Pet Nutrition

Preventing Disease in Aging Pets

Old age isn’t a disease, but it can weaken many parts of a dog or cat’s body, especially if they lack the nutrients needed to make ongoing repairs. Wear and tear affect an animal’s joints, muscles and the immune system — making troublesome problems much more likely to occur.

Older pets tend to get sick more easily, and it takes them longer to get well. For a long time, veterinarians focused mainly on treating the symptoms of so called ‘age-related’ illnesses, a good example would be dolling out prescription drugs to mask the pain of arthritis, while allowing the disease to progress or the drug to cause a secondary disease that out rivals the first. On the other hand, holistic practitioners feel that there is a better approach. Rather than controling symptoms as they advance, they look for ways to strengthen the entire body so that the pet is much less likely to get sick in the first place. The goal should be to prevent problems…not wait for diseases to develop.

Treatment Principles for Older Dogs and Cats

  • Feed a natural diet
  • Include whole food supplements
  • Provide natural antioxidants
  • Prevent free radical damage
  • Improve Immune function, where needed
  • Support the Joints, heart, kidneys, eyes and the neurological system

Supplements to Improve Immune Function

Vitamin C (Ester-C)

  • Actions

    • Antioxidant
    • Integral to collagen formation
    • Antihistamine-like action
    • May support immune function

    Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that functions as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger, is used for normal repair of tissues, is required for adrenal gland function, is used for collagen synthesis, and is needed for maintaining healthy gums. It is needed for the metabolism of several B vitamins, including folic acid and amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine. Vitamin C is needed for norepinephrine (a nerve transmitter) synthesis as well as for cholesterol synthesis. Because Vitamin C is so vital for the synthesis of the connective tissue collagen, which is an integral part of cartilage, it is often prescribed for pets with arthritis.

    Vitamin C also protects pets against unnecessary blood clotting and bruising and aids in healing of wounds; vitamin C deficiency causes slow scar formation.

    Vitamin C appears to work synergistically as an antioxidant with vitamin E. Vitamin C appears to attack free radicals, those chemicals produced as a by-product of cell metabolism, in cellular fluids, whereas vitamin E attacks the free radicals in the cell membranes.

    Vitamin C may reduce the risk of cataracts by fighting free radicals that damage the lens of the eye.

    There is also very good evidence for using ascorbate for animals with gingivitis and bleeding gums.

    Most people don’t think of this nutrient for their pet, but it is very benifical, particularly for the skeletal growth of large-breed dogs and animals under any stress. Vitamin C levels in the body decrease with stress.

    “It is now known that the common forms of synthetic Vitamin C may be only one-fifth as effective as the newer ‘Esterfied’ (Ester-C) forms of the vitamin.

  • Veterinary Uses

    • Arthritis
    • Allergy
    • Chronic inflammatory disorders
    • Cataracts
    • Gingivitis
    • Epilepsy
    • Urinary infections
    • Respiratory infections
    • Cancer prevention
    • Endothelial dysfunction and CV
    • Immune support

  • Potential Interactions

    Adverse effects:
    Gastritis and diarrhea occur consistently at high doses — start at the low end of the dose and increase gradually over several days to bowel tolerance.

    Potential interactions:
    Tetracyclines deplete vitamin C in the body. Salicylates also deplete vitamin C. Vitamin C may interfere with the action of Aminoglycosides in urine.

    I don’t recommend vitamin C for irritable bowel patients because they tend to have a low tolerance for vitamin C. Always feed your pet high-quality food, particularly with this condition.

  • Doses for Dogs and Cats

    Vitamin C should be introduced slowly. Start with 1/4 to 1/2 of the desired dose and work your way up adding a bit more every 2 or 3 days until you reach the recommended dose or to bowel tolerance.

    250 mg/daily, given in a split dose mixed into food.
    Small Dogs: 250 mg/daily, given in a split dose, mixed into food.
    Medium Dogs:
    500 mg/daily, given in a split dose, mixed into food.
    Large Dogs:
    50 mg/kg. up to 1,000 mg/day given in a split dose, mixed into food.

