There are plenty of articles on the internet advocating giving dogs supplements, from dog vitamins and lecithin to garlic and yeast. But really, what should you be giving your dog regularly? As more information comes out, many dog owners worry that they could be doing more to feed their dogs healthily.
Trying to feed your dog every supplement you hear about could accidentally cause as many issues as you'd hoped to solve. Below we discuss factors you should consider when choosing supplements for your dog.
Do All Dogs Require Supplements?
There are three main reasons you may want to add specific nutrients to the diet of your dog:
1. Compensating for a Known or Suspected Vitamin Deficiency
The deficiency may be discovered via a blood test or the analysis of a dog's nutritional status. In some cases, a dog owner may be aware that the diet their dog ingests lacks a specific nutrient, and rather than changing the formulation of the diet, they choose to supplement. For example, dogs fed a diet based on vegetables and raw meat may need a calcium supplement if they don't also ingest fresh ground bones.
If a dog lacks a particular nutrient and starts to be supplemented with an optimal dosage of the necessary nutrient, his health should improve markedly.
Correcting even a small nutrient deficiency can make a significant impact on dogs that already seem relatively healthy. You should quickly see a shinier coat, less dandruff, and more energy. It can be challenging to notice micro-mineral deficiencies since a lack of micro-minerals doesn't have obvious and immediate effects.
However, with a well-rounded diet and nutrient supplementation, your pet should look better than before and have a little more spring in its step.
2. Covering Suspected Deficiencies
You may not (and probably shouldn't) trust commercial dog food companies who tell you they formulated their products to contain everything a dog requires. What commercial dog food manufacturers consider an "adequate" amount of nutrients may not be optimal for your pet. More and more research shows that the current minimum daily requirements of vitamins for dogs that the National Research Council has put out are not adequate. While the values for major minerals seem to be okay, there may be deficiencies in your dog and its unique nutrient needs.
You probably know already that for human beings, the minimum daily vitamin requirements are not necessarily the optimum daily dosage but is instead the minimum required to keep symptoms of significant deficiencies at bay. Many nutritionists consider the optimum dose for different vitamins (including the "micro" kind) to double the minimum daily requirement the National Research Council recommends.
The same situation may be true for animals. Consider this example: The amount of the amino acid taurine recommended for cats is now more than twice what it used to be in previous years, purely because it took years for researchers to find a good number for taurine. If you only feed your dog everyday commercial foods, giving your dog a vitamin supplement with no "megadoses" of any particular nutrient can be a safe bet.
Most decent-quality commercial dog foods have enough significant minerals like iron, calcium, copper, and zinc, so there's probably no reason to add any of those.
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3. Optimize Therapeutic Dosages
Another main reason to give your dog supplements is to optimize the dosage of specific nutrients for therapeutic or preventive purposes. Over-supplementation can cause many issues, but targeted therapeutic supplementation refers to giving a dog with particular health problems higher quantities of nutrients that assist the body in dealing with those conditions. One example is giving your dog extra doses of antioxidant vitamins E and C during allergy season if they have a pollen allergy.
On the other hand, preventative supplementation is done to stop the onset of the disease. Of course, this only works if the condition is predictable and when the supplement has proven capabilities. One example is giving iodine supplements to Golden Retrievers to prevent hypothyroidism (which is very common in Golden Retrievers).
5 Best Dog Vitamins & Supplements
Your dog and their health are important to you. And just like you enhance your own health with supplements, there are effective, high-quality supplements for your dog. In addition to improving their health, supplements can also treat a number of health concerns. We would recommend talking with your vet before you supplement your dog's diet to ensure that you don't make anything worse or create issues where there aren't any.
Following are the five best dog supplements for overall health and wellness.
The 8-in-1 Multifunctional Bites formula by Zesty Paws is a chewy supplement your dog will love. This supplement is made of premium ingredients and multivitamins that will provide antioxidants, and support heart health, immune response, hip, and joint fitness, and good skin, liver, and gut health for your dog at any age, breed, or size.
If your dog has sensitive skin, the Omega-3 fish oil and vitamin E in this product will maintain moisture levels, while the Kaneka Q10 will reduce oxidative stress. These will aid your dog's skin and coat health.
As your dog gets older, it may develop hip and joint pain issues. This supplement features OptiMSM (a premium form of MSM) for your dog's muscular support. It works synergistically with two compounds - Glucosamine HCI and Chondroitin Sulfate, along with cod liver oil and B-complex vitamins that support your dog's physical performance.
These multifunctional chews contain a five-strain probiotic blend (500 million CFU per chew), Niacin, and digestive enzymes to support your dog's healthy gut, digestion, and normal bowel function.
Finally, for heart, liver, and immune health, the bites also contain potent antioxidants - premium CoQ10, Kaneka Q10, cod liver oil, and vitamins A, C, and E. These promote cardiovascular health, liver support, and boosted immune response.
These bites do not contain grain, soy, or corn derivatives.
