- Different dog supplements provide different benefits — Fish oil can improve your dog’s coat, while joint supplements like glucosamine improve cartilage health.
- Too many nutrients can be toxic to dogs — While supplements can make up for nutritional gaps in your dog’s diet, too many of the nutrients over time can cause adverse health conditions.
- Always consult your veterinarian regarding supplements — Your vet will be able to advise you on which supplements make sense for your dog based on pre-existing conditions and their regular diet.
A happy and healthy life for your dog is a top priority for most dog owners. We all wish for our fur babies to be free of pain and discomfort. That’s why it should come as no surprise that dog supplements have become incredibly popular in recent years.
Whether you’re looking to aid your pup’s digestion or build up muscle mass, adding a supplement to your pooch’s diet can go a long way in curbing the effects of certain health conditions. That said, not all dogs benefit from supplements, and you’ll have to consult your vet to find which ones are right for you. Read on to learn about different dog supplements available in today’s pet product market, and which might benefit you and your pup.
What are dog supplements?
As the name suggests, dog supplements are over-the-counter or prescribed products that supplement your dog’s regular diet. It’s a blanket term to cover a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and herbs. These products can come in the form of pills, food topper powders, chewables, liquids, gels, and more.
The ingredients that these supplements contain vary based on the condition they’re targeting. Generally, though, they are intended to improve a dog’s health and slow down or prevent the development of an ailment they have developed or to which they are predisposed.
The benefits of dog supplements
How much your dog benefits from supplements depends on your unique dog and what exactly you’re looking to treat or prevent. Canine supplements address a wide range of conditions from obesity to bone injuries to simple aging. The potential benefits of giving your dog a supplement include:
- Coat and skin health. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that can promote healthy coats for dogs. Vitamin supplements have also proven to be beneficial in aiding skin and coat health. For example, vitamin E protects skin cells from oxidative damage, while vitamin C produces a protein that can heal wounds.
- Bone and joint health. Highly-active breeds, large breeds, and senior dogs are prone to bone and joint pain that’s often due to conditions like arthritis and hip dysplasia. Joint supplements typically contain ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin , methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) , hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, and even green-lipped mussels to reduce inflammation and improve cartilage health.
- Digestive health. Probiotics and other digestive enzyme supplements can be used to improve your dog’s gut health and prevent gastrointestinal issues like constipation or diarrhea. Digestive supplements often include beneficial bacteria and fibers like inulin, pumpkin, and flaxseed.
- Eye health. Antioxidants can be very beneficial in improving eye health for dogs prone to glaucoma , or cataracts, or dogs who have experienced eye trauma. Vitamin A has also been proven to aid in canine eye care.
- Prenatal health. Like humans, pregnant dogs can benefit from prenatal vitamins. Helpful ingredients include folic acid, calcium, iron, and vitamins.
- Cardiac health. Dogs diagnosed with or prone to heart problems may be recommended a supplement that focuses on their cardiovascular system. These supplements will likely have nutrients that manage blood pressure and circulation.
- Overall health and longevity. Some dog supplements are intended to maintain a healthy immune system and promote overall good health throughout their lifetime. Supplements like this typically come in the form of a multivitamin that tackles joint pain, digestive health, heart health, and skin health all in one. These can also be used to fill nutritional gaps in homemade dog food.
The risks of dog supplements
Owners should also consider the drawbacks associated with giving their dogs supplements. Dogs must receive a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs as defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) . Dogs receiving too little or too many nutrients and minerals are at risk of developing health problems.
For example, vitamin D is seen as a beneficial ingredient in dog supplements that promote healthy bone growth. But, too much vitamin D can lead to muscle atrophy, so you’ll want to make sure they’re not already receiving a sufficient amount of vitamin D in their regular diet. There are also ingredients sometimes found in dog supplements that are considered controversial, such as palm oil or artificial flavoring.
It’s also worth noting that dog supplements aren’t magic wands that will make all your dog’s health problems go away. They are intended to be used in conjunction with a well-balanced diet, proper exercise, hygiene, and veterinary care tailored to your individual pup.
Consulting your veterinarian about supplements
While some supplements are sold over the counter, it’s still crucial that owners talk to their vet before giving their dog any supplements. Every dog is unique, and as with anything you’re putting in their body, you’ll want to make sure it’s suitable for your individual pooch. Your vet will be able to determine what your dog does and doesn’t need based on their medical history and the condition you’re looking to treat or prevent.
Types of dog supplements
With so many different dog supplements on the market, it can be dizzying to decide where to begin. Here are several types of supplements you can ask your vet about:
Glucosamine hydrochloride is an amino sugar that can help restore a dog’s cartilage by reducing inflammation. This type of joint supplement has been used for dogs prone to or diagnosed with arthritis, hip dysplasia, patella luxation, or trauma to the cartilage. Often used in conjunction with chondroitin, a compound that wards off harmful molecules known as “free radicals,” glucosamine is a long-term supplement.
Whether your pup suffers from allergy-induced itchiness or is losing their coat’s natural shine with age, fish oil is a popular canine skin supplement packed with omega-3 fatty acids to promote smooth fur and reduce dandruff. It works by helping to restore moisture to your best friend’s skin, which reduces the scratching caused by dry skin. The omega-3s will also reduce inflammation and help heal any wounds your dog may have caused by itching.
