Everywhere we turn pet food is plastered with “added vitamins and minerals” They are supposed to fill the gap but could supplements be harming our companions instead of actually helping them?  


Vitamin and mineral supplementation is common in the general population. Not only do we humans take multivitamins daily, but our companions’ pet foods are loaded with a long list of them as well. In our fast paced society, where healthy eating and whole foods often are not the focus, vitamin and mineral supplements are often added to “fill in the gaps” Sadly there is a danger to vitamin and mineral supplementation, reasons too harmful to ignore.

Regulations overseeing vitamin and mineral supplements are not heavily enforced. This includes labeling laws. Manufacturers don’t even need approval to sell their products and their manufacturing institutions aren’t overseen as strictly as say prescription drugs. Although they are required to test their ingredients they are not required to submit the results to the FDA. Essentially, we must trust the manufacturers that they are being honest. In all reality we have no idea what we may be consuming as only about 1-3% of products from overseas is actually inspected.  Health claims for example have been a huge problem in the past. David Baker a gynocologist began performing DNA tests of black cohosh supplements recommended to woman for menopause in 2010. He found that at least 30% of the supplements didn’t contain black cohosh. He continued to test other supplements and found similar if not more upsetting results.


In the early 1990’s the head of FDA David Kessel promised stricter regulations on health claims being backed with scientific research. If the FDA were regulating these supplements the way they should, this statement would never have been made. Although many studies are done featuring human supplements and human patients, many pet owners use human-grade supplements for their pets especially those starting to feed raw diets. Furthermore, considering pet grade ingredients are even less monitored than human grade ingredients we can safely assume we are looking at a product that is just down right bad.


Many vitamin and mineral ingredients are sourced from or made in China. China has more than monopolized the vitamin and mineral supplementation industry. 90% of Vitamin C supplements for example are produced in China.  China has had many issues with their products containing heavy metals or other harmful contaminates. China is also one of the most polluted countries. Not only is their air toxic, but their soil and water that many products are grown in are as well. The 2007 Recall of over 150 brands of pet food due to melamine contamination was found to have originated in wheat gluten from China. Hundreds if not thousands of cat and dogs died from health complications sustained while eating these contaminated foods. Even if the supplement is not from China consumers have no idea as there are no labeling laws demanding manufacturers to label country of origin on their products.


Many vitamin and mineral supplements as mentioned above are synthetic. Often they do not come from natural or whole food sources and those that may, often are treated with ethanols or other solvents even from materials that have been radiated are used to extract the nutrients from the source. They can also come from inferior sources such as tar and petroleum.


Some synthetic or laboratory produced supplements can be sneaky like some probiotics or prebiotics. Often these products come from genetically modified bacteria that create the nutrient as a by-product.


Synthetic vitamin and minerals often are missing essential components that the natural source may have and may not work the same way or be absorbed and utilized like it’s natural or whole food source. Those made from petroleum and tars are obviously not appropriate nutrients therefore the body cannot break down the components of these supplements. In the best case scenario hopefully this just means they will pass right through the body. Due to the synthetic nature of many vitamins and mineral supplements, these “gap fillers” are actually causing people to live shorter lives. Some studies suggest that supplementation can actually cause cancers, kidney failure, cardiac arrest and bone fractures.


Although there is little research on the subject, I believe from personal experience that synthetic vitamin and minerals also contribute to dental disease and consequently other unseen illness to our companion’s organs, immune system and general bodily health. When I first started feeding a raw diet it consisted of ground chicken and egg as well as taurine, Vitamin B complex, Vitamin E, bone meal and fish oil. Most of my companion’s nutrients came from supplements. Although this was a step forward in regards to feeding a healthier meal to my companions, after only about a month or two both my kittens had considerable brown build up on their back teeth (plaque and tartar) I can only imagine the other unseen effects it had on their bodies.


If these supplements can be so detrimental, why are they on the market or in our pet foods? Simply put, a) due to the high heating/cooking process of commercial pet foods often vitamin and mineral nutrients are destroyed and must be added after the fact b) it’s much cheaper than whole food nutrients and c) there are very loose regulations and enforcement of vitamins and mineral supplements.


Unfortunately, it can be extremely hard to avoid synthetic vitamins and minerals. Most human food is fortified with “added vitamins and minerals” and almost every single pet food has a nice long list of synthetic vitamins and minerals that are added to their products. Although there are some quality nutrient supplements out there it can be hard to get honest information as to where nutrients are sourced from or how they are processed. The best that one can do to avoid the dangers and inferiority of supplements is to try their best to consume and provide whole food options. For your companion, a complete diet featuring a variety of meat, organs and bones can provide all the vitamins and mineral nutrients your companions need in wonderful whole food options. If your companions suffer from deficiencies, simply adding more raw meat, bones and organs is a much safer and healthy way to provide wholesome nutrients to your companions. 

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