It is commonplace to see humans include supplements in their diets. It’s all part of the big vision to live healthier and for longer too. And in line with this, it’s also becoming common to find many dog owners including some form of dog supplements or other in their pet’s diet.
Of course, this is done with the best of intentions at heart. Now if this is good for the human, shouldn’t it be good for their furry best friends too?
Today, we are going to provide you with all the information you need on dog supplements. With well-balanced research, buying decisions are not only easier, but they are also more informed.
It might be a long ride, but it will definitely be a fulfilling one. And then again, can we really put a price tag on our pup’s health?
So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
Table of Contents
What Are Dog Supplements?
To begin with, there is no specific definition for “dog supplements” or “human supplements” for that matter. It’s just one general definition. We will get to the more dog-specific stuff later. But for now, we begin with the general.
The Office of Dietary Supplements, US National Institutes of Health defines a dietary supplement as a product that is manufactured in form of a capsule, tablet, pill, or liquid for the purpose of supplementing a diet.
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 gives a more detailed description which we have mentioned here:
Dietary supplement as a term is defined as “a product (other than tobacco) intended to supplement the diet that bears or contains one or more of the following dietary ingredients: a vitamin, a mineral, a herb or other botanical (sic), an amino acid, a dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake, or a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any of the aforementioned ingredients.”
Phew! That was a mouthful, and there’s still more but we will spare you.
Other things you need to know we will quickly explain in a few lines.
According to the rule, supplements must not be sold as whole foods on their own. That is, they must only be used to supplement a diet. Also, they are not to be paraded as a drug or antibiotic. In order words, the DSHEA doesn’t want anyone confusing the roles of supplements.
They are meant to supplement the diet with nutrients that are needed by the body and that’s it. It is assumed that these nutrients are either absent in the diet or else not in sufficient quantities, hence the need for supplements.
What Do Dog Supplements Actually Contain?
From our definition above, supplements add the missing nutrients to a meal. But what missing nutrients can be supplemented by food supplements? Generally, supplements may contain:
- Essential minerals
- Essential fatty acids
- Amino acids or
- Live bacteria (probiotics).
Also, supplements may come as naturally existing substances artificially synthesized. A good example is melatonin.
Now here’s something very important to note about supplements. Just like with food, there is no obligation by the government to authorize the manufacturing or sale of supplements. So, in other not-so-great news, we are all at the mercy of supplement manufacturers.
Supplements have a less strict regulation when compared to drugs. For drugs, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires what is called a “risk-benefit analysis” before the drug can even be sold. But for supplements, the FDA only uses the result of the assessment to decide whether they think a particular supplement is safe or not.
So, now that we know all that, let’s get to the dog-specific parts.
Why Should I Give My Dog Food Supplements?
Dr Karen Becker on the doginsider.com explains why it is necessary to give your dog supplements. In her explanation about dog supplements, she explains that regardless of how high-quality dog food is, it would still lack on some nutrients.
Plus, the fact that dog breeds differ as do age and lifestyle of dogs, also means that their nutritional requirements vary. Hence, including supplements to your dog’s diet is important to keep them happy and healthy.
For dogs with a medical condition or those who come down with one form of illness or another, a supplement might be required. With a supplement, you can take care of skin allergies, gastrointestinal issues, depleting energy levels, and such.
Another reason Dr. Becker opines that dog food supplements are necessary is due to the different life stages of dogs. From puppyhood to adulthood, dogs require different kinds of nutrients in order to stay healthy.
For instance, puppies require some extra support in order to grow healthy and build a strong skeletal system. And it’s not just about the bones, puppies also need to develop healthy organs and muscles as well.
And as for seniors, in order not to develop joint problems like arthritis, they would need some supplements. They would also need supplements to help them keep from developing issues with digestion and lethargy.
Now, this leads us to our next point. And that is…
What Are The Benefits Of Feeding Your Dog Supplements?
Feeding your dog supplements comes with so many benefits, according to Dr. Becker. We list some of the major ones below:
- Dog food supplements help to increase your dog’s energy levels.
- They help to support and enhance sleep patterns that are healthy for your dog.
- They help to boost the immune system of your dog.
- Dog supplements can help to sharpen your pup’s concentration and give them a better mood.
- They also help with bowel movements too.
- In cases of inflammation and pain (e.g. arthritis), supplements can help to manage such cases.
- Dog supplements also help with your dog’s dental health.
Types Of Dog Supplements
Dog supplements come in various types. These include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and probiotics. However, the major types are multivitamins, fatty acids, and joint supplements. But don’t worry, we will discuss each of these supplements so you’d be sure of what they are and what they do.
As usual, please do not forget that your vet is still the ultimate authority. Supplements might not exactly be prescription substances. However, it is still important to ensure that you check with your vet before getting anyone for your dog.
