Companion animals are a vibrant source of delight in our lives. Their unconditional love and enthusiasm can fill a dark day with sunshine. Our pets become part of our family, and of course, we want the very best for them. They rely upon us to provide what they need to survive and thrive.
My own dogs, Buddy and Bella, have become such a big part of my life that I cannot imagine what I would do without them! Nothing is too good for them–they have a healthy regimen of nutritious food, vigorous exercise, and targeted supplementation.
Not surprisingly, at many of my lectures all around the country, people inevitably ask about supplements for their pets. The two most common topics are joint pain and cancer, which are unfortunately common woes for our animal friends.
In this edition of Terry Talks Nutrition®, I’ll discuss supplements that address both of these concerns, and ways to enhance your pet’s everyday health as well.
Nutrients That Make a Difference
If you have noticed that your pet has a dry coat with dandruff or skin flakes, you should definitely consider supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids. While a dry, scruffy coat can be a sign of an underlying disorder and is certainly something you should discuss with your veterinarian, adding additional omega-3 fatty acids to your dog or cat’s food is an easy and inexpensive way to address this problem from a nutritional standpoint, and will often fix the problem entirely.
The reason omega-3 fatty acids help skin and hair look healthy is because they are important in building cell walls, or membranes. Cell membranes are what hold nutrients and water in, and keep waste material out. A healthy cell with strong, omega-3 fatty acid fortified walls is moist, full and plump. A cell membrane that is lacking these essential fatty acids will have weak walls, and be unable to hold in water, and can “dry” out. A common sign of omega fatty acid deficiency is dry, dull skin and brittle hair – in both pets and people!
Getting omega-3s is truly essential. But getting them from fish oils creates a lot of potential problems.
By the time fish oil is bottled, it has been processed so much that it bears little resemblance to the omega-3 fatty acids obtained from eating fish. Because this has bothered me for some time, I was glad to find a new method from Europe which uses a patented, gentle, cold water and enzyme process to extract naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) from salmon. These naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids are bound to phospholipids, rather than the triglyceride bonds in traditional fish oils. This creates a supplement that is much closer to nature and how people, and animals, were meant to absorb and use these nutrients. Plus, researchers have found that the omega-3s naturally bound to these whole salmon phospholipids are better absorbed. This concentrated effect means that you only need to give your dog or cat one daily dose. While your pet may not mind oils added to their food, the phospholipid form is identical to what they would get from nature, and dogs and cats will chew it up just like a treat.
For your dog or cat, omega-3s not only keep skin healthy and build a shiny, glossy coat, but they also keep the heart and arteries running smoothly, gives the brain a boost (now there’s no excuse for them not to learn new tricks!) and reduces inflammation, too. Because omega-3 fatty acids are also natural anti-inflammatories, supplementation can be helpful for pets with allergies and itching, as well as other chronic diseases. Inflammation underlies almost all diseases, including the problems frequently experienced by our pets – arthritis and cancer.
Inflammation and Cancer
One of the toughest things that pet owners have to deal with is their companion getting cancer.
Our pets – especially our dogs – are just as prone to cancer as we are; maybe even more so. After all, think about how many toxins they are exposed to on a regular basis. When they’re out at a park, they could be sprinting across lawns that are saturated with herbicides and pesticides, which absorbs right through the pads of their feet. When they’re eating at home, how often do they eat from a plastic dish, literally licking it clean? And, when you mop your floors, consider how much they walk over that heavy dose of chemicals left behind and then clean their paws.
Fortunately, there is a powerful, natural ingredient that reduces cell-destroying inflammation and helps prevent and fight cancer, and can add years to your pet’s life – curcumin, which is extracted from the spice turmeric.
