Top 7 Most Effective Cat Supplements

We’re excited pet supplements are becoming more popular! In addition to feeding a well-balanced diet, pet supplements can help ease joint pain, support a healthy coat, regulate the digestive system, and decrease cognitive dysfunction.

But be careful about which supplements you’re going to try. The pet supplement market is not tightly regulated, and with so many supplements on the market and many delivery formats (soft chews, pastes, gravies, powders) it’s important to know what’s helpful, what’s harmful and what’s a waste of money. Check out our list of top 7 most effective supplements to see which ones to try!

Omega-3 – Fish Oil

Fish oil can be used to decreases inflammation, ease joint pain, support a shiny coat, decrease shedding and help with brain function.

What You Need To Know:

  • Introduce fish oil slowly. Too much omega-3 won’t be toxic but it can result in some unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea.
  • Fish oil dosage is based on your cat’s weight. The recommended amount is between 20-50mg combined EPA and DHA per pound.
  • You should see results within 2 weeks if consistently giving fish oil.
  • If your cat develops fishy breath you can lower the dose to reduce the unpleasantness.
  • Before starting your cat on fish oil discuss the decision with one of our doctors. There are certain situations were fish oil should not be given.

Delivery Format:
Capsule or liquid. If you cat is okay taking pills you can give the fish oil in the capsule. Otherwise, you can use a clean safety pin or knife to open the capsule and poor the contents into your cat’s food. 

Flaxseed Oil – A Fish Oil Alternative

Flax Seed Oil is a great alternative to fish oil and is another source of Omega 3 for your cat. It promotes a healthy skin and coat and can help relieve mild allergies and arthritis.

What You Need To Know:

  • Flax seed oil should be refrigerated to prevent rancidity. Read the packaging and make sure you’re storing it correctly.
  • Too much flax seed is not toxic, but may cause side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, gas or bloating.

Delivery Format:
Capsule or ground flax seed (both of which can be added to food) 

Probiotics – The Friendly Bacteria

There’s a delicate balance of good microbes in your cat’s guts. And stress (whether from illness or environment) can throw your cat’s digestive environment out of whack. Probiotics can help increase good bacteria and restore balance. Probiotics help with IBS, chronic diarrhea, gas, and vomiting. They also strengthen the immune system and can be especially useful for senior cats who may have difficulty retaining nutrients.

What You Need To Know:

  • Cats have their own unique strains of bacteria in the body, therefore giving your cat human probiotics is not an option.
  • Probiotics can be given as part of a daily routine or added during times of stress (boarding, traveling, moving).

Delivery Format:
Powder, liquid or chews

Our Favorite Brand:
Forti-Flora – small packets of powder you can easily sprinkle into your cat’s food. 

Glucosamine & Chondroitin – For Healthy Cartilage and Joints

Glucosamine and Chrondroitin are truly amazing supplements used to help relieve and heal joint pain. Both substances are naturally produced in your cat’s body, but as your cat ages or if there is joint damage, your cat’s body may not be able keep up with the demand.

What You Need To Know:

  • Not all Glucosamine and Chrondroitin supplements are equal and the most expensive product is not always the best. See below for products we recommend.
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin work to slow the degeneration process, therefore most cats that begin these supplements will be on them for the rest for their lives.

Delivery Formats:
Powder, Liquid, or Chews

Our Favorite Brands:
Cosequin and Dasuquin

Lysine – Relieving Feline Herpes

Lysine is an extremely effect dietary supplement for reducing, relieving and lessening the severity and number of flare ups caused from feline herpes. Feline herpes is a lifelong disease which causes upper respiratory flare ups in cats, including runny eyes and nose and congested breathing.

What You Need To Know:

  • It’s over the counter. And your kitty will be much happier. Some of our clients have told us their cat hasn’t had a flare up since.

Delivery Formats:
Chewables, Paste, Powder

Our Favorite Brand:
Vetroquinol – they make treats, a powder formula and a paste

Multivitamins – To Boost the Immune System

Multivitamins are usually short term supplements to boost the immune system. They are recommended for cats who have gone through a surgery or illness.

What You Need To Know:

  • Most well-balanced cat foods have all the essential vitamins your kitty needs.
  • Before starting you cat on a multivitamin talk with one of our doctors. There are certain situation where additional vitamins should not be given.

Delivery Format:
Tablets or Liquid

Our Favorite Brand:

Nutri-Cal – An Energy Supplement

Nutri-Cal high calorie dietary supplement used to provide nutrition to cats who are finicky eaters or who have become uninterested in their food. It is especially helpful for senior cats, cats suffering from illness or cats recovering from surgery. It can also provide your kitty with extra energy. Yipee!

