Supplements for Pets Part 1: Food Synergy

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supplementsWhat are Supplements?

According to Wikipedia, a dietary supplement is intended to provide nutrients that may otherwise not be consumed in sufficient quantities. Supplements as generally understood include vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids, or amino acids, among other substances. For our ‘S’ post today in the A to Z Challenge, we are going to begin a deeper dive into the world of Supplements.


The supplement industry is thriving.   Forbes magazine reported that there were $32 billion in sales for human nutritional supplements in 2012, and this is projected to double to near $60 billion in 2021 according to the Nutritional Business Journal.


Pet supplements are also a growing industry.   The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimate that the average dog and cat owner in the US spends $64 and $77 per year respectively on vitamins. That translates to several billions of dollars each year spent on pet supplements.


With all of this money spent on supplements, the big question is whether they actually provide any benefit or not. This is a hard question to answer definitively as there are research studies to support both the pros and cons of diet supplementation. With that said, there are some important concepts that can help you decide if and when a supplement might be beneficial for your pet. Today we focus on something called food synergy.


Food Synergy

The concept of food synergy states that there is an additive influence of foods on health and that nutrients obtained from whole foods may have different effects on the body and its health than from those nutrients that are synthetically created or isolated.


Food synergy is about the interrelationship between the components of foods which taken together as part of the ‘food matrix’ can maximize the body’s ability to use the nutrients for fuel, repair, and growth. Said another way, the benefit of taking nutrients together as part of a food matrix is greater than the benefit of taking the individual parts (e.g. isolated parts of vitamins and minerals).


Impact on supplementation and food

Vitamins are complex structures that generally contain a vitamin component along with minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and coenzymes, and amino and fatty acids. They are naturally meant to work together synergistically to provide nutritional benefit to the body. There have been numerous studies that report that isolated or synthetic vitamins show no vitamin action in the body and even worse, that some can produce deficiency symptoms of that vitamin.


In one study done way back in 1946 in Vitamin Research News, No.1, 40, (1946), mice were fed diets with deficiencies to produce scurvy. Then, the mice were divided into two groups. One group was treated with synthetic vitamin C and the other was treated with vitamin C obtained from plants. The result was that the mice fed with the natural vitamin C recovered from scurvy while those treated with the artificial vitamin C did not.


There are also those who argue that synthetic vitamins can be as effective as natural vitamins in some cases. They point to the fact that synthetics can be the only effective way to ensure high dosage when needed for illness. This may be true. But just like we at SlimDoggy prefer minimally processed and natural foods, we think the same approach should hold true for supplements. Given a choice, choose whole foods and natural whole vitamins to highly processed and synthetic ones.


When evaluating supplements, look for ones that contain food extracts and whole vitamins and not one with synthetic or isolated vitamin components. For example, look for acerola cherry as a source of vitamin C or choose supplements that list vitamin C, a whole vitamin complex, as the ingredient instead of an isolated component like ascorbic acid.


Also, look for synthetically created vitamins and avoid these. Synthetic vitamins are typically listed with a ‘dl-‘ prefix or contain ‘ide’ or ‘ate’ as a suffix.


All of the above holds true when evaluating your pet’s food. Take a look at the partial ingredient lists from two fish based dog foods.


Petcurean GO! GRAIN FREE Freshwater Trout Wet Dog Food Recipe: Freshwater trout; salmon broth; salmon; herring meal; dried egg product; potatoes; peas; carrots; flaxseed; sweet potatoes; red peppers; sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols);cottage cheese; spinach; apples; cranberries; blueberries; alfalfa sprouts; pumpkin puree….

Purina One Wholesome Salmon & Brown Rice Entree Adult Ground: Chicken; salmon; turkey; egg product; liver; Choline Chloride; Vitamin E; Vitamin A; Calcium Phosphate; Thiamin Mononitrate; Niacin; Calcium Pantothenate; Riboflavin; Pyridoxine Hydrochloride; Folic Acid; Ferrous Sulfate; Biotin; Copper Sulfate Monohydrate; Vitamin B12; Vitamin D3;Oatmeal…..


Both of these foods meet AAFCO’s requirements for complete and balanced nutrition, which means that they both include the minimum required amounts of vitamins and minerals to support a healthy body. Yet, when looking at the ingredients, one of these foods is much more appealing due to its full list of real foods.


Which one would you rather serve your pet?


