As pet owners, we do our best to feed our animals as healthy as possible. Sometimes an extra helping hand in the form of a multivitamin can be very useful.
What is a multivitamin?
'Multivitamin' or 'multi' is a term for a dietary supplement that contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are substances that must be taken from the diet and are necessary for normal physiological functioning. They allow all kinds of enzymatic processes in the body to run smoothly.
Vitamins and related substances
There are thirteen different vitamins: vitamin A, vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B8, B11 (folic acid), B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. There are also many vitamin-like substances. These substances do not fit directly into the 'vitamin' category but often resemble them. Examples include L-carnitine (an amino acid that plays an essential role in fat metabolism and has a protective effect on the heart and blood vessels) and various carotenoids and flavonoids. These are the substances responsible for giving plants their color and, as antioxidants, they have all kinds of useful functions. These compounds can also sometimes be converted into vitamins.
Then there are minerals such as magnesium and calcium. While vitamins come from living things and can be produced by some plants or animals themselves, minerals come from things that aren’t alive. Minerals are absorbed by plants from the earth and by animals from food or water. Trace elements are minerals that are required in very small amounts for the proper functioning of the body.
Facts and fables
In the ideal world, no one would need multivitamins. However, it appears that in some cases the amounts of vitamins and minerals consumed by our pets fall short of the required dose. Multivitamins can remedy that. The quality of the multivitamin is of great importance. For example, the vitamins and minerals present in supplements must be in form of an easily absorbable compound. Zinc can, for example, be contained in a product as zinc oxide (inorganic: not easily absorbed) or as zinc citrate (organic; bound to an acid; easily absorbed). This makes a world of difference to the absorption in the body. For instance, calcium carbonate (chalk) is still being advised and processed into animal feed even though the animal’s body cannot absorb it.
Does my pet need multivitamins?
There are numerous protocols drawn up by doctors and health organizations that specify when someone needs a nutritional supplement such as a multivitamin. This does not yet exist for animals. In fact, the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) has not been clearly established at all. We may under- or overestimate the importance of some substances for our animals.
Groups of animals that are eligible for the use of multivitamin are:
- Older animals - as an animal gets older, the ability to absorb substances from the digestive system decreases. A wide supply of nutrients is then very important. It is also good for older animals to eat smaller amounts of food more often than a large portion once or twice a day.
- Animals recovering from illness or surgery - when animals are recovering, the body has an increased need for nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc, certain B vitamins, vitamin E and selenium.
- Animals in sports - animals with a heavy physical load need more nutrients that act as antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. In addition, there is an increased need for magnesium, for example.
- Animals with a weak immune system - a multivitamin is ideally suited for long-term feeding, for example, to support the immune system. A multivitamin contains many substances that contribute to increasing your pet’s immunity, including zinc, vitamins C and D.
- Animals on a diet or animals that eat poorly - if animals eat less due to circumstances (for example, if they are on a diet or if they eat poorly due to a dental problem) giving them multivitamins is a good idea. After all, if an animal eats less, it will also receive fewer essential nutrients. Obviously, the number one priority is to address the cause of an animal's poor diet.
- As a supplement to the diet - it can be quite complicated to feed animals of many species in the most natural way possible while still providing sufficient nutrients. Even if you compose the menu for your dog or cat yourself, deficiencies in vitamins and minerals can arise. To be on the safe side, add multivitamins to their diets.