Guest Column: The basics about supplements

Published 10:57 am Wednesday, June 7, 2017

By Michelle Nelson

Michelle Nelson is the owner of The Pet Authority in Albert Lea.

Most people begin adding supplements to their pets’ diet when they have problems, whether it’s joint, digestive, skin and coat or urinary issues. Supplements are more effective as a preventative than as a treatment, that is why they need to be started at a young age, when pets are still healthy. As pet owners we need to be proactive about our pets’ health, not reactive.

Michelle Nelson

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Digestive upset

The No. 1 reason why people take their fur kids to the vet is digestive upset. Because the average pet owner feeds a commercially processed food, all the natural digestive enzymes are lost in the cooking process. Digestive enzymes allow pets to get the greatest nutritional value out of their diet, so if the food you are feeding has been cooked (dry/canned food), then supplementing digestive enzymes is a must. Seventy percent of your pets’ immune system is housed in the digestive tract; therefore, adding digestive enzymes boosts your pets’ immune system.

Hip and joint issues

This is one issue where I see pet owners starting supplementation way too late in life. They wait until their pet can’t walk up the stairs anymore, has problems getting up from their bed or they are in their upper senior years. Once joint damage is done, it is not reversible, so being proactive and using hip and joint supplements as a preventative is a must. Large and giant breed dogs especially should be given a joint supplement from the day you bring them home. It protects the joints as the body grows, helps to prevent injury and prolongs the effects of aging. I personally started Reggie on a joint supplement when he was 6; now, looking back, I wish I would have started it sooner. Little dogs are constantly jumping off of the couch, your bed or out of the vehicle, and those joints take a tremendous pounding. 

Skin and coat 

Most of the time a dry, flaky, itchy skin and coat is due to poor quality nutrition, so that is always the first thing that needs to be looked at. But there are also times when your dog or cat just needs some extra Omega 3 in their diet. Fish oils are the most common supplements, but they can vary greatly in quality based on the type of fish, temperature of the water and toxins in the environment.  “Cheap” and “good quality” are never found in the same bottle when it comes to supplements. 


Cats are known for having urinary tract infections. From day one, your cat should be put on a urinary tract supplement, especially if you are feeding a dry food. Cats do not have the natural desire to drink water like dogs. If they are eating dry food, do not get enough moisture in their diet to keep their system flushed out, crystals develop and then you end up with UTIs. Supplements help in keeping the pH in balance so the crystals and stones do not form in the bladder.

If you are ever questioning when to start a supplement, it’s never too early and it’s never too late, but the later you start, the less effective they will be. It is much easier to be proactive than reactive, plus it is much less painful on our pets and less costly on our pocketbooks in the long run. Always remember, even healthy pets need supplements.