Curcumin is an amazing substance. It is antiviral, antifungal, a very powerful anti-inflammatory, and it has even been shown to stop cancer cells. In fact, curcumin has been found to be effective at all stages of cancer: it can stop cancer cells from forming, stop cancer cells from replicating and forming a tumor, and stop cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body (called metastasis). Our bodies have a natural ability to fight cancer, which can be reduced by the effects of our modern life (poor diets, exposure to pollution and chemicals, aging process, lack of exercise). Curcumin seems to reawaken these natural defenses, and it seems reasonable to suppose it would work similarly in dogs as it does in people. Curcumin can also be used in combination with chemotherapy drugs, and has been shown to reduce their toxicity. Because curcumin has no toxic effects, I highly recommend it to any dog owner who has a dog with cancer, or is concerned about cancer prevention in their dog. In the past I have been less comfortable recommending curcumin for cats. Felines have a very different metabolism than dogs and nutritional supplements need to be used with care. However, a recent study examining the use of curcumin to reduce inflammation in overweight cats found improvement in overall feline health and no adverse effects. I now suggest curcumin for cats, since there is research on its use in these animals.
Most curcumin extracts aren’t well absorbed into the bloodstream, which is why I recommend a highly effective curcumin extract that is blended with turmeric essential oil for enhanced absorption.
For prevention and health maintenance in dogs, go with 375 mg of absorbable curcumin (providing at least 250 mg of curcuminoids) per day. This is also a good dose for small dogs undergoing cancer treatment. However, in large dogs with cancer, using 750 mg of absorbable curcumin (providing at least 500 mg of curcuminoids) is better for dogs over 50 pounds. Cats can take less (squeeze a small amount from a softgel), but getting them to accept it added to their food can be challenging. Some cats are fine with a small amount mixed into food, but some are not. You can use a softgel capsule for a cat if taste becomes an issue.
Additionally, I highly recommend that you feed your dog or cat as natural a diet as possible. If you are not able to prepare a raw food diet, you can purchase premixed, frozen meals, or just simply switching to a premium, grain-free manufactured food can still be very helpful. And finally – treating cancer in animals can be difficult and frustrating. Please work with a holistic veterinarian who can help you choose the best options possible for your pet.
Fighting Pain and Restoring Joint Health
If your dog is getting a little slower when he gets up after resting, or your cat is unable to leap as high as he once did, it isn’t necessarily just “old age.” Like us, our pets can have problems with their hips and other joints. In young dogs, slowness to get up, and short steps with the hind legs, or running with the back feet locked together (a “bunny hop” motion) are key signals of potential hip joint problems. And in older pets, it may be arthritis.
Many veterinarians and pet owners are familiar with glucosamine sulfate for treating arthritis and hip problems. However, I believe that it is equally important to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with these conditions. Research studies show that boswellia is especially potent at reducing the joint pain associated with arthritis. It does this by inhibiting the inflammatory enzyme, 5-LOX. Make sure you look for boswellia that is low in beta-boswellic acid (which interferes with beneficial activity) and is standardized for acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA) content.
The amino acid combination DLPA (DL-phenylalanine) inhibits the breakdown of enkephalins (related to endorphins, which are your body’s natural pain killers), improves healthy neurotransmitter levels in the brain (dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) and relieves muscle pain.
The enzyme nattokinase helps promote blood flow so that other compounds that are carried in the bloodstream (such as the curcumin and boswellia) can reach the areas where they are needed the most.
I recommend combining highly-absorbable curcumin with inflammation-fighting boswellia, the amino acid DLPA, and the enzyme nattokinase. These ingredients work very well together to reduce pain and inflammation and can help your pet recover some of the pep and vitality of their youth. I do not recommend this combination for cats, however, because the effects of some of the ingredients are not yet well-researched. I suggest sticking with glucosamine sulfate and the high absorption curcumin I discussed in the cancer section for cats.
Long, Healthy Lives
Keeping our pets healthy, comfortable, and full of vitality is a priority. We appreciate their companionship and their ability to share the joys of life with us. And we want that companionship for a long time. I believe that the natural ingredients I’ve outlined here can do exactly that for many years to come.
To help your pet stay healthy and active, I recommend you supplement their diet with:
- Phospholipid bound omega-3 fatty acids from salmon
- 375-750 mg of absorbable curcumin that provides 250-500 mg of curcuminoids daily
For arthritis pain in dogs, give a combination of DLPA, boswellia, curcumin, and nattokinase daily.