The health and wellbeing of our pets is really important to us and there is a range of products and supplements which can play a useful part in maintaining this, as well as supporting behaviour programmes, but there are so many products available, the choice can be overwhelming – and many, we have found, are just not worth bothering with. Over the years, we have researched and tested a huge range of products both with our own pets and through discussion with our trusted veterinary colleagues and working with clients. These have been whittled down to just a small number of products are from reputable companies, backed up with good scientific research wherever possible (not an easy area in terms of clinical application for pets, but there is some) and we now have a small set of ‘go to’ products that we have seen good results with and use regularly (this bit is personal experience, not science).
We’re always happy to chat about our experiences, but we cannot give specific advice for individual dogs as there are so many things to consider in terms of current health status and, in some cases, interactions with existing medications – this is something only a vet can help you with.
Even though all these products are freely available, over the counter, we strongly recommend you speak to your own vet before starting anything new, especially supplements. REMEMBER THERE CAN BE CONTRA-INDICATIONS FOR SOME SUPPLEMENTS WITH PARTICULAR MEDICAL CONDITIONS OR OTHER MEDICATIONS.
If your vet is unfamiliar with using these types of supplements (as may be the case for some general practice vets), and in particular for herbal products, you may wish to consult a properly qualified herbal or holistic vet for specific advice.
Don’t forget, if you are a current client undertaking 1:1 sessions with a member of our behaviour team, please do just give us a call as in these circumstances we work directly with your vet to help you build an individual wellbeing plan for your dog.
These are a selection of the basics we use with all our dogs most of the time, just to help keep them in tip-top shape and feeling their very best (together with a breed and age appropriate diet, environment and activities!) – a multivitamin, an omega 3, a probiotic and sometimes a green superfood. Spark is an all in one version of those!
Tummies and Digestion
So important to both physical health and behavioural health. Focuses on improving the gut microbiome and providing a bit of extra support for upset tummies, at times of stress etc.
Joint Health and Pain
Our regular ‘go to’ products for helping keep our youngsters in tip-top condition and for supporting our older dogs with chronic conditions like arthritis. Supplements have their place and for some dogs they may really help, but environment, temperature management, types of activities and, where pain is concerned, medication, are all equally as important.
Coat and skin
A proper grooming routine is a vital part of health and wellbeing and absolutely essential for many breeds. Itchy, uncomfortable irritated skin or matted fur can be a huge welfare issue as well as the root of some tricky behaviour issues. But grooming itself, however important, can be a highly stressful experience which is overwhelming for dogs in terms of discomfort and sensory overload. And it doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) be!
Dental health is incredibly important. Dental pain is often missed and can have a hugely detrimental impact on wellbeing and on behaviour (think how you would feel with chronic toothache that you couldn’t do anything about). Mouth health and hygiene are also closely linked to other health conditions too. There are so many things you can do to help improve dental hygiene – and here are our preferred ones. We apply the same rigour when we look at things like toothpaste ingredients and dental chews that we do to everything else!
Foot health is also really important – this means looking after nails, pads and also the structure of the foot itself (if you have a dog with arthritic toes for example, the right support and care is essential). Checking paws after walks for cuts, scrapes and foreign bodies (especially grass seeds) is essential, keep nails well maintained so when your dog stands still, they don’t press down into the floor (nails that are too long put pressure through the rest of the foot) and keep paw fur trimmed – including the bits between the pads! Cold wet winters are a time to consider some paw balm too, particularly if you spend a lot of time out on pavements. We make sure we rinse off carefully after every walk and in the winter we often use a very dilute, mild shampoo to shift all the nasties that are on the roads (screenwash, salt and so on).
Please also remember that licking or chewing of feet might be a sign of problems with the paws themselves (nails, pads, bones or soft tissue), but could also be symptomatic of lots and lots of other medical conditions (including dietary sensitivity, pain elsewhere in the body, behaviour issues and so on) – as ever, please do get proper veterinary advice.
Eyes and Ears (and noses!)
Some breeds struggle more with eyes and ears than others and a proper maintenance routine is really important. These are some of the products we really like for general care (and Omega 3 by way of supplementation where appropriate), but sometimes more targeted treatments are needed ESPECIALLY if you suspect there may already be a problem. Speak to your vet first!
Please also remember that problems in these areas might also be a sign of things like dietary sensitivities or other medical conditions, so the right veterinary advice is essential.
If you own a pet you can’t afford not to have a first aid kit (and to know what to do with it – there are great courses run by vets and vet nurses for this bit!)
We don’t include everything you need here, but have put in some of the absolute essentials and a few things that might otherwise be a bit harder for you to get hold of.
There are a few other supplements that we have used with our own pets or with clients and their vets which we have found beneficial as part of carefully tailored individual health plans and these are listed here. These are all freely available, over the counter supplements but they still need to be carefully selected and dosed for your individual pet’s needs and are NEVER a substitute for proper, professional veterinary advice, so, as ever if you suspect your pet has any sort of health concerns, you must see your vet first and check that the particular supplement you would like to use is suitable for YOUR PET and his or her health status and other medications.
It’s important to look after you as well as your pets (and you’ll be able to care for your pets better if you do this too). We have therefore included here the human joint supplements which certain members of the Canine Thinking team take on a regular basis to help keep sore joints moving – we can offer no advice on these, but can highly recommend from a personal perspective! This is however the one and only time we’ll say please don’t talk to your vet!!! We generally find properly qualified herbal medicine specialists are better for people and the advice team at Cytoplan are also brilliant so do give them a call.
Supplements for behaviour
No supplement is a cure-all for behaviour, but they can be really helpful in supporting specific situations and some play a part in helping improve underlying mood state and making it easier for your dog to learn new behaviours. However, different supplements have different properties and work in completely different ways, so it is important to choose the right one and the best results come from combining this with behaviour support.