As an integrative veterinarian I always emphasize the importance of diet and nutrition, both for maintaining optimal health and for treating specific conditions and diseases. In addition to a high-quality diet formulated to meet all of a dog’s nutritional requirements, I regularly recommend supplements and neutraceuticals for my canine patients. “Neutraceuticals” are defined as components of foods that provide particular health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.
Here are a few of my favorites. Please consult your own veterinarian to see if they are appropriate for your canine companion.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
In the proper ratio, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, making them immensely helpful in treating and preventing a host of chronic diseases that manifest as inflammation – including arthritis, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and skin problems. They also help prevent diseases that can result from chronic inflammation, such as certain cancers, heart disease, and diabetes. Fish oil and coconut oil, as well as canned sardines or anchovies (unsalted), are two good sources for these EFAs.
This is one of the components of joint fluid that provides lubrication to help prevent wear and tear at the surface of the joints. It also keeps the cartilage that lines the joints healthy. By doing so, it can be effective at slowing down or preventing the progression of arthritis. It is often taken orally in the form of glucosamine (which the body uses to make glycosaminoglycans) in combination with chondroitin sulfate, or as an injection called Adequan. The other main component of joint fluid is hyaluronic acid, which can be given intravenously or as an injection directly into the joint.
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herbs
Herbs such as turmeric (and the active compound in turmeric called curcumin), ginger, green tea, rosemary, licorice, and boswellia help reduce inflammation in the body and reduce damage from free radicals. These herbs can be very effective in treating a variety of inflammatory conditions, including arthritis, gastritis, and hepatitis. They also have anti-cancer and anti-aging properties.
Beneficial species of bacteria are extremely important in maintaining healthy digestion and protecting the lining of the intestines. They are also believed to support proper functioning of the immune system. By maintaining healthy numbers of these “good” bacteria, we can effectively outnumber the “bad” bacteria. Choose a probiotic supplement that has been specifically formulated for veterinary patients; the beneficial bacteria that dogs need is different from the ones that people need.
Often used in conjunction with probiotics, prebiotics are typically non-digestible fibers that pass into the large intestine, where they provide nourishment for the beneficial bacteria that aid in normal digestion.
Many different species of mushrooms contain compounds and functional nutrients that confer health benefits to various organ systems in the body. Medicinal mushrooms are most commonly used to support the immune system but can also be used to support the cardiovascular system, the digestive system, neurologic function, and other bodily processes. Some common species of medicinal mushrooms include Maitake, Reishi, and Cordyceps.
Whole Food Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Vitamins and minerals are necessary to maintain healthy functioning of the body’s organ systems. When they come from natural or “whole food” sources, they are easier for the body to recognize and process than when they come from synthetic sources. “Glandular” supplements are derived from specific organs and tissues in the body, such as adrenal or thyroid glands, and are particularly helpful at providing the nutritional constituents that these organ systems need to function properly.
Choosing appropriate supplements and neutraceuticals for your beloved canine companion can be a vital part of preventing and/or treating specific diseases and conditions. They are particularly helpful in combination with a high-quality diet chosen to meet your dog’s specific needs.
Rachael Feigenbaum, VMD founded her practice, Lotus Veterinary House Calls, serving San Francisco and Pacifica, in 2008. Lotus is an integrative practice, incorporating Western medicine, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and nutrition. For more information, visit lotusvet.com.