Top 4 Pet Supplements

By Jean Hofve, DVM

I was interviewed for on pet supplements. I was asked to choose my top four, and explain why I recommend them. (Click here to read the article on

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

You know I’m a big proponent of Omega 3 fatty acids for dogs and cats. These are essential nutrients, meaning that their bodies cannot make these particular fatty acids; they must be obtained in the diet. The typical American diet is very unbalanced toward pro-inflammatory Omega-6s. Because pet food is made from the ‘leftovers’ of human food processing, dogs and cats receive loads of Omega-6s (from vegetable oils and animal fats) in their food, but little if any Omega-3s.

The fatty acids EPA and DHA are the most important Omega-3s for pets. EPA is a crucial part of every cell membrane; and it has potent anti-inflammatory properties. DHA helps develop and maintain the eyes, brain, and nervous system.

Some pet foods claim a benefit for Omega-3s because they add flaxseed or other vegetable sources of Omega-3s. But dogs and cats cannot convert plant-based oils into EPA and DHA. Therefore, the preferred best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids for pets are marine oils (such as fish body oil, cod liver oil, or my personal favorite, green-lipped mussel oil) containing EPA and DHA, which can be used directly by the body. Select a product from marine sources that live in clean waters, are harvested sustainably, and are independently tested for freshness and purity; it must be free from toxins such as mercury, PCBs, and dioxins, which pollute much of the world’s oceans.

2. Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes help our pets to fully break down foods so nutrients can be efficiently absorbed and used by the body. When food is not properly digested, some particles may trigger inflammation, allergies, and other chronic health problems. Processed foods have had their native enzymes destroyed, so it is important to add them to your pet’s food. Plant- or fungal-based enzymes work in the widest range of pH and temperature. Make sure that the product you select contains at least protease, amylase, lipase, and cellulase.

3. Probiotics

Probiotics, such as L. acidophilus, Bifidobacteria, and other ‘friendly’ beneficial bacteria maintain a balanced, healthy gut, and prevent “bad” bacteria, such as Salmonella, from gaining a foothold. A healthy intestinal bacterial population is also needed to manufacture B vitamins and Vitamin K.

For pets with gastrointestinal issues, such as chronic vomiting or diarrhea, hairballs, or constipation, probiotic supplements may be especially helpful. They absolutely required for animals who are, or have been, taking antibiotics. Give probiotics during the course of antibiotics (give 2 hours apart from the medication) and for at least 2 weeks afterwards. Probiotics also support and moderate the immune system so it isn’t so over-reactive.

4. Antioxidants
Antioxidants scavenge and neutralize ‘oxygen free radicals’ in the body. Controlled amounts of free radicals are made by the body as weapons against viruses and bacteria, but excess free radicals can damage normal cells and create chronic inflammation. This chronic inflammation and free radical accumulation (oxidative stress) are major factors in aging.

All pets will benefit from additional antioxidants to cope with the stresses of modern life. For pets eating processed pet food, which is typically high in Omega-6 fatty acids that promote inflammation, supplementing with antioxidants is especially important. Antioxidants work synergistically together, so look for a product that has a range of antioxidants in it, such as Vitamin E, carotenoids (such as beta-carotene and lycopene), and flavonoids (such as Vitamin C and quercitin).

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6 comments for “Top 4 Pet Supplements

  1. jhofve77
    January 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Sorry, I cannot give veterinary advice for your cats or review specific products; please address any questions about the supplementation of your cats’ diet with your veterinarian.

  2. Greenheart
    January 12, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Hi Dr Jean,

    My vet recently gave me a product called Colostrum as a supplement for my cat (domestic short hair female 3 years old) that eats just raw food and also my cat (Siamese male 10 years old) that eats mainly kibble. These are the ingredients:

    Colostrum 10 mg
    Vitamin A 489.5 i.u.
    Vitamin D 29.4 i.u.
    Vitamin E 2.19 i.u.
    Vitamin C 8.82 mg
    Vitamin B1 0.21 mg
    Vitamin B2 0.238 mg
    Nicotinamide 2.646 mg
    Vitamin B6 0.294 mg
    Vitamin B12 0.147 mg
    Biotin 0.0147 mg
    Pantothenic acid 0.882 mg
    Calcium lactate 1.0 mg
    Protein Powder 174.5 mg
    Lysine 50.0 mg

    I also asked for the specific forms of each vitamin:

    Vitamin A – Retinyl acetate
    Vitamin D – Vitamin D3 / Cholecalciferol
    Vitamin E – alpha tocopheryl acetate
    Vitamin C – Ascorbic acid
    Vitamin B1 – Thiamine mononitrate
    Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin
    Nicotinamide – Niacinamide
    Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine hydrochloride
    Vitamin B12 – Cyanocobalamin

    Is this a good supplement that my cats will benefit from without long term kidney or liver damage or any other long term side effects)? I know that in human supplements the form of each vitamin is essential to know as some forms, although seemingly beneficial, are actually harmful, as well are some inert ingredients used as fillers or flow agents which place a great strain on our organs and can cause long term damage.

    Thanks for your time and I would appreciate whatever guidance you could give me.

  3. jhofve77
    January 11, 2012 at 5:05 am

    Sunflower oil is Omega 6, which is already excessive in most pet foods. Omega 6s are pro-inflammatory. Flaxseed oil is okay. It contains some Omega 6 but more Omega 3 in the form of alpha linolenic acid (ALA). While cats cannot convert ALA to EPA and DHA, it is still essential and has some beneficial effects of its own.

  4. Corinna
    January 11, 2012 at 12:06 am

    Hi Dr Jean,
    Could you tell me if eating products with flaxseed oil and sunflower oil in has any possible side effects for cats?
    I’ve found a canned (wet) food product for cats which looks quite natural, good ingredients EXCEPT that it has flaxseed oil and sunflower oil. I read in your article that cats cannot convert plant oils to metabolise the Omegas in them, but are there any known side effects from ingesting them daily?
    Thank you kindly,


    New Zealand

  5. jhofve77
    October 2, 2011 at 9:50 am

    No so much, although in my experience Standard Process, Thorne, and Jarrow are pretty good overall. BioSuperfood provides trace minerals and loads of enzymes; it’s grown in a lab in the far north, and is pretty darn clean. For Omega 3s, I personally use and recommend Moxxor.

    Of course, most *food* (even fresh) does not have the qualities you list; neither does the water or the air, not anywhere on this planet, anyway! Perhaps you’ve already done so, but for most folks–and most cats–it’s far more important to concentrate on cleaning up your immediate environment, and if you are feeding ANY commercial foods, treats, or non-organic products, cleaning up your cat’s overall diet; and worry less over microscopic amounts of fillers in a capsule.

  6. Andrea
    October 1, 2011 at 12:47 am

    Do you have specific products/brands for each of your four top supplements? Finding supplements that are free of toxins, from clean water, no fillers, etc. is very very difficult. Thanks!

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