These days, millions of people are turning to nutritional supplements not only as a means of making sure they get the nutrients their diets may lack, but also as a way of preventing and treating a variety health conditions. Small-animal owners are doing the same for their pets, as manufacturers continue to offer an increasingly wide range of supplements and nutritional products for small pets.
Much of the focus in the small-animal supplement category has been on functional products—formulas designed to address specific health concerns or improve the pet’s health and overall condition. The market is now brimming with such products, and more and more pet owners are drawn to pet store shelves in their quest to give their animals a nutritional boost. Here’s a look at what the market has to offer:
Something From Everything
Last year, Oxbow Animal Health launched its line of Natural Science supplements with five formulas, including a multi-vitamin, and herbal support formulas for the digestive system, urinary tract, immune system and joints. Only a year later, the company is adding three products to the line: Senior Support, Skin & Coat and a Vitamin C formula.
Melissa Ross, Oxbow marketing operations manager, says the Natural Science Senior Support supplement contains Ginkgo biloba, an anti-inflammatory agent that helps enhance cognitive function; milk thistle, an antioxidant which helps protect the liver; and ginger root to support the circulatory system. The Natural Science Skin & Coat Support supplement contains red palm oil, an antioxidant that helps fight cell damage and therefore hopefully helps slow aging. It also includes chamomile to reduce itching and canola to aid in the prevention of skin-related diseases.
Although Oxbow already sells a vitamin C tablet for guinea pigs, the new Natural Science Vitamin C supplement is a hay-based, high-fiber supplement containing the essential stabilized vitamin C that guinea pigs need and other animals benefit from during times of stress, illness or recovery. The company plans to gradually phase out the older vitamin tablet.
Oxy-Gen, Inc., has added two supplements to its product line for rabbits and guinea pigs, specifically for show animals. CircQlate for Rabbits and Cavies contains a special blend of proteins and amino acids combined with the original Oxy-Gen formula to help get show animals in peak condition. It helps improve coat condition and promotes wool growth for wool breeds, as well as improving muscle tone. Sho-Flow with LOX (Liquid Oxy-Gen) is a combination of soybean oil, vitamin E, brewers dried yeast and wheat germ oil to promote superior muscling and weight gains, increased feed efficiency, and superior overall health and vitality.
The Holistic Approach
Wholistic Pet Organics makes a variety of super-premium holistic nutritional supplements for dogs, cats and horses. While the company doesn’t make products specifically for small mammals, many of its single-supplement products can be given to a variety of species. For instance, Wholistic Coconut Oil is an organic supplement that helps support the skin and coat, as well as metabolism, and the immune and cardiovascular systems. It is meant to be mixed with food, but it can also be applied topically as a soothing skin salve. The Wholistic Flax Seed Oil is a rich source of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are necessary for normal cell functioning, energy metabolism, and cardiovascular and immune health. It is also enhanced with rosemary, a powerful antioxidant and non-chemical preservative. The Digest All Plus formula includes enzymes and probiotics to help animals properly digest and absorb their food.
Health from the Inside Out
A new small animal supplement is now available from Designing Health, Inc., the company that makes The Missing Link dietary supplements. According to Mike Melia, vice president of sales and marketing, the family-run company has been making supplements for dogs and horses for 25 years. Recently, it started hearing complaints from guinea pig owners of dry skin in their pets and realized that there was a need for a product for small pets. It introduced The Missing Link Ultimate Health & Beauty Small Animal Formula in 2012. The product comes in a 3.5-ounce pouch, and the recommended amount to give to pets is 1/8 teaspoon for small rodents such as hamsters, mice, rats and gerbils, 1/4 teaspoon for medium-sized animals such as guinea pigs, chinchillas and small rabbits, and 1/2 teaspoon for large rabbits.
According to Melia, the Missing Link products are all designed for the health of the skin, which is the largest organ of the body. The products had their start 26 years ago when veterinarian Robert M. Collett, founder of the company, was set on developing a solution for his patients’ chronic health problems. He focused on the skin because his philosophy was, “If I can achieve healthy skin from within, the whole body will be healthy.” The phyto-nutrients and vitamins that form the foundation of the product help to form firm solid hair follicles, while the fiber in the product helps to clear out the digestive system, which in turns helps the immune system.
Melia says that animals in captivity don’t get the nutrients they would in the wild, and The Missing Link helps fill that gap. Made from human-grade natural whole foods, The Missing Link is the only patented supplement in the industry. Melia says that over 100 animals at the Los Angeles Zoo, including rodents, are on The Missing Link products.
“To me the most shocking part of our product is that the amount used is so small compared to other products,” he says. “A quarter-teaspoon supplies only three percent of the nutrients that an animal needs, but that one small scoop can result in a dramatic and life-changing improvement in your animal.”
Debbie Ducommun has a B.A. in animal behavior and has worked in the animal field since 1982. She is the author of the book Rats!, the booklet Rat Health Care and, her most recent book, The Complete Guide to Rat Training: Tricks and Games for Rat Fun and Fitness.