Dogs are commonly given a variety of supplements that range from vet-recommended dog vitamins to commercial dog arthritis supplements. But are they any good? Can they do any harm? We’re answering these two questions and more in the following canine supplement guide.
Are dog supplements necessary?
It’s difficult to give a clear answer to this question, for a number of reasons. For example, some breeds are predisposed to developing rickets unless they are given calcium and D3 supplements when they’re under the age of 1 or 2.
But in most other cases, dogs that get their vitamins and minerals from their food, especially non-commercial varieties that don’t contain additives, artificial colors, binders, and anything else that might be unhealthy, do not need any so-called ‘best dog supplements’.
Another instance where vet-recommended dog vitamins might be necessary is when pet parents feed their canine friends a homemade diet instead of a ready-made one.
Are dog immune system supplements safe?
Dietary supplements, whether made for people or pets, are regulated differently compared to actual medication or even food. Supplements don’t need the approval of any organization, such as the FDA, for example.
For this reason, it’s difficult to tell whether they can be safe or not. Usually, pet parents and veterinarians choose and recommend supplements based on their ingredients – the type, the number, and where they were sourced from.
It’s also not far-fetched to believe that supplements manufactured by huge companies can be trusted. Naturally, one has to take every claim with a grain of salt and still look at what’s on the label, but it’s fairly correct to assume that they can be safer than products from unknown brands and unknown places.
Another aspect worth noting here is that some supplements can do more harm than good. Make sure to consult with your veterinarian before adding a supplement to your canine buddy’s regimen as it needs to be chosen correctly, and the dosage has to be adjusted depending on your pet’s specific health status and needs.
Are pet supplements regulated in any way? Not right now. There are concerns, and there is an institution called the ‘National Animal Supplement Council’, at least in the United States. Still, the truth is that pet supplements can contain unregulated ingredients or ingredient amounts.
Different supplements for different needs
Most dogs need calcium and a variety of other minerals when they’re still growing, so between the ages of 0 and 1.5 to 2. This is usually necessary in order to prevent rickets.
The same prevention is applied to most children, so why wouldn’t the rule apply in puppies, too? There is a large variety when it comes to canine supplements, though, especially those containing vitamins and minerals, and they range from iron supplements for anemic dogs to selenium, manganese, zinc, and copper complexes.
Your canine friend might not need separate vitamins if the food you give them is already enriched with some. Some of the most important vitamin supplements that you can opt for are the following:
- B-complex vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
Each of these has a purpose and can do something inside your dog’s body. Without going into too much detail, vitamin C, for instance, is an essential antioxidant that prevents disease, reduces inflammation, and also prevents brain aging.
Other vitamins have other benefits, such as vitamin B6, which plays an important part in red blood cell creation, immune response, and hormone regulation, or vitamin A, which is important if you want your pup to keep good eye health even as a senior.
CBD supplements were somewhat recently found to help dogs that suffer from anxiety or those that have chronic pain due to conditions such as arthritis or cancer. Talk to your vet about whether this is an option for your dog or not.
Supplements for mobility
Besides CBD, there are many dog joint supplements that are currently available for sale.
Most of them contain chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, fish oil (whether cod or salmon oil), MSM, hyaluronic acid, avocado soybean unsaponifiables, eggshell membrane, Boswellia serrata (which is a tree extract said to work like NSAIDs), green-lipped mussels, curcumin, and others.
Dog liver support supplements
If your dog was recently diagnosed with a liver health issue, you could give them several supplements that can improve their condition – along with the appropriate medication recommended by your veterinarian.
The most common type of liver supplement for dogs is the one that contains milk thistle (or silymarin) – composed of several plant chemicals. Silymarin is said to have a number of benefits, from regenerating liver tissue to decreasing inflammation.
Dog prenatal vitamins
Do vitamins for pregnant dogs exist, and are they mandatory? Well, they’re not exactly mandatory, but the truth is that pregnancy does take a toll on your female dog’s body, so why not give her a hand with managing it health-wise?
Prenatal dog vitamins are usually complexes of several different substances, such as vitamin A and E, vitamin B2, vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, iron, zinc, or phosphorus.
Dog immune system supplements
We’ve already mentioned that some vitamins and minerals are essential when it comes to keeping your pet’s immune system in perfect shape, but there are others, too. For example, omega 3 (from fish oil) can prevent a variety of health issues, including heart and brain conditions.
Pre- and probiotics can prevent a number of digestive disorders, from constipation to diarrhea. A plant called echinacea is often added to such supplements, as some studies suggest that it might act as an antioxidant and prevent your pet from getting sick.
