CVMA | Documents | Supplementation of Your Pet’s Diet is Not Necessarily Beneficial

Supplementation of Your Pet’s Diet is Not Necessarily Beneficial

October 23, 2012

Routine supplementation is not recommended. In fact, certain supplements and feeding practices can be harmful to your pet. Nutritional supplements should not be given unless a specific condition needs to be treated. Your veterinarian is most knowledgeable in determining whether or not your dog or cat requires supplementation. 

Meat: Avoid feeding raw meat because of the danger of transmitting parasites and bacteria, such as E.coli, Campylobacter and Salmonella. Excess supplementation with meat can lead to an imbalance of calcium/phosphorous and may provide excess protein that can be harmful to pets with impaired kidney function. In the wild, cats and dogs do not just eat muscle tissue, they mix it up! They eat whole animals with hair, bones, and gut contents and so get a more varied input. So, an owner is not balancing the diet by just providing meat, that is not natural, in fact it's unhealthy if the muscle meat becomes a primary or solo diet.

Milk: There is no harm in feeding milk, but it is unnecessary. In some lactose-intolerant pets, milk may cause diarrhea. Some pets may be allergic to milk.

Eggs: If fed, eggs should be cooked and not raw. Raw egg white contains avidin, which destroys the vitamin biotin. Note: egg yolks offset this due to their high biotin content.

Fish: Bones should be removed prior to feeding to prevent choking. Cook fish to avoid parasites and to destroy thiaminase, an enzyme found in some fish (carp, smelt, catfish, and herring) that destroys thiamin (vitamin B1). Cooking destroys Thiaminase. Cats fed tuna exclusively can have serious health problems so avoid feeding canned fish as a major portion of the diet.

Liver: Excess liver may cause calcium deficiency, vitamin A toxicity, and/or diarrhea.

Fats/oils: Fats are a good source of energy. However, over-supplementation can cause obesity. Supplementing the diet with extra fat may result in a decreased food intake, which in turn can lead to a nutritional deficiency.

Bones: Bones should not be fed. Small bones can splinter and become lodged in the mouth, throat or digestive tract. Bones also lead to diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and intestinal obstructions and punctures.

Table scraps: Table scraps are usually high in fat and carbohydrates, and low in calcium and protein. This leads to an imbalanced diet. Table scraps can cause vomiting, diarrhea, pancreatitis, fussy appetite, begging at the table and obesity.

Onions/garlic: Onions and garlic have no effect on worms or fleas. Excessive onion ingestion can cause haemolytic anemia (fever, dark urine, death).

Chocolate: Contains theobromine, which is toxic to pets. 

Candy: Due to the high caloric density, feeding candy may keep pets from eating properly. They can also cause obesity and dental caries. As well, hard candies may cause choking.

Calcium: Some people add calcium to the diet of fast growing animals. This is not a good idea since growth formulations already have balanced the bone producing compounds such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.

Herbs: Some herbs have side effects and can cause problems. Some, for example, affect blood clotting and would need to be stopped if a routine surgery is planned.

Human medicines: Giving a Tylenol or aspirin to your cat may be lethal. Animals do not process many human medications the same way as people do, so avoid giving human medications unless a veterinarian prescribes them.

Remember that your pet is not a human and many supplemental feeding practices can be of real concern. We do not want to “kill the pet with kindness” so remember that their diet should reflect their needs rather than people’s ideas of treats.