Dog supplements are a huge business these days. There are all sorts of varieties available in pet stores and online, and some make claims of miraculous healing and preventative properties. For owners that may have a sick dog or one with a particular ailment, sometimes they will reach for anything to try to help their pet but, if this is done without the right guidance and research, it can cause the dog more harm than good.
There are some supplements on the market that have been proven to be useful for certain things, and there are others that may have advantageous properties, but there is no scientific evidence to back it up yet. There are others that there is no basis for the claims being made and sometimes giving these to your dog may prove to be detrimental.
Before introducing any to your dog’s diet make sure that you do proper research and that you have consulted with your vet when appropriate. We have provided some useful guidance, things to consider and some information on what scientific evidence is out there already to give you a head start and some food for thought.
It may seem like overkill, but knowing all the facts can not only avoid you having unnecessary expense, but it can also help to ensure that you are not administering anything that could be ineffective or dangerous for your pet.
There are, of course, supplements that can be beneficial but you may be surprised how few have any scientific backing.
Whilst there are supplements that can be beneficial for your dog, it is important to do your research, select a reputable brand and consult with your vet if your dog has a medical condition or is displaying worrying symptoms
- Know When to Consult a Vet
- Always Do Your Research and Read the Ingredients
- Don’t Use the Human Versions
- Buy from a Respected and Reputable Brand
- Often the Claims Can Be Too Good to Be True
- Stay up to Date with the Research and Look at What the Science Tells You
- Be Careful Not to Give Too Much
- How Are the Products Regulated?
- Don’t Forget That a Lot of Dog Foods Already Contain Supplements
- What Are Some of the More Commonly Used Supplements That Have Had Some Success in Clinical Trials
Know When to Consult a Vet
If your dog is suffering from an ailment, illness or other medical condition, it is always important to consult with your vet. Not only will they be able to advise if there are any scientifically proven medications that your dog may need to take or whether they may require any other interventions, but they can also advise on whether it is appropriate for you to be administering any other supplements.
Sometimes certain supplements may react with other medication or they could exacerbate an existing condition without you realising it.
Always Do Your Research and Read the Ingredients
Before giving your dog any supplement, we would always recommend doing thorough research. Check the ingredients, check the quantity of the active ingredient present, read about any scientific studies, make sure there are no health warnings and, again, double check with your vet when appropriate.
Sometimes the quantities of the active ingredient may not be appropriate, or perhaps the supplement contains an extra ingredient that could potentially be harmful. It has also been uncovered that, given the lack of formal regulation in the industry, sometimes the quantity of the active ingredient stated is wildly inaccurate or not even present!
Don’t Use the Human Versions
It is always recommended to pick the dog specific products. Human versions may contain other ingredients that are not safe for dogs, and they may also have a different dosage that is not would be dangerous for your dog.
NEVER give your dog supplements that have been designed for human use. You could risk giving them too large a dose or even expose them to ingredients that could be toxic for dogs
Buy from a Respected and Reputable Brand
Always pick a well respected, established brand when purchasing supplements. This is an industry that is not particularly well regulated, and there are manufacturers and suppliers out there that may not be doing appropriate due diligence on their products. Some brands may be using ingredients that are not listed on the packets or obtaining them from questionable sources. If the brand specialises in one area or one supplement, this can often mean that they have done more testing and may be of a higher quality. Products available via your vet practice are usually, but not always, more reputable.
Often the Claims Can Be Too Good to Be True
Don’t believe everything on the packet. Some supplement marketing can make outrageous, outlandish and completely unsubstantiated claims about what their product can do for your pet. It can be easy to get sucked in if you have a pet that is in distress and you are looking for a solution. This is why, as mentioned before, thorough research is required to dig beneath the marketing slogans.
Stay up to Date with the Research and Look at What the Science Tells You
If your dog has a medical condition and you are using supplements to try to help them, make sure that you keep an eye on the research. Ask your vet to alert you to any developments. Keep an eye on sites like the American Veterinary Medical Association. Another useful resource is the website Consumerlab.com. This organisation tests products for their suitability to be part of their industry certification program.
It is also worth noting that any studies that have been done are usually over a shorter period, there are very few long term studies on the effect of giving any of these supplements over a prolonged period.
Be Careful Not to Give Too Much
It is crucial that if you are using a supplement that you are careful not to over-administer. While some products have proven efficacy in certain dosages, if too much of them is given it can mean that they can become detrimental to your dog. Don’t forget to consider what supplements may already be part of your dog’s daily diet.
How Are the Products Regulated?
It is a bit of a minefield when it comes to regulations for pet supplements. Vitamins, minerals and many oils are regulated through the food industry, but herbal products are generally viewed as unregulated food additives or drugs for animals that are not approved. The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) is not required to review the effectiveness of supplements like they have to with drugs.
You can also look for products that have the Quality Seal of Approval from the National Animal Supplement Council. They have a set of criteria that the supplements must meet to achieve this seal and this can offer some peace of mind in terms of the quality of the product.