Multivitamin Dog Supplements
Just as humans need vitamins for healthy growth, so do dogs. The National Academy of Sciences lists the essential vitamins that every dog needs as the following:
- Vitamin K: They need this to activate clotting, build bone proteins, and other kinds of proteins.
- Vitamin B1(thiamin): This is necessary to metabolize carbs and also activate ion channels found in neural tissues.
- Riboflavin and niacin: This is important for the normal function of enzymes.
- Vitamin B6: This ensures that glucose is generated, red blood cells function properly, and the nervous system is working great. It’s also responsible for normal immune response as well as hormone regulation.
- Folic Acid: This aids protein synthesis and supports metabolism.
Dr. Gary Richter explains that all dogs have nutritional needs that are quite similar. This is because they belong to the same species. He also agrees that most commercial dog foods (read best commercial dog foods) actually already contain these vitamins.
And especially when it’s labeled as “complete and balanced”, it does contain all the necessary minerals and vitamins that your pup could ever need. Does this send the idea that multivitamin supplements are unnecessary? Let’s see.
Why Give Your Dog Multivitamin Dog Supplements When Dog Foods Already Contain Essential Vitamins And Minerals?
Well, let’s start from here – homemade diet.
Dogs on a homemade diet need vitamins even far more than those fed on commercial dog food. Preparing your dog’s meals by yourself, while a great idea, also means that you won’t be able to include some essential vitamins. Things which the big brands readily have access to.
So, Dr. Richter, therefore, advises that dog owners who cook their dog’s meals endeavor to see a veterinary nutritionist. The vet nutritionist can then advise how best to include the necessary vitamins into your dog’s diet.
Dr. Wynn, on WebMD, also mentions that vitamin supplements are super important for senior dogs. According to her, vitamins C and E contain antioxidants which are great for aging dogs. It helps to reduce their chances of memory impairments and also reduces inflammation.
Finally, keep in mind that vitamin supplements are not cure-alls, neither are they medication. They just supplement. So, always ensure to check with your vet, first. Plus, a dog on a balanced diet might not even necessarily need a vitamin supplement.
Mineral Dogs Supplements
Trace minerals are very essential in any dog’s diet. And despite the fact that they are called “trace”, they still carry out really powerful functions in maintaining your dog’s health. So you must ensure that they get enough of it.
Trace minerals might not be doing gigantic work. But the itsy bitsy structural and regulatory functions they carry out can make all the difference between a healthy dog and a sick one. For instance, without these minerals generating the electrical impulses they do, your pup would lose all muscle function.
Also, did you know that without trace elements (or trace minerals or micro minerals or microelements) working with the macro elements, the macro elements can’t function? And that’s just the beginning.
Trace minerals can help to make your dog’s coat shinier. They are also critical to oxygen distribution around the body. Plus, they are required by the body to ward off cancer, inflammatory diseases, and premature aging.
Amino Acids Supplements In Dogs
Proteins are made up of smaller substances known as amino acids. The total number of amino acids we have add up to 20. Now, out of those 20, about half of them are known as “essential” while the other half is known as “non-essential”.
What do these mean?
Of these 20 essential amino acids, there are some that are naturally produced by certain animals including dogs and humans. They are called non-essential because they don’t necessarily have to be included in the diet of the aforementioned animals and humans as well.
As for essential, they refer to the remaining half which the body cannot synthesize. This means that it is compulsory that these amino acids be found in the diet that your dog eats. Lowell Ackerman (DVM) warns that if even as much as one of the essential amino acids is missing, it could be bad.
The body will not be able to make some very important proteins properly.
Proteins are made in a stepwise fashion and the rules are really strict. So if one amino acid is missing, a step would be hindered, and then, the entire process would come to a grinding halt.
The ten essential amino acids needed by dogs include the following:
Now, the fact that a food is called high protein doesn’t mean that it is rich in the right amino acids. So don’t get it twisted.
You must be dogged about ensuring that your dog is getting all the essential amino acids he needs. And if his kibble isn’t giving him that, then you know you need to give him some supplements. And probably throw out the kibble too.
Fatty Acid Dogs Supplements
Fatty acids are actually chains of atoms which are polyunsaturated in nature. This means that they contain a lot of double bonds. On their own, animals cannot produce any double-bonded whatever. So, they desperately need it from their diet.
Aside from this, sometimes, a dog develops a condition where his body can no longer produce the fatty acids he needs, in times like this, he would need a hand. And that’s where fatty acid supplements come in.
The main benefit of fatty acid supplements is that they have anti-inflammatory properties. Dr Karen Becker in her article on fatty acid supplements explains that the most well-researched supplements are actually fatty acid supplements.