    What is a split dose?

  • Dietary Sources

    Vitamin C found in whole foods is at least ten times as potent as common synthetic C!

    Vitamin C is easily obtained daily with a diet rich in sprouts, fresh fruits, vegetables, greens and their juices.

    Did you know? Despite what we have been taught and lead to believe, not all food has to be raw to supply vitamin C — most of the vitamin survives steaming or simmering for ten minutes or so with little or no degradation.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA)

  • Actions

    Modulates eicosanoid production
    Includes cell differentiation and apoptosis
    Ameliorates insulin resistance
    May reduce CD4:CD8 lymphocyte ratio
    Ultimately Reduces the Overall Inflammatory Load of the Animal

  • Veterinary Uses

    Diabetes mellitus
    Chronic kidney disease
    Many inflammatory diseases (inflammatory bowl disease, atopic dermatitis, arthritis, lupus)
    Cardiovascular disease
    Chronic diarrhea
    Autoimmune diseases
    Modulation of immune function


    A 6 month study using a diet containing therapeutic omega-3 fatty acids was fed to dogs with osteoarthritis (OA), owners reported improvement in clinical signs of lameness, weight bearing scores, and force plate analysis of weight bearing according to clinical assessments.

    In a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial in 40 cats with radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease (DJD), a diet high in EPA and DHA, that also contained green-lipped mussel extract and glucosamine chondroitin sulfate, showed improvement in measurements of mobility compared with a control diet. A study of 47 cats with DJD fed a DHA_supplemented diet showed improvement in ability to jump and a reduction in stiffness and lameness.

    Renal Disease

    In dogs with experimentally induced chronic kidney disease (CKD), omega-3 fatty acids reduced proteinuria and renal interstitial cellular infiltrates, prevented glomerular hypertention, and decreased the prodcuction of proinflammatory eicosanoids compared to safflower oil (containing omega-6 fatty acids) or beef tallow containing saturated fats). In a model of canine acute renal ischemia, there was significant, reversible decrease in glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and urine volume in control animals, whereas no significant effect on renal function or urine was observed in animals pretreated with fish oil. Omega-3 fish oils are also likely to be beneficial because of their eicosanoid effects as an anti-inflammatory.

    Omega-3 and renal function in older animals suggest that a higher dietary intake of EFA’s may be protective against progression to chronic kidney disease.

    Cardiovascular Disease

    Dogs with heart failure have a relative deficiency of plasma EPA and DHA compared with healthy dogs.

    A retrospective study on 146 cats with CKD showed a survival time of 16 months for those on a therapeutic diet, compared with 7 months for the control group. The longest survival time was associated with the highest amounts of dietary EPA, although there were also differences in phosphorus and protein content.

    Cognitive Function & Neurological Health

    A 60 day study of dietary enhancement with DHA in dogs with age-related behavioral changes showed significant improvements in 14 of 16 behavioral attributes, including better agility and recognition of family members and other animals. DHA does have a neuroprotective effect, which appears to help prevent the onset of human Alzheimer’s disease. There is also evidence from studies in humans and animals that suggest changes in brain concentrations of DHA are positively associated with changes in cognitive or behavioral performance and memory.

    Inflammatory Skin Disorders

    In controlled studies using omega-3 fatty acids dogs showed improvement in pruritus, self-trauma, coat character and alopecia. In a study comparing EPA to flax oil (which contains ALA) the groups receiving EPA showed improved clinical skin scores; it took 2.3 times the amount of flax oil as EPA to achieve similar scores.