Another common ingredient in dog immune system supplements is Brewer’s yeast, which is added for its vitamin B complex content.
Supplements for homemade dog food
If you’ve decided to make your dog’s food at home as you’re tired of seeing a long list of ingredients on the kennel or wet food label, you’re right – it’s one of the best ideas.
However, giving your dog meat exclusively, too much fat, too few carbs (and not enough fiber), and not enough veggies, for example, can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and other problems.
Depending on your dog’s specific health status, you might have to give them a number of supplements to compensate for the fact that the food might not be as nutritious, after all. Here are several examples:
- Fish oil
- Vitamin E
- Multivitamin and multimineral supplements
- Fiber supplements
As your vet is likely to point out, you don’t have to give your dog supplements for the rest of their life. In fact, it’s good to take a break once in a while. So you either have the option of supplementing every day for a period of 1 to 3 months and then take a break of at least 1 month, or you can give your dog supplements every 2-3 days.
Note: this does not apply for calcium supplements as they have to be given to young dogs long-term, especially if they’re a breed that’s predisposed to osteo-skeletal health problems.
Dog vitamins for shedding
Are there any supplements that can minimize shedding? Well, yes. While they might not be capable of making shedding a thing that you never notice again, they can at least prevent your dog from shedding huge amounts of hair.
Biotin is a good example of a vitamin that can improve your dog’s coat, on the whole. Brewer’s yeast can help, too, and so can fish oils.
Dog pancreatic enzyme supplements
Pancreatic disease can be very challenging, if not impossible, to treat and manage long-term, depending on its severity. If your dog was diagnosed with diabetes, then it means that the endocrine function of the pancreas is not working properly. There are no supplements for treating diabetes – but with insulin treatment and the right diet, you can definitely improve your dog’s health status.
On the other hand, if the part of the pancreas that doesn’t seem to be working well is the one in charge of digestion, there are several supplements that can at least partly improve the situation.
Digestive enzymes such as dried extracts of porcine or bovine pancreas can definitely make a difference in this sense.
Probiotics have become very popular with humans over the past decades, so it’s only natural for pet parents to want their dogs to enjoy the same benefits that these microorganisms can offer to people.
Although some probiotic manufacturers might go as far as claim that they can improve your dog’s immune system functioning on the whole and may even cure allergies, that is not true.
Yes, probiotics definitely support a dog’s immune system as the microbiota in the animal’s gut is essential when it comes to how their body responds to a pathogen. However, most of the benefits that probiotics offer are related to digestion.
Probiotic supplements come in a variety of forms from chews and capsules to yogurt and powders. While their efficacy is still a matter of debate, they really can’t do your dog any harm – quite the opposite.
How to choose the best dog vitamins and minerals
The most important thing to keep in mind when shopping for vitamins, minerals, or any other kind of supplement, is that your dog’s needs have to come first.
Some pet owners never give supplements to their canine friends, and this is not the solution – their dogs might not be getting all of the right nutrients from their food, but that’s something that only a vet can discover.
Other pet guardians, on the other hand, might feel tempted to constantly give their dogs some supplements – which can be not only unnecessary, but sometimes even dangerous.
Balance is paramount when choosing and giving your dog supplements. Make sure to thoroughly read the label and try to find a product that was tested and proven to be good by a canine association, preferably a national one in the country you live.
Ask your vet about what supplements they recommend – this is by far the best piece of advice that we can give you.
Avoid giving your dog human-grade supplements as some of the ingredients might be unhealthy for them. Not everything that we put in our mouths is safe for our pets, and while dogs are clearly less sensitive than cats in terms of nutrition, they can still get sick or suffer from intoxications.
Do dog supplements work?
Vitamins and minerals certainly do, at least when it comes to preventing health problems. However, the rest of the supplements, especially those containing natural plant extracts, turmeric, or even CBD, might or might not be effective.
Although some vets might be skeptical about some supplements, the truth is that there were many studies performed that have found that some of them actually do work.
For example, a 2007 study found that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements led to a decrease in pain and inflammation in geriatric dogs. But this happened after 70 days of treatment, so commitment and consistency are key if you want the supplements to do their job.
Not all supplements are good, and not all supplements are bad. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian about the ones that your dog might need depending on their health and nutritional needs.
Avoid giving your dog too many supplements or using a higher dosage than the one recommended by your vet or the product manufacturer. The saying ‘too much of a good thing’ works for pets, too, not just people.