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But are pet vitamins really necessary?
The short answer to whether you should be giving your pet vitamins is no, says Dr. Nicole Gallant, a Kensington, PEI-based vet and representative of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. "Giving your pet quality food is the way to go unless your pet has been diagnosed by a vet as having some kind of deficiency," she says. "And if you are giving your pet a vitamin or mineral supplement, you can cause an imbalance that may actually cause your pet harm."
Vitamin deficiency in pets
Circumstances where pets would be deficient in vitamins and minerals are pretty rare, says Gallant. Sometimes cats can develop a potassium deficiency if they have kidney issues, and there is a chance that a pet could develop rickets as a sign of calcium deficiency. But Gallant says she has never seen an animal with rickets in 30 years of veterinary practice, and says this is due to how good pet nutrition has been for the past 40 to 50 years.
"In the past, a lot of people would supplement growing puppies with calcium, but dog foods have come so far in the past 20 years that they now do a much better job than any supplementation will do," she says. "And some people give their dogs vitamin C, because they think it will do them good, but the only animals that need vitamin C in their diet are guinea pigs and primates."
Omega-3 fatty acids
The only supplement that Gallant tends to recommend is omega-3 fatty acids, which she does when a pet comes in with a poor coat and there doesn't seem to be any worrying medical reason for it.
Even then, she tends to tell pet owners to switch over to a food that contains a little more omega-3s, rather than give their animal an actual supplement.
"However, sometimes a cat or dog won't agree with you changing their food, and for those pets I'll recommend putting a little fish oil directly on to their food," she says.
Pet nutrition and health
Ensuring your pet's nutritional requirements are met is as simple as buying a quality food suited to your pet's individual needs. There are foods tailored for younger cats and dogs, foods with omega-3s to help with coat issues, and foods for aging pets that contain both glucosamine and omega-3s to help with the joint issues that can affect pets as they get older.
"Good, balanced food is the way to go," says Gallant, "and you needn't worry about providing any kind of supplement unless your vet says otherwise."