With all the purported "research" which has been done on human nutrition in the last few decades, scientists still have been unable to agree on what humans need for optimal good health. The Food and Drug Administration, the government agency responsible for establishing Recommended Dietary Allowances, repeatedly has bowed to corporate interests instead of keeping human food products safe and nutritional requirements true. Despite the fact that cancer, heart disease and other illnesses are rapidly rising, the FDA continues to disparage anyone who tries to establish a link between poor nutrition and disease.

If this is the case for human food products, imagine what's going on in the pet food industry! While the Dept. of Agriculture is responsible for setting pet food standards, there is little research available on pets' nutritional needs. The few studies which have been done in the last fifty years have been conducted by the pet food companies, not by independent researchers. With the pet food industry rapidly growing and competition for this $11 billion market fierce, not surprisingly the findings favor pet food manufacturers who want to increase profit margins at the expense of quality.

What's more, there is no pet food industry watchdog when it comes to advertising claims and the actual nutrients which go into the food. We have been victims of a deliberate campaign to misinform pet owners perpetrated by the pet food companies who want us to buy more of their chemical-laden, preservative-poisoned, nutrient-deficient, refined and "dead" commercial food.

How many times have you heard that table scraps are bad for pets? Given the fact that pets today live shorter lives than they did before the advent of commercial pet foods thirty years ago, when most pets were fed "people" food, there seems to be a blatant contradiction. In fact, a number of the diseases now appearing in animals were unheard of decades ago, and many of those diseases can be directly related to nutritional deficiencies.

Unfortunately for both humans and our animal companions, there are many obstacles to reaching and maintaining perfect health in our world today. The earth's soil has been overly farmed and depleted of many minerals which, in turn, means that crops are devitalized. Toxic pesticides and chemicals are used to revitalize the plants and keep them growing, but they actually do more harm than good. The result is that the earth's bounty is far less healthful than it should be. However, we can achieve a level of wellness for our animal companions by supplementing a natural preservative-free diet with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

Look for a high-quality, human-grade nutritional supplement or add individual vitamins and minerals to your pet's food. Here are some of the more important nutritional additives:

B-Complex Vitamins
B-vitamins in conjunction with each other help with digestion, strengthen the immune and nervous systems, promote physical and mental health, provide energy and support organ function. B-vitamins are heat-sensitive and lose much of their potency during storage which means that most commercial pet foods =8B even those that started out with added B-vitamins =8B contain little of these vitamins by the time the bag or can is opened. Thiamine (Vitamin B-1) is a major deficiency for animals in commercial foods.

Vitamin C
Unlike humans, cats' and dogs' bodies produce Vitamin C so it is not added to commercial foods; most pet vitamins also lack this vitamin. Yet the Vitamin C the animals' bodies produce is not enough to prevent what many researchers consider deficiency diseases such as hip dysplasia, spinal myelopathy, lameness, arthritis, viral diseases, skin ailments, feline leukemia and cancer. Stress severely depletes Vitamin C, breaking down the immune system and making the body more prone to infection. This vitamin is essential for connective tissue growth, strong teeth and bones, and a sound immune system; but also supports white blood cell production to fight bacteria and viruses.

Vitamin E
This antioxidant and immune system booster is essential for nutrition and healing; it improves organ function so it is vital for animals with organ diseases. It works on circulatory problems, protects against pollutants, heals skin ailments, scars and wounds. Animals taking synthetic hormones such as cortisone need extra Vitamin E as these hormones interfere with Vitamin E absorption. In addition, cats who eat tuna and dogs with skin ailments need extra Vitamin E.

Vitamin A
A deficiency of this antioxidant can be the cause of skin, coat, digestive, glandular and mucous membrane ailments. If your companion suffers from dry skin or coat problems, suspect a Vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A helps maintain healthy tissue, counteracts night blindness and seizures, and supports bones, teeth and gums. Vitamin D is often available with Vitamin A, but pet requirements for this vitamin have not been determined. Vitamin D, which is produced by sunlight on the skin, can be toxic at certain levels so use this vitamin cautiously; a daily dose of sunshine for the indoor cat or dog may be a better choice to produce Vitamin D naturally.

In dogs, calcium deficiencies manifest as bone diseases, osteoporosis, gum erosion and tooth loss, reproductive problems and convulsions. In cats, this mineral deficiency results in lameness, thin bones, nervousness and cats who are poorly socialized. To function efficiently, calcium must be combined with Vitamin A, magnesium and phosphorous. A word of caution, however: like Vitamin D, calcium supplementation must be in the proper amount and balanced with other vitamins and minerals or it can actually cause problems.

This is one of the most important trace minerals for both humans and animals. Zinc facilitates tissue repair, helps with vitamin absorption, prevents cancer, heals wounds, is an essential part of enzyme production, and helps form skin, hair and nails. Animal health practitioners have recently found that dry skin, poor coat, allergies, abscesses, and slow healing may be caused by a zinc deficiency.

Bee Pollen
Since Ancient Greece, bee pollen has been used to increase stamina and endurance among humans. This whole food is a rich source of protein and carbohydrates, a strong immune system builder, speeds healing and is a digestive aid. Bee products are also used as pain relievers, to reduce allergies and to prevent cancer.

Digestive Enzymes
These are particularly important if you have a pet with skin and coat problems, intestinal disorders, chronic allergies, and thyroid, liver or kidney disease. In addition, animals who eat stool or exhibit weight loss despite hearty appetites, are probably enzyme deficient.

In an ideal world, the best way for your animal companion to get the vitamins, minerals and nutrients he needs is to get them from his food. But, with today's food (even organic, preservative-free food) nutritionally deficient, we have to rely on supplements to promote good health. Look for a human-grade formula which combines natural food or plant ingredients, herbs and added vitamins or minerals or make up the balance. When it comes to supplements, vitamins and minerals, find a combination of ingredients which works synergistically, is easy to administer and palatable to your companion.

Lorraine M. Vicarelli is a Natural Health Care Consultant for Companion Animals and President of Animal SuperFood, Inc., manufacturers of human-grade nutritional supplements and herbal remedies for companion animals. For more information, she can be reached at (860) 435-6315 or send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to P.O. Box 1846, Southold, NY 11971.

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