We will continue our discussion on supplements in the coming weeks as there is a lot more to review. In the meantime, take a look at your pet’s supplement and food labels. Do you see whole foods and whole vitamins? Or just isolates and derivatives?


Further reading



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  1. When choosing which supplements I want to give to our dogs, I start with what they need. Skin and coat, of course. Rodrigo and Sydney have arthritis, so their supplements are for joint support.

    I do a lot of homework into each new supplement recommended to me. It’s a lot of work, but kind of fun too. It’s also helpful to discuss this with other dog owners to find out what’s working for their dogs.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Researching Raw Dog Food Can Be ConfusingMy Profile

  2. All three of our dogs get supplements. Each get a different type. Over the years we have found that they do better with them. I look forward to learning more. 🙂
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…It Isn’t Always The Birds–Sometimes It’s The GunMy Profile

  3. Certainly an area that I now feel I need to evaluate, speak to our Doodle Doc and research. Harley will be six later this year and I’d like to know more about supplements for dogs that are coming out of their puppy stage. Thanks so much for this introduction. Will let you know how my consult with their vet goes.

  4. I don’t know much about supplements so this was a great post for me. I have never really thought they needed any, but with all the different kinds and all the different benefits I think I should definitely be looking into it.
    Thanks for sharing.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

    • If they are fed a good well-rounded diet, they need fewer, but, just as with humans, as they got older their systems can use a boost. Stay-tuned, more to come.
      mkob recently posted…Supplements for Pets Part 1: Food SynergyMy Profile

  5. We have been through a lot of supplements with Katie. So many seem to be the same on the label, but they work differently with her. There is just so much to learn!
    Emma recently posted…Fit and Trim Equals Fun | #HillsPetMy Profile

  6. we have not much experiences with supplement, we only used krill-oil once and it wasn’t the best idea. I would like to hear and to learn more
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog MISCHIEF MOANDAYMy Profile

  7. Such a good article! Sharing.
    Sue recently posted…Apple and Peanut Butter Dog Cookie Treat Recipe | Tasty TuesdayMy Profile

  8. That is an amazing difference in food ingredients. Bentley is not on supplements, but I am going to have to do more research on the subject. Very interesting post.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Comments on CommentsMy Profile

  9. I’m so glad you are writing this series! This is such great and helpful information. I’ve always been skeptical about vitamins and supplements, mostly believing that we (both humans and dogs) are better off getting what we need from the food we eat, instead of taking pills. But sometimes they are needed….Sheba’s joint supplements do wonders for her arthritis. I am all for going the natural way wherever we can so I look forward to learning more.
    Jan K recently posted…Halo Cat Treat Review – by SamMy Profile

  10. Interesting post, but a little too long for me to finish. But I’m sure many people with dogs will find your posts a great source of information.
    Happy A to Z’ing. 🙂
    SD Neeve recently posted…S—IS FOR SPENCER ISGRIGG…My Profile

  11. Sugar started young with her “supplements” We have several brands that we rotate every 2 months. There are many treats too that are supplements too. Happy Tasty Tuesday. Golden Woofs
    Golden Woofs: Sugar recently posted…Gaining a Friend: Pet Weight Loss Success #HillsPet MetabolicMy Profile

  12. Very interesting. My gang isn’t on any supplements unless doing a review which doesn’t happen very often.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Tuesday’s Tails and National Pet ID WeekMy Profile

  13. Great to see discussion around this and people making informed decisions. Just putting my vet hat on, I know you were just using it as an example, but dogs (unlike humans and Guinea Pigs in particular) synthesise their own vitamin c and don’t need supplementation. I think we should spend our $ on a well balanced, complete diet instead 🙂 Of course there are exceptions and I do like certain supplements for skin issues and arthritis in particular. Thanks Slim Doggy!
    Joanna recently posted…Chocolate Toxicity in DogsMy Profile

  14. Thanks for the detailed information about Supplements. We are just starting to explore that world and there is a lot to take in!
    Jessica Shipman recently posted…S is for Sleeping Bags for Dogs + Alcott GIVEAWAY!My Profile

  15. You always have the most helpful information. Thank you. Harper Lee is on supplements for her hips and has done very well, thank goodness. I was very picky about her food because our last Golden had skin allergies triggered by food. I swear Miss Lee eats better than her humans! Looking forward to reading more of your posts on supplements, as I am sure we’ll be adding more as she ages.
    Miss Harper Lee recently posted…Harper Lee from A to Z: U is for UNINSPIREDMy Profile

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