- Older dogs can benefit from supplements — Adding vitamins to an aging dog’s diet can help their joints, organs, and digestive system stay healthy.
- Certain dog supplements prevent common problems — Some enzymes and acids can help with inflammation and pain, while vitamins can head off premature aging.
- Some breeds may need more supplemental support than others — Larger breeds, for instance, are more likely to deal with joint pain and skeletal issues that supplements may help alleviate.
At a glance: the best supplements for your best friend
- VitaPet Senior Daily Vitamins — Provides a wide variety of vitamins and given just like a treat
- Natural Dog Hip and Joint — Organic joint support for dogs of all ages
- Zesty Paws Senior Advanced 8-in-1 Multivitamin Bites — Enzymes for a strong immune system for adult dogs
- VetriScience Canine Plus Senior Everyday — Formulated to help the heart, organs, and brain
- NaturVet Senior Advanced Incontinence — Botanicals that can help your dog hold it
🔎 How we picked our favorites
We only picked from brands who utilized vets or pet nutritionists — There are a lot of dog vitamin manufacturers, and it’s tough to ascertain quality. We focused our search on brands that employed vets or pet nutritionists to create the formula.
We chose products that help with a variety of problems and deficiencies — Every dog’s needs are different, and each of the formulations we chose is suited to a different suite of requirements.
But first: does your dog need supplements?
There’s no shortage of information out there about essential vitamins, herbs, minerals, probiotics, amino acids, and other holistic supplements for dogs. The sheer number of potential additives to a dog’s diet can be overwhelming, making it easy for dog owners to fall into the trap of thinking they’re not doing enough to keep their dog healthy.
The truth is, if your pet is eating a brand of quality, commercial dog food, they are almost certainly getting at least the bare minimum amount of the vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients they need. These products are specially formulated to contain the basics, although different brands and types of food include different levels of nutrients. Puppy food, for instance, has a different formulation of vitamins and minerals than food made for senior dogs.
But even on a “complete and balanced” commercial diet, some dogs develop deficiencies as they age. These can be addressed by using the right health supplements or nutritional supplements to bring their levels back up to a healthy point.
Dogs’ bodies change as they age
Just like people, dogs experience a lot of physical changes as they start to get older. Most dogs are considered “senior” once they get past seven years old, but that’s a distinction that is dictated by lifespan. Smaller breeds tend to live much longer, while large and giant breeds live for fewer years. Every dog is different, but generally speaking, a dog is considered a senior, or elderly, once they’ve lived about 60 percent of their expected lifespan.
As they get older, a dog’s body slows down, and its systems start to work less efficiently. As a result, the dog’s body changes. They may gain weight as their metabolism slows and muscle tone is lost, and the coat and skin can start to thin.
While old age is not a disease, it does make dogs more susceptible to the common diseases of old age, including:
- Arthritis. Stiffness and pain caused by wear and tear on the bones and joints.
- Cardiac issues. A heart murmur, leaky valves, cardiomyopathy, and congestive heart failure.
- Incontinence. A dog depends on muscles around the urinary tract, bladder, and sphincter to hold in urine and feces, and as those muscles, fatigue accidents may occur more frequently.
Many of these conditions (and others) can be managed or improved using nutritional supplements and vitamins.
The 4 types of dog supplements
Multivitamins. Vitamins help support brain function, keep skin healthy, and improve overall health during all life stages. While dog food meets the minimum requirements for vitamins and mineral ingredients like calcium, iron, copper, and zinc, the minimum isn’t always the optimum amount for your dog. A good multivitamin for dogs will contain a number of different vitamins and minerals in one convenient package to help boost your dog’s health. They can also ensure your dog has enough of those not-so-common vitamins, like biotin (known as Vitamin H).
Probiotics/Digestive enzymes. Probiotics are important for digestive health. They’re good bacteria that is naturally found in the digestive tract, but probiotic numbers can deplete with age, or because of medications like antibiotics. Digestive enzyme supplements can help aid in digestion and with better absorption of nutrients.
Antioxidants. These help protect the cells from damaging free radicals. Vitamin E is considered an antioxidant, as is beta carotene. Antioxidants help strengthen the immune system and prevent dogs from aging prematurely by keeping skin healthy.
Amino & fatty acids. Acids are important for keeping multiple systems in the body operating smoothly. Omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil can reduce inflammation and help with skin issues, allergies, heart and kidney problems, and more. Taurine is also important for heart health, while glucosamine and chondroitin are used to treat or prevent arthritis and joint problems. Choline can help with the nervous system and bodily functions like breathing and heart rate.
Be careful with dosage and ingredients
👉 In other words, always consult your vet before introducing a new supplement to your dog’s diet.
Even when you’re giving the correct supplements to address your dog’s deficiency or help with a specific condition, it’s important to be careful about the dosage. Vitamins, herbs, and botanicals may seem benign, but if your dog gets too much of the wrong thing, it can cause major issues and negatively affect dog health.
Too much calcium can lead to skeletal issues, especially in larger breed puppies. Too much vitamin A can lead to dehydration and blood vessel damage. Overdoses of vitamin B can harm the nerves and muscles, and an excess of Vitamin C can cause diarrhea and abdominal bloating. Too much vitamin D can lead your dog to lose their appetite, even make muscles atrophy — and the list goes on.
Plus, many supplements contain other ingredients, like herbs, which can occasionally have negative interactions with medications your dog might be on. It can be difficult to find definitive information, as there aren’t many comprehensive studies, so while supplements can certainly be the right choice for your dog, the safest way to add to their diet is with the help and input of your veterinarian.