Monday, February 10, 2014

Nutritional supplements: Are they worth it for your dog?

My high school biology teacher always said that once you get your daily value of vitamins and minerals, there's no point in taking more than that. Taking 200 percent of vitamin C will not make you healthier. Everything after what you need is just expensive urine.

So when people started talking to me about nutritional supplements for my dog, I had the same thought. It sure seemed silly. If I'm feeding my dog well, why would she need supplements?

I interviewed several vets, and the answers I got was this, generally: if you are feeding your dog well, you shouldn't. Unless the pet has issues.

Courtesy Steve DePolo via Flickr Creative Commons.

Like Centrum or One-a-Day, a multivitamin has all the basics, from A to Zinc. It also may include Glucosamine, Omega 3 acid, turmeric and more.

Most vets I talked to, however, agreed that if you are feeding your dog a proper diet, with a quality food, you shouldn't need to give your pet one of these. In fact, taking too much of certain vitamins can be dangerous.

Brittney Barton, DVM, is a certified veterinary journalist with a practice in Dallas. She said some vitamins are fat-soluble.

"Fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K are collected and stored in the fat within the pet's body," Dr. Barton said. "You can overdose on the fat soluble vitamins."

Barton said vitamin D, for instance, can raise calcium levels and cause kidney problems.  Other vitamins can cause organ dysfunctions.

Water-soluble vitamins, such as B and C, are used, and then anything more than the body needs is flushed out. Hence, expensive urine.

"The supplements you use should be chosen for a specific reason and function," Dr. Barton said.


This one is pretty important for beagle owners, so listen up.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin are good for pets with joint issues. Beagles are a breed that is prone to joint issues, especially hip dysplasia. If was surprised to hear some say that Lulu should get Glucosamine now. But Dr. Barton explains why.

"Chonro-protective agents, such as Chondroitin sulfate and Glucosamine only work when there is cartilage present," Barton said. "Adding in joint support supplements after the cartilage has eroded will not be as beneficial.  Therefore, supporting the cartilage with early addition of these supplements is a good idea."

Not every breed has those genetic predispositions. But you might get told you dog needs to shore up joints and such. Such as osteoarthritis.

Dr. Kathryn Primm from the Applebrook Animal Hospital in Tennessee said a pet parent can choose supplements, or special food.

"I saw a Great Dane mix today with very poor rear leg conformation and I suggested joint supplements for her," Dr. Primm said. "Her owner elected to try a prescription diet with additives already present so she could minimize the mixing and remembering and because our diets are palatability guaranteed."


" I like omega fatty acids. I love omega fatty acids," said Dr. Talitha Neher, a vet at Canyon County Animal Shelter in Boise, Idaho.

Omega-3 fatty acids are often praised, not just for humans but for pets. While good quality dog food has fatty acids, sometimes your pet can do with a bit more, especially if they have inflammation issues.

Courtesy Meg Melligan via Flickr Creative Commons
"I put dogs with joint disease, and dogs who are probably going to get joint disease, on omega fatty acids," said Dr. Neher. "Purely anecdotally, I've backed some dogs off anti-inflammatories and maintained them on OFAs."

Neher also uses OFAs for dogs with allergies, with heart disease and renal disease.

Be sure to stick with fish or salmon oil, as they have more potency.


Other supplements may also be helpful for your dog. They include probiotics or coconut oil for gastrointestinal issues. Coconut oil is also good for skin and coat.

"I also use coconut oil, or Archway macaroons, (good source of medium chain triglyerides) in cases of inflammatory bowel disease," said Dr. Neher. "Like probiotics for allergies, this is based on human studies that found decreased signs of IBD in patients taking MCT."

"I also like Denamarin (SAM-e and Milk Thistle) for pet's on chronic NSAID therapy for arthiritis," said Dr. Brittany Barton. "NSAIDs are primarily metabolized through the liver and the Denamarin helps support liver regeneration."

So how do you know what to use, and what is worth using?

"It seems that there are always fads and trends that wax and wane on the internet," said Dr. Kathryn Primm. "These types of things have been around since the traveling “snake oil” peddlers in olden days. Ask your vet if he or she has seen legitimate studies for the supplement you are considering. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Your veterinary team is an excellent resource to help you wade through the info."

"When choosing a supplement, research the company who manufactures it," said Dr. Barton. "Since the FDA doesn't regulate these types of drugs, the onus falls on the company to perform due diligence when choosing sources for their ingredients."

Dr. Barton also offered up a website to help do that research: National Animal Supplement Council.

Do you give your pets supplements? What do you give and why?


  1. Great post, full of excellent information. I have been thinking about giving Del supplements for joints, because Rotties are prone to hip dysplasia. Thanks for such a comprehensive post. Will be asking my vet for advice next time we visit for his vaccinations :)

  2. This was very helpful! I have been wondering the same things for Luna and it was a great overview. I definitely will ask my vet at our next visit!

  3. We give our dogs glucosamine, salmon oil, coconut oil, camelina oil (the oils aren't all given together), and I'm going to add tumeric to their diet too.

  4. Excellent post - agree with the advice - definitely only want to give things that are helpful for your dog, overdoing it can do more harm than good.

  5. Good post with really useful information. The difficult part of being a pet owner is to select the best nutritional supplements for them. Unless the pet has health issues, we don’t need to add supplements in their diet. Overdoing of nutrition will harm the dog.


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