According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), about 68% of adults in the US take some sort of dietary supplement or multivitamin daily. We know that for our own health, supplements can fill gaps in our nutritional intake and help support the health of specific organs like hearts. So, if we rely on supplements for our own health, it makes sense that our furry friends may need an extra boost to theirs. Supplements for dogs are becoming more and more common and popular, and there are many different ones you can buy, so we’ve put together a guide to show you a few of the best ones available! This article will cover:
Why Supplements for Dogs?
Like we said before, pets may need an extra boost to their nutrition, but how can you know this? You should always look at the ingredients in your dog’s food to see what it contains and what nutritional value it has. While dog foods are often fortified and formulated to give canines all the nutrients they need, certain age groups or dogs with specific health issues may need something more. Supplements are particularly important if you feed your dog homemade meals rather than store-bought food because chances are very good that your dog isn’t getting all the nutrients they need from homemade food. As with anything else, it’s important to talk with your pet’s veterinarian before starting any kind of supplement or vitamin for dogs.
Sometimes a pet nutritionist can help too because you need to know what exactly your dog is eating to know what extra nutrients they may need. Too much of certain vitamins and minerals can be bad for dogs, causing other health issues, and sometimes conditions treated by supplements are symptoms of more serious issues. You want supplements to help your dog in the best way possible, not hurt them, so always check with a vet and nutritionist before giving your dog any kind of vitamin or supplement!
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s look at some different kinds of supplements.
Multivitamins for dogs are very similar to multivitamins for people! They contain many different types of vitamins and minerals that dogs need to support general health. Dogs, like humans, need Vitamins A, B (including B-12 and B-6), C, D, E, K, and a few others, but they need them in different amounts.
WHAT DO THESE INDIVIDUAL VITAMINS DO?
- Vitamin A: responsible for vision, immune health, and growth
Vitamin B: the different varieties of Vitamin B all have distinct and very important functions, many of them pertaining to metabolism
- Thiamine – can help with carbohydrate metabolism and energy regulation as a result
- Riboflavin, B12, Niacin – help dog’s enzymes function properly
- B6 – responsible for immune response, hormone regulation, nervous system function, glucose generation, and more
- Pantothenic Acid – also helps with energy regulation and metabolism
- Folic Acid – helps with mitochondrial protein synthesis (aka your dog’s ability to make and use proteins), as well as amino acid metabolism
- Vitamin C: unlike humans, dogs can produce their own vitamin C in their livers, and just like in humans, it works as an antioxidant
- Vitamin E: helps with cell function and fat metabolism
- Vitamin K: helps dog’s blood clot
- Covers a wide range of necessary nutrients
- Easy-to-administer doses (usually chewable)
- Can be difficult to regulate the specific amounts of individual vitamins your dog may need
- Can lead to overdoses if not administered correctly
Glucosamine is found naturally in the cartilage that cushions joints, and when both people and animals have arthritis, the cartilage is worn away. That is where glucosamine supplements come in. Current research suggests that taking glucosamine supplements can help to relieve the pain caused by inflammation and the degradation of the cartilage in joints. Currently, it is most often used for treatment of humans, horses, and dogs.
- Can aid and possibly speed joint recovery after surgery or injury
- Can ease arthritis pain
- Easy to administer
- As the name would suggest, Glucosamine is sugar-based, and it can be harmful to dogs with diabetes as a result
- Synthesized glucosamine is often derived from shellfish shells or made in a lab. Those with shellfish allergies should probably avoid handling it.
Antioxidants are something you hear a lot about, and while most people understand them to be something beneficial, not many people know what they actually do.
When food is metabolized, the chemical reactions produce what are called “free radicals”, which contain oxygen that is missing an electron. More free radicals are produced when a person or pet is sick, exposed to toxic substances, malnourished, or elderly, and these free radicals will try to steal the electrons they lack from the body’s cells. This then causes the cell to become a free radical, and a cycle of electron theft continues, weakening lines of cells.
High quantities of antioxidants are found in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Selenium, as well as in many other vitamins and minerals, and these antioxidants can give electrons to the free radicals without becoming free radicals themselves. This means that no cell lines are weakened by the electron theft. (Bet you didn’t expect a chemistry lesson today!)
- Antioxidants support a healthy immune system
- Support mental function and health in older dogs
- Can help dogs that suffer from allergies and skin problems
- Support agility and memory in older dogs
- As with any supplement, overdoses are possible and can make your dog very sick.
Just like with humans, probiotic supplements for dogs are used to aid digestive health and regularity. Probiotics help to regulate the good bacteria in the digestive system that help to break down food so that nutrients can be better extracted. They can also inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria that can make both humans and dogs sick, like E. coli.
- Aids in digestion
- Increases frequency and quality of stools in dogs with sensitive digestive systems
- Can reduce intestinal inflammation
- May help prevent UTIs
- Wrong dosage can lead to digestive issues like diarrhea
- Some probiotics must be refrigerated
- Most probiotics have shorter-term expiration dates than other supplements
When you hear “omega” in relation to health and supplements, chances are you think of omega-3 fatty acids. These molecules are known to be good for skin and hair health in humans, and in dogs, they are responsible for healthy skin and fur, as well as heart health, cognitive function, and more! It’s also important to know that dogs can’t create their own omega-3s because of how their bodies worth with chemical bonds, so these important nutrients must be obtained from external sources.
- Skin and fur health
- Improved skin health leads to less scratching, licking, and biting
- Aids kidney function
- Help control inflammation
- Various omega fatty acids can turn rancid quickly
- Unbalanced intake of various omega fatty acids can cause other health issues
Obtaining Supplements and Vitamins for Dogs
Any of the supplements and vitamins discussed above can be obtained from a variety of sources, and there are many brands with slightly different formulations. They can be bought online, in pet stores, and at veterinarian’s offices. How do you know if you’re picking the right supplements for your canine friend? Keep in mind these guidelines (and again, talk to your vet before giving your dog any dosage):
- Know your dog’s weight
- Know your dog’s allergies
- Know what is in your dog’s food
- Only buy brands you can find clear information on
Of all of these, knowing what’s in your dog’s food is one that may be overlooked, but if you’re supplementing your dog’s nutrient intake, you have to know what they’re eating! This goes for knowing the ingredients in purchased food AND knowing what your dog may be getting or lacking in nutrients if you feed them homemade food. Even if you use the correct dosage listed on vitamin and supplement packaging, if your dog already gets their necessary daily value of certain nutrients from their food, adding a supplement can make them sick.
In addition, always make sure you can verify the brands you buy. Look for things like regulation stamps and batch numbers (this ensures some level of quality control), as well as expiration dates and storage instructions. Most of the supplements discussed above come in pill and chew form to give to dogs, but others may come in different forms that must be stored and administered in certain ways.
When used properly and with care, supplements for dogs are a great way to ensure that your furry friend is getting all of the nutrients and vitamins they need to live long, healthy lives.