As a loving pet parent, you want to keep your four-legged family member as healthy and happy as possible. And while it’s often said that prevention is the best “cure,” some things are simply unavoidable. If there’s ever a time that your furry friend gets diagnosed with a disease or health condition, your next priority is to help him stay comfortable and recover as best as he can.
Although medical procedures are sometimes necessary, a nutritious diet and natural supplements can help support treatment, and most of all, can provide powerful preventative care. We asked dozens of pet health professionals from around the world to share the foods and supplements they recommend to their clients, and compiled their expertise in this handy guide. While it is by no means exhaustive, it’s a great place to start your research, whether you want to learn more about preventative care or how to support the recovery of a specific condition.
Ahead, check out thebest dog and cat food and supplements to treat 10 common pet health issues. As always, be sure to consult with your vet or veterinary nutritionist before adding new foods, herbs, or supplements to your companion’s diet.
1. Allergies & Food Sensitivities
Symptoms from food allergies are some of the most common issues pet professionals see, with skin irritation, chronic ear infections, and itchiness topping the list.
Believe it or not, allergies can develop any time, so a food you’ve been feeding your furry friend for years can suddenly start causing a reaction. Luckily, once the offending food is identified, eliminating it from the diet is usually all it takes to alleviate symptoms. (Check out our article on identifying and relieving food allergies in pets.)
Many pet parents opt for grain-free or vet-recommended pet food forallergies, intolerances, or sensitive stomachs.Wheat is among the most common triggers for these types of symptoms for two reasons: one, many pets are, in fact, allergic; two, some cheap dog and cat food brands use wheat that’s so low-quality, it’s not even safe for human consumption. This wheat is often filled with contaminants, which may be what’s really causing those adverse effects.
Food Without Common Allergens
It’s common sense to refrain from feeding your pup or kitty something he’s allergic to, but the types of foods most likely to cause a reaction may surprise you. Chicken, pork, fish, and beef are all among the most common allergens, along with eggs, soy, dairy, corn, potato, and of course, wheat.
“For allergies in dogs, start with a kibble that is grain free [and] has no potato, chicken, or egg products,” suggests Becky Mobley ofWild Kingdom Pet Supplies in Texas. “Give it two weeks, and if that doesn't help the issue, seek a nutritionist or veterinarian.” If your companion is having a reaction to a common pet food ingredient, the best dog or cat foodmay be a specialty formula that uses alternative protein or carbohydrate sources, such as duck, venison, peas, or rice.
2. Digestive System
We all feel under the weather from time to time, whether we catch a bug or eat something that disagrees with us. Our pets are no different, and the best way to keep them in tip-top shape is by helping them maintain a nutritious diet.
However, diarrhea and tummy aches still occur on occasion -- especially for pets with sensitive stomachs -- and when that happens, it’s good to know how to help your pal feel better.
Pumpkin is a very healthy treat for dogs. It’s important to note that we’re referring toplainpureed pumpkin (either fresh or from a can), not the pie filler that’s full of sugar and spices. This vegetable is a common go-to remedy for occasional diarrhea or an upset tummy. It is also a great source of fiber and helps pets with mild constipation and even provides relief for anal gland issues.
George Craft ofGGC Healthy Paws, which sells natural treats and is based in New Jersey, adds that he recommends “pumpkin puree for loose stools; it settles the enzymes in the digestive tract.”
Like with humans, probiotics help populate the healthy flora in your pet’s digestive tract. Giving your pet aregular probiotic supplement can help him maintain optimum digestive health, particularly if he tends to have a sensitive stomach. Probiotics are also a wonderfulimmune system booster (more below).
If your four-legged friend is dealing with a bout of diarrhea or has an upset stomach, try giving his tummy a rest by preparing delicious and easy-to-digest meals for a day or two.
Amy Paschka, owner ofBlue Ribbon Kennels in Minnesota, advises feeding your pet thissensitive stomach pet food: “rice and / or quinoa, mixed with boiled, cut up chicken, hamburger, or cooked eggs. [Add] slippery elm for loose stools and upset tummy,” she explains. Paschka says that a bit of ginger root can help too. One more piece of advice: “If your dog isn't eating and has loose stools, let [his] digestive tract rest for 24 hours before introducing the food suggested. Always be sure [he is] drinking water.”
