A feed used with in conjunction with another feed to improve the nutritive balance or performance of the total feed and intended to be:

  • fed undiluted as an addition to other feeds
    • Most common manner for pets
  • offered freely to the animal with other parts of the ration separately available
    • Mostly concerned with livestock feeding
  • further diluted to produce a complete feed.
    • This applies to only a few pet foods.
    • Essentially these are base mixes of vitamins and minerals intended to be mixed with meats, carbohydrate and fat components to provide a meal for a pet.
    • However, the actual nutritional content of the final product can be quite variable and depends on the ingredients the consumer adds to the base mix as well as the consumer’s diligence in measuring and following feeding directions.

Much of the commercial distribution of dietary supplement products similar to those marketed for people for use in animals is contrary to animal-feed regulations.

Many of these products claim or imply that they will mitigate, treat or prevent diseases. These claims are drug indications. The same products may also include a disclaimer regarding the drug indications on their containers.

But unapproved drug indications, overt or implied, misbrand and adulterate animal feed products.

Animal feed supplements are not like human dietary supplements and human dietary supplements should not be used for drug purposes in pets.


Legitimate Pet Food Supplements

Genuine nutritional supplements for pets are often mineral and vitamin or fat supplements.

The first question a pet owner should consider about supplements is whether a pet really needs them in the first place. Generally speaking, healthy dogs and cats that are fed a complete and balanced diet appropriate for their life stage do not.

Supplementing a complete and balanced diet risks exceeding the upper limits of certain nutrients. For example, nutrients such as selenium can be toxic to pets when overused. Another example is Vitamin D, a nutrient that has a fairly small difference between what’s needed and what’s toxic, particularly for dogs.

Fat supplements don’t carry quite the same risks, but they can have unwanted effects if used in excess, not the least of which is weight gain.

To effectively incorporate a nutritional supplement, a pet owner should know the baseline nutrients provided in the pet’s normal diet, the level of nutrients added with the supplement and the safe use level for those specific nutrients.

Labeling for complete and balanced pet food typically only includes crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber and moisture. Because of this, pet owners can’t be sure of other nutrient amounts in pet food, except that they are adequate if fed correctly.


Veterinarians’ Role

Veterinarians sometimes prescribe special “supplements” or “therapeutic diets” for pets with particular disease conditions.

These are only available through a veterinarian. The manufacturer shares information with the veterinarian that helps him to dispense these products safely.

A veterinarian may safely recommend specific supplements to go along with the food; but the veterinarian is equipped to know what products are reasonable to combine and how to evaluate if the pet is responding favorably to the product(s) use.

Pet owners should always talk to their veterinarian before introducing supplements into their pets’ diets, use the vet-prescribed dosage and follow the directions on the supplement label.