What You Need To Know:

  • This supplement is a great option to help your kitty get nutrients, but keep in mind, an aversion to food or even a slight decrease in appetite may indicate something more serious is going on. If your cats stops enjoying his or her regular food, please bring your kitty in for a check-up!
  • Nutri-cal is designed to be delicious. Many cats enjoy the taste of the gel and will readily lick it from your fingers or right out of the tube.
  • If your kitty is nervous about trying new things you can get them interested by dabbing a tiny bit onto their nose. In the process of cleaning it off they’ll get a taste of it and hopefully realize how delicious it is!

Delivery Format:

Our Favorite Brand:
Vetoquinol NutriCal

Is High-Protein Cat Food the Answer?

Cut the carbs and pack on the protein — it’s the new craze in both human and feline nutrition. High protein diets are showing up everywhere! Protein is a well known important building block of feline nutrition, but does more protein for your cat mean better health? Should every cat be getting a high protein diet? Can your cat get too much protein?

Put down that protein shake, take a break from pumping iron and let’s get to the bottom of this protein craze.

Breaking Protein Diets Down By CATegory (get it?)

Kittens (0-1yr): Kittens are mean, lean growing machines, and because of their high energy output they have a higher requirement for protein, amino acids, minerals and vitamins. Kittens should be getting 30-40% of their energy from protein and the best way to handle this is feed formulated kitten food for the first year.

Adults (1-6yr): Most adult cats need 35-40% protein. In general wet food has a higher protein content than dry food, but regardless of what your kitty eats there’s a quick trick to see if your cat’s food is meeting the protein requirement. Sub par food is going to come up short at 20-35%, while most well balanced diets will end up in the 35-45% range. High protein diets usually calculate out to 50-58%. Ok time to calculate your kitty’s protein! Get out a pencil and paper, there’s going to be some math!

Now is it possible for your cat to get too much protein? General Rule: “If the food your cat is eating leads to a shiny soft coat, an alert comfortable cat, normal body weight, normal stool and skin, then the food is probably fine.” A healthy adult cat can handle excessive protein, which will be excreted in the urine or converted into fuel or fat. At your kitty’s next wellness check up talk with the doctor about your kitty’s eating habits and weight. If your cat is always hungry a high protein diet may help curb his or her appetite. High protein diets can help cats loose weight, although keep in mind, high-protein does not mean low-calorie and weight loss is all about the portion control.

Seniors (7+ years): This is when things can get tricky. Senior cats are at risk of developing Chronic Kidney Disease, which is extremely common in older cats. For cats with kidney disease high protein diets can damage the kidneys further. On the other hand, too low of protein can cause muscle mass loss. So what’s the best things to do?

  1. Get senior diagnostics done bi-annually to see how your senior cat’s kidneys are functioning. This is very important! Once the kidneys are damaged there’s no going back. Even if your kitty is in the very beginning stages of kidney disease it’s a good idea to start finding a low protein diet he or she will eat. Most cats hate change so if you’re having difficulty switching them over let us know, we’ve got all sorts of tricks up our sleeves!
  2. Focus on quality of protein instead of quantity. This means looking on the ingredient list. The ingredient list is ordered by weight so if the first ingredient is chicken, lamb or another protein we can assume it’s good quality protein.

How to Pick a Cat Food

When it comes to picking a cat food how do you decide? Do you get the most expensive one? The freshest one? The most popular? Or the one your cat likes the best? The pet food industry is huge, and it keeps growing! With the overflow of information and marketing it’s no surprise you’re left going whaaaa???

To make matters even more complicated there’s no ONE perfect food. Many factors come in to play when considering nutrition — health, age, body condition, allergies, and eating habits.

This month we’ll be focusing on nutrition. We’ll discuss the new trends that are emerging, break down cat food labeling, and help you pick the right diet for your kitty.

Is Grain-Free Food Superior?

From a manufacturer’s point of view labeling their food ‘grain free’ is a quick and effective way to stand out in the crowded marketplace. Grain free has become popular in human consumption, and the trend has spread into the pet food sector. But is it really a superior diet? Grain free diets can provide excellent nutrition, but don’t necessarily provide superior nutrition. Here are some things you need to know before jumping on the grain-free wagon.

Grains Aren’t Empty Calories. Some manufacturers of grain free diets suggest grains are empty calories, “cheap filler” if you will, but that’s not the case. The truth is, grains actually contain protein and many important vitamins and minerals, which provide nutritional value for your cat. Manufacturers can say whatever they want, but you can’t argue with science.

Grain Free Doesn’t Mean Low Carb. Many grain free foods replace grains with other carbohydrates such a potatoes. And that’s okay! According to the American College of Veterinary Medicine (ACVIM) cats can effectively digest, absorb and utilize dietary carbohydrates.