Note that this is not an optimal long-term diet, as your dog or cat may eventually develop nutrient deficiencies. If diarrhea or upset stomach persists more than a few days, consult with your vet to see if there’s another underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
As mentioned, this herb can help ease stomach irritation as well as reduce inflammation. It’s known as an all-around digestive system soother, and can help pets suffering from either diarrhea or constipation. To err on the side of caution, consult with your vet or veterinary nutritionist for proper usage and dosage before giving it to your pal.
Ginger is known for its anti-nausea and digestion-enhancing properties. Try adding a bit of fresh ginger root to your companion’s meal when he’s feeling under the weather. (It’s good for pets who suffer from car sickness, too.)
3. Weight Management
Obesity is one of the biggest ailments plaguing dogs and cats, and aside from stress on joints and decreased mobility, it can lead to a host of other diseases. It’s important to keep your companion’s weight in check with a healthy, balanced diet, and if you have an overweight cat or dog, there lots of fresh foods that can help him lose a few pounds.
As mentioned, plain pureed pumpkin is a wonderful treat to give your four-legged friend, and turns out, it’s also one of the best foods for weight loss and management. That’s because it’s low calorie and packed with fiber, which will help keep his tummy full.
Another great weight management trick is to replace high-calorie treats with fresh or frozen veggies, and even some fruits. (Just make sure the produce is pet-safe!) Snacks like carrot sticks, green beans, cucumber slices, blueberries, and pieces of apple are full of vitamins, fiber, and of course, low in calories.
4. Skin & Coat Health
Nutrient deficiencies, as well as food or environmental allergies, often affect your pet’s skin and coat. If you notice that your cat or dog has dry skin that’s flaky or itchy, or his coat is dull, consider whether an allergy or intolerance may be causing it. Consult with your vet, and ask if he or she recommends adding some omegas or coconut oil to your companion’s diet.
Omega Fatty Acids
Omega fatty acids are an essential nutrient that’s often used as a remedy for pets with itchy, flaky skin or dull, dry coats.
“Try salmon or a fish protein source if your dog has dry sensitive skin,” says Jordan Wright ofOmni Feed and Supply in Ohio. Salmon is particularly rich in omega-3s, as is tuna; just remember, the fresh, wild-caught stuff is best. You can also give your pup or kitty a supplement containing omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids.
This tropical oil has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, plus it’s full of “healthy” fats that can help with digestion and nourish the skin and coat. Just remember, as with everything, moderation is key. Despite its benefits, it’s still high in calories and should only be eaten in small amounts.
5. Joint Health
Our pets’ joints deteriorate as they age, and they can get stiff and even cause pain. If you have a senior pooch or kitty, or your pet has arthritis or another joint issue, consider adding a joint-supporting supplement to his diet.
This naturally-occurring substance is what your pet’s body uses to build cartilage, so it’s a common remedy for pets suffering from arthritis or otherwise stiff or painful joints. “In my experience, I get a lot of dogs with joint problems,” explains Carlos Deleon ofPet Wants San Antonio, a natural pet food company in Texas. “For that, we always recommend chicken or duck feet, a great source of glucosamine.”
Raw feeders can also add ingredients like trachea, ox or pig tails to their pets’ dishes, or you can make homemade bone broth that,if done properly, will be naturally rich in glucosamine. Of course, the easiest thing to do is get your pal a glucosamine supplement. As long as it’s high-quality, it should provide the same benefits.
This bright yellow spice has been touted for its health benefits for a number of reasons. It can be especially helpful for joint health because it’s been known to reduce pain as well as inflammation within the body.
Of course, fresh turmeric (its natural form is a root) is going to be much more effective and potent than the dried spice.
6. Immune System Health
The immune system is at the root of many health issues, so it’s important to keep it strong and healthy. If your pet is recovering from a sickness or round of antibiotics, it’s especially important to replenish the healthy bacteria that helps fight off disease.
The majority of your dog’s immune system is in his gut. Therefore, a strong digestive system equals a strong immune system that’s capable of fighting off the bad stuff!
7. Urinary Tract Health
If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI), bladder stones, or any other related issue, you know they can be very painful. The same is true for our pets. Cats, in particular, are prone to issues in this region, and while there’s no guarantee, you can often prevent these uncomfortable conditions by making a few dietary changes.
Yes, we’re mentioningprobiotics again! This digestive and immune system supplement can also be useful in case of urinary tract infections, which are caused by -- you guessed it -- harmful bacteria.