    Fish oil consumption in animals has shown protective effects against colorectal cancer (Willet et al. 1990) Fish oil, high in (n-3) fatty acids, has been shown to be protective against colorectal cancer in a large number of animal studies (Chang et al. 1997, Deschner et al. 1990, Reddy et al. 1991). In the multistep nature of colon cancer development in animals there are a number of stages at which fish oil acts to interfere with tumor development. Fish oil has been show to decrease colonic epithelial cell proliferation in animals. Cell proliferation is considered promotive of tumor development (Preston-Martin et al. 1990).

  • Potential Interactions

    Coagulopathy a condition in which the blood's ability to clot is impaired. This condition can cause prolonged or excessive bleeding, which may occur spontaneously or following an injury or medical and dental procedures.

    Potential interactions:
    Fish oil has a mild blood-thinning effect, so it may create problems for patients receiving prescription blood thinners. Fish oil does not seem to cause bleeding problems when it is taken by itself at commonly recommended dosages.

  • Doses for Dogs and Cats

    Veterinary recommended dose: 60-100 mg/kg

    Product Recommendation:


    Why Super EPA? The level of EPA is the single most important ingredient is this product. Super EPA has roughly TWICE the level of EPA (and thus twice the percent in the capsule) of other products. It is one of the purest and most effective products on the market, another big plus is that in treatment they are equally as cost effective! This is a human formula. We have calculated pet dosages below. Thorn also makes this formula in their veterinary line, it is identical, however, more expensive.

    One Gelcap Contains:

    Calories 10
    Calories from Fat 1 g
    Total Fat 1 g
    Saturated Fat 0 g
    Trans Fat 0 g
    EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) (from Fish Oil) 425 mg
    DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) (from Fish Oil) 270 mg

    Other Ingredients: Gelatin (from tilapia) and Glycerin (vegetable source) gelcap, Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols). Contains ingredient derived from fish (gelatin = tilapia) (fish oil = anchovy, sardine, mackerel).

    Dog Doses By Weight:

    1-25 pounds = 1 capsule daily, mixed into a meal.
    25-50 pounds = 2 capsules daily, mixed into a meal.
    50-100+ pounds = 2 - 3 capsules daily, mixed into a meal.


    1/2 to 1 capsule daily, opened and mixed into a meal. Note: Start by giving a tiny amount to improve acceptance and then slowly add a little more about every third day, working up to the desired amount. You can use this method for any animal who finds the taste a little too pungent in the beginning. You can prick a hole in the capsule and squeeze out amounts by the drop. When your done store the opened capsule in a covered container in the refrigerator for subsequent use.

  • Dietary Sources

    Dietary sources are always preferred over scientifically arranged supplements any day. Think about it, when you feed a natural whole foods diet, it just doesn’t make any sense to mix in synthetic nutritional supplements in ratios derived by laboratory studies. Might as well open a bag of kibble. So where do you get real EFA’s in all the right ratios? From fish of course…

    #1 Pick: Sardines, Pacific (wild-caught)

    The tiny, inexpensive sardine is making it onto many lists of superfoods and for super good reasons. Sardines pack more omega-3s (1,950 mg!) per 3-ounces, than just about any other food; it's also one of the very few foods that is naturally high in vitamin D. Many fish in the herring family are commonly called sardines. These little guys are quick to reproduce, and mature so they aren’t on the contamination list. Pacific sardines have rebounded from both overfishing and a natural collapse in the 1940s. Most pets love them. I still recommend you introduce them to your pet slowly giving them time to adjust to the new addition.

    Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska)

    To give you an idea of how well managed Alaska's salmon fishery is, consider this: biologists are posted at river mouths to count how many wild fish return to spawn. If the numbers begin to dwindle, the fishery is closed before it reaches its limits, as was done recently with some Chinook fisheries. This close monitoring, along with strict quotas and careful management of water quality, means Alaska's wild-caught salmon are both healthier (they pack 1,210 mg of omega-3s per 3-ounce serving and carry few contaminants) and more sustainable than just about any other salmon fishery.