Grains Do Not Lead To Obesity. The main cause of obesity in cats is excessive calories, regardless of the source (protein, grains, carbs) and we’ve found many of the highest calorie diets are grain free. It also should be noted, many diets that contain more meat and less grain tend to be much higher in fats (and fats contain two times the amount of calories!) If you’re going to be feeding high calorie formulas you’ll need to pay extra attention to portion control. Keep in mind, while the product may say “Grain-Free” & “Low-Carb” on the label they may be conveniently leaving out the ‘High In Fat’ piece of the pie.

Grain Intolerances Are Uncommon In Cats. The most commonly reported food allergies in cats are beef, dairy and fish. In the rare event your cat is allergic to grains it will only be from one specific kind of grain, not from grains in general. For example, in the uncommon situation where your cat has a wheat allergy, he or she should have no problem eating oats or rice.

Is Raw Food Safe?

The Raw Diet is based on what a cat would eat in the wild. Wild cats who catch and eat their prey eat muscle meat, organ meat, some bone, and the stomach contents of its prey. We agree that sounds natural and healthy, but we also know there are a lot of things we do in the modern world to improve our domesticated cat’s lives, and feeding a well balanced dry or wet food diet may be one of them. But if you’re going to feed a raw diet there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

Raw Food Can Contain Dangerous Microbes. E.coli, salmonella and a handful of other bacterias are commonly present in raw meat. These bacterias can make cats sick. Kittens, elder cats and cats with previous conditions are at highest risk. A raw diet must be stored and prepared in the correct way. Improper storage can lead to an increase in bacterial numbers, which can be dangerous for your pet, as most pathogens are dose-dependent. Humans are also at risk of contracting these disease causing organisms. Keep this in mind when preparing raw foods for your cat and when cleaning the litter box.

Raw Diets May Not Provide Cats With Complete Nutrition. Because raw diets are relatively new to the market the debate is still out whether raw diets provide complete nutrition for cats. Some cats on the raw diet come in with diarrhea and urinary issues because the raw diet isn’t providing them with the correct nutrition. If you are going to be feeding a raw diet, make sure you’re extra careful about getting wellness checkups and diagnostics to make sure your cat is getting balanced nutrition.

The Raw Diet Isn’t Necessarily Fresh. When a wild cat catches its prey it consumes the animal right away. This is different from the frozen raw food at the store. Frozen raw food is not necessarily fresh food. Plus freezing cannot be expected to have a significant impact of decreasing or eliminating bacterial contamination. For example, you would never pull a raw chicken breast out of the freezer and feel it was safe to consume.

Are Gourmet Foods Worth the Cost?

It’s tempting to want to feed your cat the best, most expensive brand out there. What do you think of ‘Tender Turkey Tuscany with Long Grain Rice and Garden Greens in a Savory Sauce?” MmMmmmm sounds delicious. But stay strong! Don’t get distracted by fancy names or beautifully designed packaging. When it comes to cat food the most important thing is not the entree name or even the ingredient list, it’s the nutrients within the food.

Specialty Gourmet Food Is Okay As a Treat. Gourmet food is a great treat for your kitty when used as a supplement, but not as an every day diet. Many gourmet canned foods are not nutritionally balanced and can lead to health problems if over fed.

Gourmet Foods Are Expensive. Over time high end specialty foods can add up. So take a look at your cat heath care budget. A well balanced diet is important, but make sure your cat’s gourmet diet isn’t taking funds away from checkups and diagnostics because those things are important!

Food Allergies in Cats

Food allergies can be tricky both to diagnose and to treat. There are a lot of assumptions out there about food allergies so here’s what is important to know:

  • Corn and other grains are not necessarily the culprits. Pets are often allergic to meat proteins.
  • Food allergies may appear as GI symptoms, itchiness or chronic ear infections. Allergic pets may chew on their feet and be itchy in their ears, on their belly, and sometimes around the anus. Itchiness on the rump is usually indicative of fleas or anal glands that need to be expressed.
  • Your cat can develop allergies to a diet that they’ve been on for a long time. It takes exposure to an ingredient in order to develop an allergy.
  • Blood testing for food allergies is not very accurate. The best way to figure out a food allergy is to put your cat on a strict food trial. This means 2-3 months of eating ONLY a prescription hypoallergenic diet. Talk with one of our doctors before selecting a food. Many over-the-counter hypoallergenic diets may not work.
  • Even if your cat’s allergies are seasonal, food allergies could still be contributing to the problem. Sometimes inhalant allergies and food allergies together can cause the itchiness to be worse during certain seasons.

Here at Nob Hill Cat Clinic we see many allergic cats and we know how frustrating chronic allergy problems can be. Please call us if you have any concerns or if you’d like more information.