Nutraceuticals are micronutrients, macronutrients, and other nutritional supplements that are used as therapeutic agents. Examples include vitamins and minerals, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and anti-oxidants. This is the clinical application of nutrition in the treatment of disease and metabolic disorders. It is commonly stated that malnutrition is the underlying cause of many of the disease syndromes encountered in birds and exotic pets. Significant advances have been made in pet nutrition with formulated diets, but it is only the beginning. Specific nutritional requirements have not been established for many of the exotic species commonly kept as pets, therefore current recommendations and diets are based on anecdotal experience and limited nutritional studies. The specific diet and variety of foods depends on the species, age, health status, and activity level of the individual pet, among other things.
Nutraceuticals are used for a various digestive disorders and other metabolic conditions in pets. Some of the commonly used supplements are aloe juice, apple cider vinegar, probiotics, and digestive enzymes. Aloe vera provides an effective boost to the immune system, soothing anti-inflammatory effect on the GI tract, and is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Aloe vera can be given orally in the form of a gel or juice at the dose of 1 drop per 100 g body weight 3 to 6 times daily, or in the drinking water at the rate of 2 ml per 4 ounces drinking water. Apple cider vinegar is an acidifier of the intestinal tract and entire body. Specific indications for apple cider vinegar include chronic bacterial or yeast infections, chronic diarrhea or foul smelling stools. It is dosed at 1 to 2 tablespoons per 8 ounces of drinking water, as the only water source for 1 to 2 weeks. Probiotics are supplements of beneficial bacteria given to re-establish the normal bacterial flora in the digestive tract. These bacteria include lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. They are often given after antibiotic therapy or severe GI disturbances. Digestive enzymes are beneficial for certain pancreatic diseases or primary digestive disorders leading to maldigestion. The classic essential enzymes provided in most formulations include protease, lipase and amylase. These may be combined with other specific enzymes or herbs depending on the condition.
Supplements used in the treatment of inflammatory conditions and arthritis include glucosamine, Methyl sulfonal methane (MSM), and oligomeric proanthocyanidins. Proanthocyanidins are a group of strong anti-oxidants which scavange destructive free radicals, and include grape seed extract, pine bark extract, bilberry, and citrus bioflavanoids. These substances provide excellent anti-oxidant effects that result in less inflammation, improved cellular integrity, and elimination of free radicals from the body. Gucosamine sulfate is the preferred and most effective form of glucosamine products. It has reparative effects on the joints and reduces inflammatory effects of arthritis. Some formulations of glucosamine contain chondroitin or MSM for further joint support, but glucosamine is shown to be useful alone, but more effective when in combination. MSM is a sulfur based supplement that has anti-inflammatory effects on joints and generally supports healthy tissue and cells. Sulfur is suspected to be an important mineral for the body to prevent degradation of tissues at the cellular level.