Wet Food Diet
Proper hydration is key to maintaining urinary tract health, so a diet that at leastincludes wet food -- again, particularly for cats -- can help pets avoid UTIs, bladder stones, and the like.
Again, it’s imperative to keep your pet hydrated to help prevent these issues, as well as others.
Since kitties tend to be especially particular about drinking water, do whatever you can to encourage yours to drink. Always provide your purring pal with fresh, cool water, and make sure to find a bowl that he likes (often, shallow, wide bowls, where his whiskers won’t touch the sides, are preferred). Consider investing in a cat drinking fountain if necessary, and if Kitty likes taking sips from the sink or faucet, go ahead and let him (as long as it’s safe).
8. Oral Hygiene
Humans aren’t the only ones who need to keep their oral hygiene in check. Our pets can develop many mouth problems that become excruciatingly painful, and if left untreated, can even be deadly. That’s why it’s important to maintain a teeth-cleaning routine with your furry pal.
Raw feeders are probably already aware that raw meaty bones (RMBs) are an essential part of your dog or cat’s balanced raw diet. These edible bones are not only digestible, they help clean your pet’s teeth as he chews. Common examples of RMBs include chicken wings, poultry necks, tails, and feet.
One very important thing to note is that you should never, ever give your pet a cooked bone. These can splinter as they’re chewed, creating dangerously sharp edges or posing a serious choking hazard if swallowed.
In addition to being a healthy supplement, coconut oil can be used as an all-natural toothpaste. With antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, it can help clean teeth and freshen breath.
9. Vision & Eye Health
Although pets can live long, fulfilling lives without their vision, you probably want to keep this sense sharp if they still have it. There are many types of produce that help support our furry friends’ sight (as well as ours!).
These antioxidant-packed berries have many benefits for our pets, and that includes supporting eye health. Carlos Deleon ofPet Wants San Antonio explains that he sees a lot of dogs with excessive eye tearing, and always recommends blueberries as a remedy. In fact, he calls the berries “a miracle fruit.”
Better yet, blueberries help with other eye functions too. They support vision, particularly night vision, and keep the eyes healthy and strong.
A handful of other veggies have nutrients that can help strengthen sight too, including broccoli, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.
10. Inflammation & Cancer
As a pet parent, one of your biggest fears is probably hearing that your beloved dog or cat has cancer. Along with a nutritious, vitamin and antioxidant-rich diet, CBD oil and turmeric can assist in reducing inflammation and may even help kill cancer cells. (Read10 Warning Signs Your Pet Has Cancerfor your best chance at an early diagnosis.)
CBD oil -- which isnot psychoactive, so it won’t produce a “high,” like THC -- is said to have a host of physical and mental benefits for our pets. It can reduce inflammation within the body, and perhaps more amazingly, is thought to help kill cancer cells and stop the growth of tumors.
As a side note, this plant-based oil has also been effective in treating epilepsy and helping ease anxiety in our four-legged friends.
Once again, we have to mention this exotic spice. Along with the ability to reduce inflammation, turmeric can help prevent cancer, or assist in killing cancerous cells that are already present.
Now that you know what types of foods and supplements can help prevent, remedy, or support the healing of certain issues, there are probably lots of questions going through your mind: “Should I change my dog or cat’s diet?” “Is homemade food better than store-bought food?” and of course, “Where do I start?” If this sounds like you, stay tuned!
Since every animal has different nutritional needs, it’s imperative to do your research and seek guidance from a veterinary professional when it comes to the best diet for your dog or cat. But at the end of the day, the decision is yours, and the team at Zumalka by HomeoAnimal wants to help you make the best choices possible.
Suzie Cyrenne is a certified Homeopath with over ten years of experience creating natural products for cats and dogs. She co-founded eCommerce brand, Zumalka in 2013 with her husband Matt and is on a mission to help thousands of animals naturally improve their quality of life and shares her experience on their popular YouTube show. Hence, she created a line of high-performance natural pet supplements to target the root cause of common health issues.
Suzie was influenced by her mother-in-law, who practiced homeopathy and made natural remedies from home. After being on prescriptions for many years for a skin issue without resolution, she wanted to try something new. Her problems were cleared up within a few months of dedication to a better diet supplemented by homeopathic remedies. That's when she knew that homeopathy worked! During this process, she wondered why there weren't better options for pets and soon created a popular line of natural remedies that have helped thousands of pets across the USA.
When she’s not traveling or reading the next personal development book, you can find Suzie snowboarding, working out, or enjoying a daily hike.
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