Many of us take a daily multivitamin to insure we receive a base amount of important vitamins and minerals. The typical American diet does not provide a well-balanced source of these nutrients for most people, so we take supplements as “insurance”. Much of the vitamins and minerals in packaged dog and cat foods are destroyed during the processing of both dry and canned food. Even when added back in after the cooking or extruding processes, the vitamins and minerals break down rapidly when exposed to light and air. The first bowl of kibble from a bag may contain most of what the label claims, but each time the bag or container is opened, the nutrients are affected. It is difficult to know how much, if any of the vitamins are left by the last portions from the bag.
Even the best diet for our dogs and cats of fresh raw foods can be lacking in some essential vitamins and minerals. Many whole food sources no longer contain the high vitamin content they have in the past due to depleted soils and modern farming practices. This is why a basic vitamin and mineral supplement is a good investment for most of our companions. Think of it as health insurance – making sure the body has everything it needs for proper cell function and health maintenance will keep your companion healthier, possibly reducing your veterinarian visits and costs in the long run.
As with any other supplement, all multi-vitamins are not created equal. And not every dog or cat needs the full dosage suggested on the label. While supplementing for “insurance” is helpful, too much of a good thing can be harmful. If you are feeding a fresh food that is professionally formulated, then your companion does not likely need the full dose of a daily vitamin; half would likely suffice.
Ideally, vitamin supplements should be rotated. Just like rotation and variety in the diet is important for complete and balanced nutrition, rotating vitamin supplements can provide greater balance through a wider assortment of vitamin and mineral “sources”. You can rotate from one bottle to the next or even from one day to the next. I sometimes use a multivitamin one day and a “greens” supplement another day. I like having Ark Naturals Nu-Pet Chewable Tabs, Nupro , and Solid Gold Seameal on hand. At any given time I keep 3 or 4 different supplements around to rotate in my dog, Star's diet. There is no hard and fast rule.
You know your dog or cat best, so watch them closely and notice when they seem livelier or more sluggish, or their eyes are brighter or their coat a bit more shiny or dull, and adjust your supplement regime to meet their needs.
Amino acids deserve a special mention here. Some amino acids are required in the diet, while some are produced by the body. A healthy, well-rounded diet will provide all the essential amino acids required from food, except for the amino acid taurine required by cats. Commercial cat foods are almost all supplemented with this essential amino acid, but if you are making part or all of your feline friend’s meals at home, then be sure to add taurine to their diet. This can be accomplished with a good multi-vitamin made for cats such as Halo's Mineral Mix or by including mackerel, clams or raw hearts (beef, lamb, chicken or turkey) in the diet. Taurine is destroyed by heat, however, so be sure these are fed raw or the supplement is added to food after it has been cooked.