Plus, which also contains dental crystals to help reduce plaque and tarter buildup, a common problem in pets. For cats, a supplement can be added to the food or given as a treat. If your pet has a history of an injury to a joint or bone, such as a torn ligament, broken leg or surgery to a joint, glucosamine should be started immediately and continued for the rest of the pet's life.

Once a pet shows symptoms of joint pain, stronger medicine is needed. The larger amounts of glucosamine and chondroitin in a supplement, versus the smaller amounts contained in the food, will ensure that your pet stays as healthy and comfortable as possible. There are other helpful supplements, too, such as MSM and Cholodin. Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Rimadyl, Etogesic or Deramaxx, may be needed as well.

Please be cautious when purchasing glucosamine supplements for yourself or your pets. Because they are nutritional products, and not regulated by the FDA, may are not actually giving you the nutrients you are paying for. The dog food that touts "Contains Glucosamine" may only have a minimal amount. Some brands of glucosamine capsule don't have in them what the label says they do. Many are glucosamine sulfate, which is absorbed poorly by dogs.

Recently,consumerlab.com, and independent laboratory that evaluates health products for humans and pets, reported that it found no detectable levels of chondroitin sulfate in two pet supplements that claimed to contain this ingredient. 10 out of 43 human supplements tested failed to meet label claims.

 Antioxidants are also important components of a good diet. Antioxidants reduce cell damage that occurs with time. They reduce cancer risk and improve the function of the immune system. Along with extra antioxidants, glucosamine and fatty acids, recent research shows that older pets have a higher need for protein than adult pets, which must be carefully balanced against the fact that extra protein is dangerous in the face of impaired liver or kidney function. We can do the best job tailoring a regimen of diet, supplements and exercise if we are performing regular blood testing to look for kidney and liver disease, as well as other problems.  

The best brand of glucosamine supplement on the market, and the only one to publish controlled studies that prove the efficacy of its products, is Cosequin. We will often start with less expensive products and progress gradually to a more costly regimen of products, as a pet ages and arthritis advances. Some products work better for one pet than another, so a little experimentation may be needed to find what works best.

We can't emphasize enough how important weight control is in the prevention and treatment of degenerative joint disease. Overweight pets develop signs of arthritis two years sooner than healthy weight pets. That's two years less to be administering medication, and two years less suffering for the pet - plus you'll save money in the pet food you don't need to feed! Healthy pets eat less and weigh less. They should also get plenty of exercise, which helps keep joints healthy.