Cannabinoids have become increasingly popular among pet owners, with dogs accounting for almost 80% of all CBD pet products purchased in 2021, according to Global Pets. CBD is a cannabis compound that doesn’t contain the THC found in marijuana, thus eliminating all psychoactive effects. It can help dogs experiencing pain, anxiety, or symptoms of other illnesses. Canine CBD comes in the form of oil tinctures, chews, capsules, or ointments.
Probiotics are a popular supplement given to dogs to promote gut health. Available as chews or powders, they introduce healthy bacteria, microbes, and yeast to your dog’s immune system and aid in digestion. It’s typically recommended to dogs with gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, and other conditions like anxiety and tear stains. They shouldn’t be confused with prebiotics, which support bacteria already living in your dog’s intestines.
Much like humans, dogs can take multivitamin supplements to fill in nutritional gaps. It’s very important to consult your vet before giving your dog a multivitamin, because they’re packed with nutrients and minerals they may already be getting a sufficient amount of from their balanced diet, putting them at risk of going over their daily recommended intake.
When giving your dog any of the above supplements, be mindful of how much you are giving them. Size, weight, age, and health history are all factors that must be taken into consideration when it comes to dosage.
Jennifer Schott, DVM
Supplements can be very helpful for many health conditions but there are times when they can be harmful, especially if not dosed properly. Your vet can help decide which specific supplements and what dosing will be best for your pup.
What to consider when choosing a dog supplement
Before you start offering supplements to your canine pal, you’ll want to ensure you’re making informed decisions when it comes to your pup’s health. While there’s a lot of information available on dog supplements, there’s also plenty of misinformation, so be sure to take time to familiarize yourself with the products on the market before pulling out your credit card.
First, consult with your veterinarian — Not only is this the best way to make sure your dog isn’t getting too many or too few nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that they require daily, but it will also help you receive guidance on the most effective supplements for your specific dog’s needs.
Then, research and read product labels — Reading the product label is also important for understanding what specifically is going into each product. Any questions you have about ingredients should be directed towards your veterinarian. They should have a good sense of your dog’s allergies and sensitivities, as well as what’s generally considered not safe for canine consumption.
Introducing supplements to your dog
Some dogs may be tentative when first introduced to supplements. You’re tampering with their food after all, so it’s perfectly normal for them to be wary of what you’re adding in. You’ll also want to minimize any adverse reactions to the supplements, which is common for any new diet. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to introduce supplements to your favorite furball:
Start slow — The product will likely include instructions for how much to administer to your dog at first, starting with a smaller amount than what is suggested. Typically you will begin with about half the recommended dosage and gradually increase it over the next several weeks or months.
Mix them into your dog’s food — Though some supplements have flavoring to increase palatability, supplements are packed with nutrients that may not be super intriguing to your best friend on their own. To make sure they eat all of it, you may want to consider mixing it into their daily meals.
Monitor their reaction — Keep an eye on your dog’s body language, temperament, stool, and any other changes in behavior or routine. If your dog is experiencing adverse side effects, such as vomiting or difficulty breathing, stop giving them the product immediately and consult your veterinarian on the next steps.
Don’t miss a dose — Consistency is key when it comes to supplements. If your dog is regularly missing doses, the products will be less effective and could even put your pup at risk of nutritional deficiencies.
Store supplements properly — Be sure to read your product labels for storage instructions. Some supplements, like probiotics, may need to be refrigerated, while others should be left at room temperature.
With all the different diseases, bacteria, and genetic conditions out there, keeping our dogs healthy is always a challenge. Luckily, there are well-balanced dog foods, treats, and supplements on the market to ensure your pup is getting the nutrients they need to thrive. As long as you keep working with your veterinarian on a consistent diet plan that meets their individual needs, you can rest assured that your best friend has a healthy life ahead of them.
Frequently asked questions
What are the best supplements to give dogs?
The best supplements for your dog depend on the condition you are looking to prevent or treat. For example, if your dog has a dull coat or dry skin, fish oil can provide moisture to their skin and give them shiny coats. Other supplements include probiotics, CBD, multivitamins, and more, which can address a host of other issues.
Do dog supplements really work?
While there has been limited clinical testing to prove the effectiveness of dog supplements, certain canine illnesses and conditions have been shown to improve with both over-the-counter and prescribed supplements.
How do I choose a supplement for my dog?
The most important step in choosing a supplement for your dog is consulting your veterinarian. They will give you the best guidance on which supplements (if any) will meet your individual dog’s needs based on pre-existing conditions and their current diet.
Are all dog supplements the same?
No, several different types of dog supplements address several different areas of canine health. These areas include joints, the digestive system, the immune system, and coat health. The wide variety of dog supplements includes probiotics, fish oil, glucosamine, and others.
What are the risks of giving my dog supplements?
While the nutrients and vitamins in dog supplements are important, they can be toxic if your dog is getting too much of them. Consult your vet to determine what nutritional gaps exist in their regular diet and which supplements can fill these gaps without pushing them over the limit.