Comparison of Multivitamin Supplements for Pets, Including for Raw and Home Cooked Pet Foods: An Industrywide Overview
Many vitamins are susceptible to varying degrees of loss to most industrial processes, such as cooking, extrusion, boiling, handling and transportation or even while sitting on the shelves. Sometimes, it can be up to 90% in the case of thiamine (vitamin B1) to irradiation. Similarly, riboflavin (vitamin B2) is very susceptible to cooking or even simple washing. Other vitamins also lose their efficacy before reaching the pets’ tummy. It is basically the degree of loss, not whether there is a loss, which occurs regardless of the origin or source of vitamins. Furthermore, not all pet foods are created equal. While the loss is much more severe with dry kibbles and other products that are cooked, extruded or irradiated, even those that claim to provide premium or high-end pet foods often lack all the necessary components in enough amounts or proportions to support a long healthy life with energy, vigor, and vitality.
Raw pet foods and home cooked meals have become more common due to various reasons, primary being the health and safety of their pets. However, just providing the raw diet or home cooked meal for your pets may not always solve the problem. In fact, it can even be counterproductive since most pet parents may not have the technical knowhow for making a properly balanced and nutritious food for their four-legged family members. Regardless of the technical and nutritional knowledge, vitamins and minerals almost always need to be added to a raw pet food or home cooked one. That is just the reality as there simply is not enough vitamins and minerals in most food ingredients for a well-balanced diet to support the health and well-being of a long and active life of your pet.
Besides the raw and home cooked foods, many other pet parents are also constantly searching for multivitamin supplements for their pets. It is primarily because of low quality pet foods and above-mentioned loss that create the need for pet owners to buy multivitamin and mineral supplements in the first place. It is akin to our own eating habits. Those who do not eat balanced and nutritious food not only need to take supplements but also face severe health consequences. As a result, there are so many different types of multivitamins for pets (as well as humans) and it is quite easy to get confused. That’s even more so without at least some basic technical knowledge or experience. Further, most, if not all, companies throw in some kind of uniqueness with their own marketing approach to differentiate their products from competition. Here, I will clarify a few things that can help pet parents in making an informed decision.
First, multivitamins mean several different vitamins, simple as that. There are basically two types of vitamins, fat soluble and water soluble. Vitamins A, D, E, and K come under former category, while vitamin C and all B-complex group of vitamins – thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid, biotin, and B12 - under the latter. Based on current scientific evidence, vitamins C and K are not considered nutritionally essential for pets and therefore, may or may not be included in their foods, treats or supplements. Though part of B-vitamin group, inositol and para-aminobenzoic acid are not considered nutritionally essential and are not usually included in the multivitamin supplements or added externally into any foods. It is only the amount of inclusion that varies between myriads of relevant products, not whether one or more are added.
Second, they usually contain several minerals that can potentially be deficient in their regular diets. There are two categories of minerals, macro (major) and micro (trace). Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, and magnesium are considered macro or major minerals since their requirements are usually in larger amounts, while iron, zinc, copper, and manganese are the primary trace minerals along with iodine and selenium. It is only the micro minerals that are usually included in multivitamins. Although macro minerals are usually not an integral part of such a supplement for either dogs or cats, one or more may appear in the label due to various reasons.
Specialty ingredients, they can come in different name and fame. While they are not needed to actually make a multivitamin product, they are included to add value to a specific product and provide potential health benefits. In this category are ingredients such as probiotics, enzymes, herbs, fruits, veggies, antioxidants, and such other components that a manufacturer believes would not only add value to the product, but also separate it from the competition. These specialty ingredients have a specific purpose for inclusion, which is either to enhance specific health benefit or prevent or reduce the risk for some metabolic or disease condition or improve overall health and well-being. These ingredients are almost always missing from most dry or dehydrated pet foods.
Other ingredients, beside the vitamins, minerals, and specialty ingredients, there almost always are several other ingredients that are included in any multivitamin product. This is necessary because including just the vitamins, minerals, and some specialty ingredients would usually be of too high a concentration and normal customers wouldn’t likely be able to measure the tiny amounts needed as supplements for their pets. Some people call such extra ingredients carriers, others call them fillers, and something else by yet others. Many manufacturers even claim they don’t have any fillers or carriers just to disguise the fact. Often, calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, cellulose, maltodextrin, etc. are used in this regard. When manufacturers claim they don’t have any carriers, most likely they are using ingredients like brewer’s yeast, chickpea flour (garbanzo beans), flaxseed, sweet potato, potato, pea, or some other actual food or fibers, such as rice bran as the fillers. Also included in this category are many different types of flavorings, either natural such as chicken, beef, pork, duck, etc. or their artificial counterparts. In the case of chews, they also contain glycerin, lecithin, gum, pectin, oil(s), while tablets and capsules would have some other components that are essential to make a good tablet or capsule.
