If you pop a multi-vitamin with breakfast each morning, you might be wondering if your four-legged friend could benefit from a nutritional boost as well. Pets and dietary supplements is a tricky issue, but an increasing number of veterinarians are recommending supplements as alternatives to prescription medications for common health and behavioral issues.
Reputable commercial dog food brands put time and effort into making sure their products meet dogs’ nutritional requirements, and most dogs eat the exact same food every day. According to Ashley Gallagher, DVM:
The best pet food companies will formulate their diets using feeding trials. This means that they create a food based on a formulation, then actually feed it to dogs and monitor their response to the diet via a variety of diagnostic testing. This gives a complete picture as to how each ingredient in the diet comes together in the final product.
However, few companies actually do this, and the dietary needs of your dog are likely to change over time. If you cook your own food to feed to your dog, you will likely need to supplement his diet as well.
Identifying Nutrient Deficiencies in Dogs
Multi-vitamins are generally not recommended for dogs, as you will need to determine the actual vitamin or mineral your dog is deficient in. If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with a particular disease, for example, that disease may be linked to a particular deficiency in his diet. Zinc is sometimes recommended for dogs diagnosed with dermatosis, for example.
Risks of Giving Supplements to Dogs
There are some risks associated with giving supplements to dogs, especially if your dog is already eating a well-balanced diet. Too many vitamins and minerals can actually be harmful when consumed in excess. For example, too much calcium can cause skeletal problems, too much vitamin D can harm a dog’s bones, and too much vitamin A can harm blood vessels.
Health Issues to Consider for Supplementation
As alternatives to chemically-filled prescription medications, more and more veterinarians are starting to recommend all-natural dietary supplements for preventative care and treatment of common health issues in dogs. If your dog suffers from any of the following conditions, you may want to bring up the topic of dietary supplements at your next vet appointment.
Dry, Flaky Skin
Unlike humans, dogs aren’t likely to slather moisturizing lotion all over themselves after taking a bath. Besides, they’d probably lick it off anyway! Dry, flaky skin is common among dogs, causing dandruff to form and become itchy and unsightly. Veterinarians often recommend supplementing dogs’ diets with omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, to nourish dry skin. Vitamin E is often recommended to use as well when supplementing a dog’s diet with fish oil. Make sure to get recommended dosages from your vet so that you know how much to use.
Joint and Mobility Issues
One of the most common reasons for supplementation in dogs is joint problems and issues with mobility. Like humans, dogs commonly develop arthritis, and glucosamine and chondroitin are often recommended together to protect a dog’s joints.
We recommend Seagate Shark Cartilage capsules for joint afflictions in dogs. It contains freeze-dried shark cartilage and has a fishy taste that most dogs enjoy. Small dogs up to 10 pounds can typically take one capsule per day, while large dogs over 100 pounds may need up to 10 capsules per day for severe joint issues. Fish oil can also help lubricate the joints of arthritic dogs. Always talk to your veterinarian for advice on proper dosage and administration.
It can be truly sad and scary to watch your dog develop dementia, but some vets recommend supplementation to protect and repair damaged brain cells in older dogs. Antioxidants may be able to boost your dog’s brain activity, as well as vitamin C and vitamin E. A vet may also recommend fresh, whole foods that you can feed to your dog that are rich in these ingredients.
If your dog has digestion problems, probiotics may be able to help. These supplements contain beneficial bacteria that control yeast and harmful bacteria in the digestive system. Probiotics are often prescribed to dogs after they take antibiotics for an infection. They can also be helpful for dogs that experience frequent diarrhea or a gastrointestinal disease.
A good resource to learn more about adding supplements to your dog’s diet is the Science-Based Medicine article, “The Top Ten Pet Supplements: Do They Work?“