Don’t Forget That a Lot of Dog Foods Already Contain Supplements
It is important to remember that many formulated dog diets already contain vitamins, minerals and other supplements as part of their composition. Always read the label and look for information on the amounts that are contained within a daily portion of your dog’s diet. It can also be worth consulting with your vet or a qualified canine nutritionist if you are not sure. Some prescription diets may contain specific supplements that are proposed to have a benefit to dogs with certain conditions.
Dog foods often already contain a number of vitamins and minerals so there is a risk of exposing them to too much of a particular variety
What Are Some of the More Commonly Used Supplements That Have Had Some Success in Clinical Trials
Joint supplements are probably the most popular and widely used pet supplements on the market. There are a whole host of different options with different active ingredients.
The most commonly known and used supplement is Glucosamine or a combination of Glucosamine and Chondroitin.
In terms of studies, Glucosamine has been shown to have a possible mild impact on the symptoms of osteoarthritis. These benefits though are not shown to be dramatic, and this is based on only one or two clinical trials. Often vets suggest that many dogs suffering from this type of arthritis are overweight and putting them on a weight loss programme and some anti-inflammatories will have more impact on the dogs quality of life than any supplements will. No conclusive studies are showing that it can work as a preventative.
Many conventional dog diets already contain glucosamine within their list of ingredients although the quantities can vary and are often not high enough to have a marked impact.
Many joint supplements also mention that they contain MSM. It is worth noting that there have been no studies to date that show this as having a beneficial impact on dogs in terms of their mobility.
The Nutramax Dasuquin Soft Chew Joint Supplements are widely regarded as one of the most popular glucosamine based doggy joint supplements on the market. It has been around for many years, is available through many vet practices and has good anecdotal reviews. They are expensive though so it may be worth speaking with your Vet first to understand if they feel using these for your dog would be beneficial.
2. Fish Oils
Fish oils are commonly promoted as a very beneficial supplement. Studies have shown that the long chain fatty acids that are present in fish oils can have some potential anti-inflammatory attributes. This can mean they may help with promoting a healthy heart, kidney and skin condition.
Given their potential anti-inflammatory properties, fish oils may also provide some relief from the symptoms of osteoarthritis, and the evidence is minimal at the moment but given that it is unlikely to do any harm, trying it is not likely to cause any problems.
There is also the possibility that they will help relieve the symptoms of some skin allergies and they have been used with some success in this area.
Zesty Paws produce a Salmon Oil supplement that is well regarded. It is sustainably sourced, produced in an FDA approved facility and they are well certified too.
Probiotics is a promising area in terms of supplements to support a healthy gut. This is true in both humans and dogs. At the moment it is generally recognised that the gastrointestinal tract is incredibly complex and there is not a great deal of conclusive details yet on what works most effectively and why. One study which looked at the probiotic Bifidobacterium suggested that this aided the recovery of dogs with spontaneous diarrhoea.
The most significant problems that seem to be recognised relates to the storage and processing of the products and with brands making unsubstantiated claims about their efficacy of their products.
However, probiotics are often regarded as one of the areas of supplementation that shows the most promising evidence for having a positive impact.
A good quality probiotic is not likely to cause any harm if it is administered so it is one that people will often try to see whether it seems to show any benefits for their dog.
Don’t forget though that if your dog is having persistent or severe tummy troubles that it is important that you consult with your vet to determine if there is an underlying condition that may need to be treated.
The Purina Pro Plan FortiFlora Dog Probiotic Supplement is often recommended by vets and is a tried and tested formula with solid reviews from customers.
4. Milk Thistle
This herb is becoming increasingly popular as a supplement for dogs. It is commonly administered with the belief that it may aid in reducing the symptoms of liver disease.
There is evidence from a small scale trial that it may have some benefits, but at the moment there is not a full understanding on the best way to administer it to provide the maximum benefit for the dogs it is being used on.
The Lignans for Life Milk Thistle Capsules appear to have a good reputation but we would always recommend consulting with your vet about whether they are safe and appropriate for your dog and to confirm dosage amount.
5. Multivitamins and Minerals
If your dog is eating a high quality and balanced diet, then it is highly unlikely that they will need any additional supplements. It can also put your dog at risk of toxicity if they are already getting a full dosage of a vitamin through their diet, and then you add extra on top.
For example, calcium supplements for dogs are readily available to purchase. While it is true that a dog can develop a calcium deficiency if they are on a high meat home-cooked or raw diet that does not have the right balance of nutrients, most complete dog foods already have calcium added to their list of nutrients. If a high dose supplement is also administered there is a risk of your dog getting too much. Excess calcium has been linked with hip dysplasia and even with an increased risk of bladder stones.
It has also been shown that an excess amount of Vitamin A can cause joint pain and dehydration.
If your dog has a medical condition that may require additional supplements, then these should only be introduced in conjunction with advice from your vet or a qualified canine nutritionist.
If you are preparing a home cooked diet, we would always suggest consulting with a qualified canine nutritionist to ensure that your dog is getting an appropriately balanced diet.
If your dog is on a home cooked diet it is important to ensure that they are receiving the right balance of nutrients. We recommend consulting a qualified canine nutritionist for advice on the correct balance