In fact, quite often, fatty acid supplements are recommended by vets for certain ailments. There are some conditions that have been successfully managed, improved, or even completely treated using fatty acid supplements. And some of them include: impaired kidney function, autoimmune disorders, diabetic neuropathy, eye disorders, and hyper-excitability disorders.
The most important fatty acids needed in your dog’s body include Omega-3 as well as Omega-6 fatty acids. We’re pretty sure you’ve heard of them before.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are naturally found in certain foods like: Salmon, pumpkin seeds, sunflower oil, coconut oil, canola oil, black currant seed oil, and soybean oil.
The major carriers of these essential fatty acids – Omega-3 and Omega-6 – are oils. And does anyone just up and spoons up some oil to drink? We don’t think so. It hardly happens and that’s why you need fatty acid supplements.
Fatty acid supplements come in various forms. Some come as chews, others come as soft gels or tablets. And yet, some others come as oils. And to make things even better, these supplements come in various delicious flavors too!
Storing Your Fatty Acid Dog Supplements Right
Do not overdose your dog with fatty acid dog supplements. It could lead to severe gastrointestinal issues, a compromised immune system, clotting of the blood, and a delay in wound healing.
Now, to storing. Remember, fatty acids are oils. And that means that they could get rancid. The chances of rancidity get even higher if you don’t store them properly.
Generally, fatty acid supplements are best stored in the refrigerator or any other cool place. But then again, to be sure, you can always check the packaging. There is always a manufacturer’s instruction on how best to store the supplement.
Joint Supplements For Dogs
Your dog’s joints play a very important role in determining whether you have a happy, playful dog or not. And to keep them running like a well-oiled machine, you’re going to need supplements. Joint supplements work in a myriad of ways to keep your dog’s joints functioning properly as they should.
There are three major classes of joint supplements.
- Supplements that prevent joints from damaging further.
- Those that help damaged joints recover.
- And finally, dog supplements that nourish healthy dog joints.
Joint supplements usually contain several ingredients combined in certain proportions according to the purpose of the supplement. The main ingredients of a joint supplement include the following:
- Green-lipped mussels.
- Hyaluronic acid.
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM).
Especially for large breeds, it’s best to begin joint supplements from puppyhood. As you may or may not know, large breed dogs are particularly predisposed to coming down with arthritis later in life. By starting them on joint supplements early enough, you can help the joints to grow well and keep them healthy when they become seniors.
Seniors, as well as dogs involved in sporting activities, would also be better off starting a joint supplement as early as possible.
And to even further improve the potency of joint supplements, many times, they are given together with medication for inflammation. It’s impressive to find that this has yielded many positive results! Dogs that could barely stand up for the pain, get up, get around, and even play again.
Probiotics For Dogs
According to the World Health Organization, probiotics are live microorganisms. When these live microorganisms are given in certain set amounts, they benefit the user. Of course, that was paraphrased but you get the idea.
Dr. Jerry Klein (DVM) of the American Kennel Club mentions that probiotics hold a lot of benefits for dogs. For instance, they can prevent illnesses as well as treat them. By helping to inhibit harmful bacteria like Salmonella, Clostridium and E. coli from growing, they also keep the stomach in topnotch health condition.
Marcella D. Ridgway (VMD, MS, DACVIM) explains that giving your dog probiotics can help to take care of obesity, mood disorders, liver disease, and behavior disorders. And it’s not just diseases, there are some other ancillary extras that come with taking probiotics. Some of them include shinier coats, reduced flatulence, better bowel function, fewer allergies, and fresher breath.
Probiotics are very varied in their sizes and shapes, says Dr. J. Scott Weese. They can come in various forms like pastes, powders, or solutions.
Furthermore, most probiotics do not just contain a single type of bacteria. They actually contain several types of bacteria. And these different bacteria carry out individual functions which when combined improve the overall wellbeing of your dog.
Looking at Bifidobacterium, for example, its primary function is to slow down the length of time it takes to run through diarrhea in dogs. Lactobacillus, on the other hand, helps your dog’s body to absorb nutrients more easily. And it also helps them strengthen their digestive systems.
The safest and most effective probiotics for dogs, according to Dr. Coates of petMD include the following:
- Enterococcus faecium.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus.
- Bifidobacterium bifidum.
- Lactobacillus plantarum.
- Lactobacillus casei.
- Bifidobacterium animalis.
Natural Dog Supplements
Here are some natural food supplements you can give to your dog:
- Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV): ACV offers lots of health benefits especially because it is both antifungal and antibacterial. This automatically means that it can help to prevent infectious diseases from fungi and bacteria at the same time. ACV is also known to strengthen the immune system of dogs too.
It can be applied topically, or it can also be ingested orally. It’s one of the natural dog supplement must haves for all dog parents
- Coconut Oil: This can be taken in both forms like ACV. Your dog can either ingest it orally or apply it topically. When used topically, it is commonly used to treat lesions, dry and itchy skin, and ringworm.