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The Senilife Nutritional Supplement is a highly-concentrated, individual capsule of unflavored liquid blend easily added to your dog's food. As with us, aging can cause your dog's cognitive decline. This can lead to disorientation, confusion, wandering aimlessly, or barking and howling at night. This can also lead to something we call 'doggy dementia.'
This supplement contains a blend of phosphatidylserine, Ginkgo Biloba extract, pyridoxine, resveratrol, and d-alpha-tocopherol. These are included to improve the age-related cognitive symptoms listed above.
This liquid supplement is available in a variety of formulations for different-sized dogs.
One user relates that their mature collie was diagnosed with dementia. She was walking into walls, staring at nothing, and panting and pacing all night long. After committing to give their dog Senilife, most of the symptoms stopped, and the dog's quality of life improved. While these results can't be guaranteed for every dog, they indicate the potential improvements that are possible.
CoQ10 promotes immune, cardiovascular, and dental health in dogs. It acts as a powerful antioxidant with many health benefits for your dog, who may experience a decrease in CoQ10 production as they age.
These beef-flavored chewable tablets contain 30 mg of ubiquinone in each tablet. This is a higher dose than similar products, which is beneficial. You will use fewer tablets, which can make this an affordable product.
The CoQ10 supplement can combat renal failure, support cardiovascular health, and fight against cancer cells by strengthening your dog's immune system.
Dog owners rave about the taste of these bites for their dogs. Some have said that even picky eaters seem to love them. Mature dogs taking these supplements seem to experience great results, becoming more active.
The Thorne Vet B Complex bears the trusted NASC seal. B vitamins are chemically distinct, but they work synergistically to boost healthy red-blood-cell formation, cellular energy production, and healthy neurological function.
This product contains the complete B vitamin complex in an optimal bioavailable form - vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B112, folate, biotin, and choline. In addition to the above applications, B vitamins can also help your dog if they have compromised liver function, digestive issues, poorly functioning enzymes, poor diet, or aging. Vitamin B complex may also be effective with dogs who have a poor appetite or are stressed.
The company that produces this supplement is well-known and highly regarded for the way they rigorously quality test their products. The only downside is the cost. One container may last a medium-sized dog a month, but this product will become expensive for larger dogs.
This Omega-3 fish oil dog supplement is more expensive than similar supplements, but the quality and third-party testing make it well worth the price. This is a popular dog supplement because of the high omega-3 fatty acid content. This helps dogs who have arthritis or skin diseases.
This unflavored supplement comes in liquid form so that you can add it to your dog's usual food, and it won't be detected. It's also available as a soft gel if you prefer. The dosage, of course, depends on the size and weight of your dog.
This product is tested for environmental toxins and other contaminants. You can verify that by taking the lot number of your package and checking it on the Nordic Naturals website for a certificate of analysis.
Related: Choosing Canine Supplements Wisely
Choose Dog Vitamins Wisely
High-quality supplements can effectively enhance your dog's health and wellness or treat health issues. Ensure you check with your vet and use supplements in conjunction with a healthy, well-rounded diet and adequate exercise.
Problems With Supplements
There are many situations where appropriate, targeted supplementation has potentially saved a dog's life. However, there are also many ways that people can harm their pets with supplements. Consider this example: Kidney stones can be a result of too-acid or too-alkaline urine. A dog diagnosed with kidney stones was treated by a vet to have more alkaline urine.
This treatment seemed to be okay for a while until the dog got kidney stones from over-alkaline urine. The vet was baffled- what can she do if the diet can't be shifted in either direction? It turns out the owner was giving the dog three different kinds of calcium supplements. By cutting out the calcium supplements, the dog never had a problem with kidney stones again.
Common Mistakes With Supplements
Over-supplementing is one of the most dangerous things people can do to dogs. Over-supplementing with calcium can cause many bone deformities in young dogs, and overdosing on certain minerals can actually result in mineral poisonings. The most dangerous minerals to over-supplement are the ones that dogs need the most significant quantities of Iron, copper, calcium, and zinc.
Over-supplementing calcium in large and giant breeds can cause their joints to break down, and calcium can also bind with other minerals and cause major issues. Since minerals can build up in your dog's system, it can cause major issues as time goes on. Supplementing a steady, moderate dose of antioxidants is fairly okay, but overdosing on antioxidants can actually encourage cancer.
Specific nutrients need to be fed in a proper ratio to another nutrient, or it can result in harmful imbalances. One example is the calcium/phosphorus ratio, which should be between 1-1 and 2-1. If the balance is off, then rickets could occur in growing dogs and osteoporosis or "rubber jaw" in older dogs.
Mixing certain medicinal herbs with certain medications can produce very dangerous results. You should consult with your veterinarian before adding any herbs to your dog's diet, particularly if they are taking any medications. Vitamin E and Digoxin, for example, interact badly; Vitamin E can cause the animal to overdose on Digitalis, even if they are taking a normal amount.
Related: Can Dogs Eat Eggs?
It's crucial to be aware of the supplements you are giving your dog and consider their long-term effects. Appropriate supplementation can boost your dog's health, but your priority should be to feed your pet a healthy, balanced diet.
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