Supplements for Dogs

Do dogs need dietary vitamins and supplements?

dog supplementsMany people take dietary supplements or vitamins and increasingly they’re likely to give them to their pets, too.

The most common ones are multivitamins, supplements for joint support or arthritis, fish oil or cod liver oil for dogs to reduce shedding and improve a coat’s shine. Owners also may give probiotics to dogs to alleviate digestive problems or antioxidants to counteract the effects of ageing.

With a growing number overweight dogs (putting unnecessary pressure on all organs and joints) and owners reaching for assumed ’miracle-pills’, it is not surprising that the global pet supplements market reached $674.6 million in 2020 and is forecast to reach over $1 billion by 2027.

Closer to home, Lintbells Limited (owner of YuMove, a well-known pet supplements firm) had annual sales of £20 million in 2019 representing a 34% growth on prior year!!!

But do dogs need those vitamins and supplements? And are they even safe? Experts say some work, others don’t, and some aren’t necessary and may even be harmful to dogs.

1. Does my dog need vitamins?

Most dogs receive a complete and balanced diet – including necessary vitamins and minerals – from kibble but bear in mind that not all complete, dry dog food are equal. Dogs fed a homemade diet may need supplements but best to check with a nutritionist for help in determining what, if anything, is needed.

2. Is there any danger in giving my dog vitamins?

Possibly. If an animal already eats a balanced diet and receives excess portions of some vitamins and minerals, they could be harmful. Put it simply; carrots are healthy, but if you eat 6 kgs of it daily, you are taking in too much vitamin A, beta-carotene and others nutrients which will cause certain diseases! It’s the same for dogs:

  • too much calcium, for instance, can cause skeletal problems, especially in large-breed puppies;
  • too much vitamin A can harm blood vessels and cause dehydration and joint pain;
  • Excess vitamin D can prompt a dog to stop eating, harm bones, and cause muscles atrophy (the muscle dies off due to imbalance between vitamin D and calcium), just to mention a few.

3. Should I check with my vet before supplementing?

Not a bad idea. Symptoms that look like arthritis, such as a dog with a weak rear end, could instead be a neurological problem. A poor coat could indicate skin, metabolic or hormonal problems.

Ingredients in some supplements, such as herbals, may interact with other medicine an animal is taking. Your vet can also assess whether your pet needs a supplement at all.

If they’re eating a complete and balanced diet and they’re healthy and have no problems, they don’t actually need supplementation. However, if you really want to boost the nutrients in your dog’s diet, reach for fruits and vegetables. They are the easiest for the body to absorb and digest and they are the most natural sources of an array of vitamins and minerals.

Most supplements are not safe to use over a long period of time, the only exception to that is probably probiotics. However, why would you give your dog a probiotics pill when you can just put plain, unflavoured kefir or yoghurt on their food, which are the best probiotics.

4. Do dog supplements work?

It depends on what the supplement is used for and how it is manufactured. Clinical trials are rare so it’s hard to find quality evidence for the efficacy, much less the need for these products.

Glucosamine-chondroitin supplements, commonly given to dogs with osteoarthritis, have shown mixed results in testing in humans and animals.

Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E reduce inflammation and help aging dogs with memory problems, however, you have to bear in mind that nutritional supplements haven’t been tested for long-term safety in dogs and as such nobody really knows the long-term consequences of putting any dogs on them, not to mention young puppies.

5. How should I choose a supplement?

Here are some tips:

  • Look for a brand that specialises in one area.
  • Read labels. Know the name of the ingredient you’re looking for, so you won’t be deceived by sound-alikes.
  • Look for a contact number for the company on the label. Call and ask who formulated the product, where they sourced the ingredients from, what expertise they have, and how long the manufacturer has been in business. For instance fish oil can come from contaminated fish which means you are actually giving harmful stuff to your dog such as mercury!
  • Be wary of claims that sound too good to be true, such as promises to alleviate diseases like parvovirus, cancer and hip dysplasia.
  • Look for certification from an organisation that has independently verified a supplement’s contents.
  • Be cautious about giving human supplements to dogs. Some products, such as garlic, can be dangerous for dogs.
  • Know the seller.

6. What about supplements in dog food?

Check the label to see how much of an ingredient is actually in the food but they tend to be well below the therapeutic dose and as such are less of a worry.

A prescription dog food, on the other hand, may contain therapeutic levels of the supplement. Other dog foods might contain botanicals, such as cranberry, to ward off urinary tract infections or DHA to boost cognitive development in puppies.

Summary

Dog supplementsSimilar to humans, dogs need a variety of nutrients each day to stay healthy, including calcium and vitamin D to protect the bones, folic acid to produce and maintain new cells, and vitamin A to preserve a healthy immune system and vision.

Yet the source of these nutrients is important and it is best to try to get these vitamins and minerals and nutrients from food as opposed to supplements (true for both humans and dogs). If you feed your dog a premium-quality, complete, balanced diet, you shouldn’t need to supplements your pet’s diet at all. But don’t forget that there is a big difference between a £10 and £50 bag of kibble! 

Fruits, vegetables, fish, and other healthy foods contain nutrients and other substances not found in a pill, which work together to keep both us and our dogs healthy. We can’t get the same synergistic effect from a supplement. Taking certain vitamins or minerals in higher-than-recommended doses may even interfere with nutrient absorption or cause side effects.

 

If you want to boost your dog’s bowl, add some healthy veg and fruit to it or reach for a can of sardines. Should you need more advice on which vegetables are best, click on the link Vegetables for Dogs – Chomp and Chew

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