Thankfully, most dogs love the taste of coconut oil so administering it won’t involve so much blood and gore.
- Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE): This possesses a lot of advantages. In the first place, it is a powerful antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic, and antibiotic. And it also comes with antioxidant properties too!
Used topically or orally, GSE can be used to treat both skin and ear infections in dogs. And that’s not all, it can also be used for cases of stomach upsets brought on by viruses or bacteria. Plus, it is very effective against Candida too!
- Honey: It is sweet and yet packed with loads of health benefits. Whether you’re applying topically or taking in orally, honey is something you want by your side.
- Kelp: This nutritious sea veggie packs a punch – more than 60 minerals, 21 amino acids, and more! If you haven’t considered kelp, it’s never too late to try. It’s not just great for your dog, it’s also great for you.
How To Choose The Best Brand Of Dog Food Supplement
The very first thing we will let you know here is that your vet is alpha and omega when it comes to your dog’s health. So, before you get Fido any supplement, you must make sure your vet has given their approval first.
Approval aside, your vet is the only one who’s in the best position to know what nutrient your dog is missing. So, ultimately, it means that only your vet knows what kind of supplement you should be looking for in the first place.
Once you’re clear on that, shopping for dog supplements is quite similar to shopping for chow. You should look out for the usuals such as artificial anything (colors, preservatives, or flavors), excess salt, and excess sugar.
Also, whatever supplement you go for must be easily digestible by your dog. And they must match the deficient nutrient in your dog. Oftentimes, nutrients augmented by dog supplements are actually required in really small quantities. So, if you get your dog a supplement for a nutrient he isn’t missing, it might end up being toxic for him.
Now, don’t forget that dog supplements are not highly regulated like drugs. So, you have to be really careful. If you finally find one you think you like, then make sure to make a stop at the official FDA website. Here, you’ll find the truth about the brand, especially if it has ever been recalled before.
You’d also be quite wise to find out what users themselves are saying about the product before making a buying decision. Most customer reviews are legit and honest. So, they are somewhat trustworthy sources when looking for information about a product.
Are Dog Supplements Really Necessary For My Dog?
Now, while we have gushed about dog supplements and how they are all the rage right now, not everyone seems to agree. Many scientists are of the opinion that dog supplements are unnecessary and might even be dangerous for dogs.
This begs the question: are dog supplements really necessary for your dog?
Dr. Ashley Gallagher (DVM) does not seem to agree. Commercial dog foods are normally formulated to contain a minimum amount of nutrients necessary for healthy living. And since they eat the same thing every day unlike us humans, errr… there’ll hardly be any need for supplements.
If you stick with the best dog food brands, there’ll even be much fewer reasons to get supplements. Here’s why. The best dog food brands manufacture their food based on results they observe from a feeding trial.
So, in a feeding trial, they feed their formulation to real dogs and observe their responses to the food. They monitor these responses using different kinds of diagnostic tests. And then based on what they see, they adjust the nutrients accordingly till they hit “gold”.
PetMD also explains that the best dog food companies equally make their diet to suit the different ages and lifestyles of various dogs. Of course, you cannot imagine that a puppy and a senior would require the same thing, nutritionally. Neither will healthy and sick dogs have the same nutritional requirements. And all these factors should be considered when manufacturing commercial pet food.
Arguments Against Dog Supplements
As is our normal practice, we will also present to you the not so palatable details about dog food supplements, so you make a most informed decision. Gleaning from the submissions of Lisa M. Freeman (DVM, PhD, DAVCN) on the vetnutrition.tufts.edu, dog supplements might even be outright wrong for your dog. Come with us…
It might be a scary place to begin. But, Dr. Lisa Freeman explains in her article that only very few studies have been conducted on the actual effectiveness of supplements in dogs. According to her, most of what has been passed down as the benefits of supplements are actually hearsay.
Also, she mentions that discovering the optimal dose to be given to a dog is important in administering a supplement to a dog. However, this has still not been found out till now. Most of the doses given to dogs are actually based on doses for humans.
So, at the end, dogs are either taking too much or too little to even have any positive effect. And, in other cases, the different supplements they are taking begin to interact yielding negative results.
Add all these to the fact that there’s poor regulation on food supplements, and animals even metabolize supplements very differently from humans, and things just get a whole lot worse.
So, in the light of this, Dr. Freeman specifically warns that dogs not be given supplements, especially if they are already on a balanced diet. Doing this could put them at the risk of toxicity.
She also agrees that those who feed their dogs with a homemade diet might require supplements as a homemade meal is naturally nutritionally deficient.
We were only able to give brief overviews of the different types of supplements for dogs. If you want even more in-depth information on all the major supplements for dogs, then stay on this site. We have loads of information that would be of great help to you and your dog.