    Salmon, Canned (wild-caught, from Alaska)

    There is a reason salmon makes this healthy fish list in many forms; it really is a nutritional powerhouse. In addition to its healthy omega-3 content, canned salmon is one of the best sources of nondairy calcium—with 3 ounces delivering 170 mg. Wild-caught salmon from Alaska is low in contaminants, including mercury and lead, and comes from well-managed fisheries. Canned wild salmon is typically sockeye or pink from Alaska. Buying salmon in a can also makes a more affordable way to get this healthy seafood in your pets diet.

    Vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, toasted sesame (cats cannot convert vegetable oils), animal meats

    Fish oil supplements are usually in the form of a gel capsule. Since fish oils can easily oxidize and become rancid, some manufacturers add vitamin E to the fish oil to keep the oil from spoiling (others remove oxygen from the capsule). Most quality manufactures pasteurize fish oil.

    Note: Flaxseed oil is a popular source of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that is ultimately converted to EPA and DHA. However, many species of pets, cats for sure and probably dogs and some people cannot convert ALA to these other more active non-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, supplementation with EPA and DHA is important, and this is the reason flaxseed oil is not recommended as the sole fatty acid supplement for pets. Flaxseed oil can provide ALA and would be of more benefit used as a coat conditioner.

Vitamin E (natural “mixed tocopherols”)

  • Actions

    Vitamin E, is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is an antioxidant that is used in conjunction with vitamin C as a natural antioxidant in some processed foods. It works in lipids (fats and oils), which makes it complementary to vitamin C, which fights free radicals dissolved in water.

    Vitamin E promotes normal blood clotting, aids in preventing cataracts, maintains healthy nerves and muscles and promotes healthy skin and hair.

    Vitamin E prevents cell damage by inhibiting oxidation of fats and inhibiting the formation of free radicals produced by cell damage. It aids in the utilization of vitamin A and protects it and other fat soluble vitamins from oxidation. Vitamin E requirements increase with increasing dietary levels of fatty acids, oxidizing agents, vitamin A, and trace minerals.

  • Veterinary Uses

    Cholestatic liver disease
    Inflammatory disorders
    immune modulator
    Inververtebral disk disease

    Vitamin E is used to help energized aging animals. Studies have shown that older animals need more of this important antioxidant vitamin in order to slow down the oxidative damage of tissue associated with aging. Additional research has shown that vitamin E improves circulation, the immune system, endurance, stamina and skin problems.

    Vitamin E appears to offer dramatic benefits for preventing prostate and colon cancer.

    Vitamin E at all dosages can significantly increases the strength of the immune response.

  • Potential Interactions

    Potential interactions:
    In combination with digoxin, may cause hypercalcemia and arrhythmias.

    Adverse effects:
    Rare GI disturbances. May exacerbate hypertension?

    As with most supplements, we feel it is beneficial to introduce vitamin E slowly. Giving 1/4 to 1/2 the dose to start, then add more in small amounts every three days to work up to the optimal dose. This gives the animal’s body a chance to become accustomed to the supplement without upsetting the system.

  • Doses for Dogs and Cats

    Veterinary recommended dose:

    Small dogs or cats, 50 IU, given once daily, mixed into a meal.
    Medium and Large dogs, 200 IU, given once daily, mixed into a meal.
    Giant breed dogs, 400 IU, given once daily mixed into a meal.

    We feel the best vitamin E supplement would contain a natural mixture of tocopherols. Look for a label that says “natural mixed tocopherols.” Read the label closely. Natural tocopherols come as D-alpha-, D-gamma-, D-delta-, and D-beta-tocopherol.

  • Dietary Sources

    Dark, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, brown rice, eggs, liver, organ meats, kelp, sweet potatoes, alfalfa and rose hips are all sources of vitamin E.

For keeping pets healthy the natural way, we recommend using Pet Remedy Charts, a Step-by-Step Holistic Home Healthcare System that will enable you to naturally treat your pet at home (without drugs) using safe, side effect free healing methods for dogs, cats, horses, birds, pet rats and backyard chickens.

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