By: Dr. Juli, DVM
A balanced and complete diet is vital for all species to ensure proper organ development, health, and function through all life stages. As your dog ages, their nutritional requirements and needs will also change to ensure their joints, skin, and organs are adequately supported as they degenerate. Although age is not a disease, your dog's body will not be as spry as they approach their gray muzzle years, and older dogs deserve just as much dietary support as puppies.
Supplements are one tool dog owners may reach for to support their pup's health. Some experts report that more than one-third of dogs in the United States may receive one or more dietary supplements. But is it safe to give your dog supplements? And can they be mixed? Because there is no one-paw-fits-all supplement regime for dogs, always consult your veterinarian before changing your dog's diet. It's also critical to read the labels, look at the active ingredients, and understand the intended use of an individual supplement.
What are Dog Supplements?
Dog supplements are concentrated ingredients that can be added to your dog's diet for nutritional or therapeutic reasons. Substances like amino acids, herbs, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals may be included in dog supplements. Specifically, dietary supplements, like vitamin B, a multivitamin, or omega-3 fatty acids, may be added to make a homemade diet more complete and balanced. Therapeutic supplements, a.k.a. nutraceuticals or animal health supplements, provide specific health benefits, including disease prevention or treatment. For example, glucosamine and chondroitin are among the most popular therapeutic supplements given to dogs with aging or painful joints to help improve mobility and decrease inflammatory responses.
What Are the Benefits of Supplements for Dogs?
Generally, healthy dogs receiving a commercially made, AAFCO-approved complete, and balanced diet do not need or require supplementation for proper organ function. However, depending on your dog's breed, age, size, and genetics, your veterinarian may recommend one or multiple supplements to support their overall health or to help slow the progression of certain diseases like osteoarthritis.
Your DVM may recommend supplements for your dog if:
- You feed a homemade diet. Making your dog's food at home likely does not provide all the necessary nutrients for proper organ health. Consult a board-certified veterinary nutritionist before formulating your dog's food at home.
- You want to boost your dog's kibble. Depending on the formulation and preparation, some nutrients, like fatty acids, may be leached from pet food during heating or cooking. Adding in a supplement can help account for lost nutrients.
- Your dog has a diagnosed disease. Dogs with underlying health conditions may benefit from therapeutic supplements to ease symptoms and work with your veterinary-prescribed medications. For example, a fish oil supplement can be given to allergy-prone dogs to promote healthy skin, which may be dry and flaky due to disruption in the skin barrier. Bonus: high-quality fish oil also doubles as a coat supplement to make your dog’s fur healthy and shiny.
- Your dog has gastrointestinal (G.I.) problems. Probiotic supplements are frequently recommended for dogs who have had a recent bout of diarrhea, food sensitivity, or underlying bowel disease. Combining prebiotics and probiotics will help rebalance your dog's gut flora and promote digestive health.
- Your dog is genetically prone to disease. Some breeds, like large breed dogs, are more prone to diseases, like arthritis, as they age. Adding a hip & joint supplement may help ease symptoms of painful joint conditions.
- Your dog has situational anxiety or stress. If riding in the car strikes fear in your pup's eyes, your veterinarian may prescribe anxiety medications and/or a calming supplement to lessen their stress.
What Are the Dangers of Giving Supplements to Dogs?
Too much of a good thing, including nutritional supplements, can harm your dog. Immediately contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center if your dog accidentally ingests too much of their supplement or if they accidentally eat a human supplement. Always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog a supplement.
Consequences of giving too much or the wrong supplement include:
- Vitamin toxicity. Excess vitamin ingestion can have potentially fatal consequences for your dog. For example, vitamin D is a common supplement prescribed to humans but should never be given to your dog. Ingestion can lead to G.I. problems or kidney damage.
- Allergic reactions. Some dogs may not tolerate certain supplements or ingredients. Monitor your dog closely when giving a new supplement and seek veterinary care if they show any of the following allergy signs: G.I. distress, swelling of the face, hives, itching, or difficulty breathing.
- Medication interaction. Some supplements may negatively interact with or decrease the effectiveness of veterinary-prescribed medications. This can make your dog ill or prone to more severe illness.
How to Safely Give and Mix Your Dog’s Supplements
Follow the specific dosing instructions once you are given the OK from your veterinarian to add one or multiple dog supplements to their diet. Never give a human supplement to your dog unless advised by your DVM because many contain additives like xylitol that are toxic to pets.
Other do's and don'ts for incorporating one or more supplements into your dog's diet include:
- Do give one dose first and monitor closely to ensure they do not have an allergic reaction.
- Do incorporate one supplement at a time and allow several weeks to pass to see if your dog's health improves.
- Don't give more than the recommended dose.
- Don't mix multiple supplements without gauging your dog's tolerance to an individual supplement first.
- Don't use supplements to replace veterinary care or prescription medications.
All About Native Pet’s The Daily Supplement
Native Pet's The Daily supplement makes it easier for pet parents to provide multiple nutrients in one everyday scoop to support your dog's overall health and wellness. The Daily contains 16 active dog-safe ingredients, including Vitamin C, collagen, and DHA to support joint health, gut health, immune system health, skin, coat, brain, and heart health. It can also be combined with other Native Pet supplements for dogs with specific health ailments.
For example, senior dogs, large breed dogs prone to joint disease, and dogs diagnosed with osteoarthritis may benefit from a supplement regime of The Daily, along with Native Pet's Relief Chews and Omega Oil, to provide joint support However, ensure to slowly introduce each supplement over time to gauge your dog's tolerance and response, and follow the recommended dosing for each supplement. Native Pet supplements, including The Daily, have been formulated by a veterinary nutritionist to ensure they can be safely combined.
Nutritional supplements can be a beneficial addition to your dog's diet and wellness routine. In many cases, they can be combined to provide your dog with multiple health benefits. Remember, human vitamins are for humans, and dog vitamins are for dogs. Always check with your family veterinarian, a veterinary nutritionist, or a holistic veterinarian to make sure you’re choosing a vet-recommended supplement with all-natural ingredients. Our pups are our family, so we want to make sure we’re giving them the best.
For more tips on your pet's health, check out the Native Pet blog.