Traditional vs microencapsulated vitamins
Given the nature, variation, and extent of loss causing potential deficiency of one or more vitamins in pets, it would be highly desirable if we protect the added vitamins from getting lost before reaching the targeted recipient. That’s exactly where micro-encapsulation of vitamins comes into play. It is a state-of-the-art technology by which particles of an active ingredient - vitamins in this case - are stored within a protective shell. Such micro-encapsulated vitamins are released only after reaching your pet's tummy, not before. This ensures your pet will get the full benefit of the vitamin(s) and in the amount the product is supposed to provide. The result is much more of the vitamins can be absorbed and utilized, thereby ensuring the vigor and vitality of your pets for a long and healthy life. Microencapsulation is truly the best technology currently available for efficacious vitamin delivery.
Types or forms of multivitamin supplements
Often, multivitamin and mineral supplements come in different forms, such as powders, chews, tablets or capsules as well as liquids in some cases.
Powders: Contrary to some assumptions, powders are pretty convenient to use. You can just spread it over (top dress) any type of food, such as home cooked, raw, dry kibbles or dehydrated ones. While you most likely need to supplement vitamins and minerals to any type of your home cooked dog or cat food to provide adequate amounts of all the essential vitamins and minerals, dry kibbles would usually have those included even though their efficacy may have already been compromised quite a bit by the normal industrial processes of cooking, extrusion, handling and transportation or even while sitting on the shelves. It probably wouldn’t hurt supplementing them as well. Even the so called best, high end pet foods may sometime need supplementation if it has gone through extensive cooking, extrusion, irradiation.
Chews: Chews are those supplements that come in different shapes and sizes. There are probably more multivitamin chews than powders. They can be soft or a bit hard too. While more popular shapes include bone, fish, heart, triangle, rectangle, star, round or stick. Although shape usually does not have too much of a bearing nutritionally, a few specific ingredients, such as glycerin, lecithin, Arabic gum, etc. may be needed to give a specific shape. Usually, products intended for cats would be smaller, <2.0 g, than those intended for medium or large breed dogs. Relatively speaking, they are more expensive than powders, often by a factor of 3 or more.
Tablets: Tablets are usually much harder to administer than either the powders or chews. Often, you need another type of product to cover these tablets before offering to your pets making the same product twice as expensive for no added benefit. There does not appear a good reason to provide multivitamin supplements to pets in tablet form. Both dogs and cats are notoriously hard in eating them. No wonder there are many different types of pill hiders or pill pockets.
Liquid: This would be a form that is essential when your pet is rather weak and sick and not in a position to take foods or supplements in either powder or chew form. Additionally, some pet families may prefer administering multivitamin supplements in drinking water. Otherwise, delivery through water may not be an ideal choice.
Given the limited scope of tablets and liquid, it is the powders and chews that dominate the pet vitamin and supplement market. While the powder is more for proper health and adequate nutrition and applied as an essential component of pet diet, chews/treats is more like a reward or luxury or even pampering.
Below is a table that compares a dozen multivitamin supplements produced by various companies, including some of the name brands. These products are primarily in powder form and intended for supplementing raw or home cooked pet foods. As can be seen, Science4Pets’ Power-Pro Raw is the only one that contains microencapsulated vitamins. No one else has. Further, it is also completely non-China, which is of huge concern for modern day pet parents, making it the one and only company offering microencapsulated and non-China vitamin supplements in the entire pet food industry. Another critical component that separates us from the rest is the inclusion of krill powder as the source of astaxanthin, the most powerful antioxidant. Additionally, it contains two spore forming Bacillus probiotics that no one else has. Almost all other companies use far inferior probiotics of vegetative type with Lactobacillus, Enterococcus or Bifidobacterium species which are susceptible to common industrial and environmental conditions or even the stomach acidity. Finally, our Power-Pro Raw contains some unique Ayurvedic and other herbs, prebiotics, enzymes, veggies, and several different organic sprouts that most others don’t.
Pet vitamin supplements are needed not only for raw food diets or home cooked meals, but also for many other store-bought dry and dehydrated foods due to their relatively poor quality. Even the vitamins in many premium dog and cat foods often lose their potency by the time they reach the pets’ tummy. Microencapsulation is the best technology for delivering the vitamins to pets. Of all the vitamin supplements currently available in the market, Science4Pets is the only one that offers non-China microencapsulated vitamin supplements for pets. While its Power-Pro Raw is intended for raw and home cooked pet foods, Pro-Power Multi is intended for supplementing other garden variety dry pet foods that lack quality. B-Complex Boost is simply to boost the status of critical B-vitamins that are so vital for all the major physiological functions in your pets to lead a long, healthy, active, and energetic life.