Pet Care 101: Are supplements safe for your dogs?

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Many of us take vitamins and supplements to help our bodies with the daily recommended nutritional intake. Going beyond self-care to pet care, some pet owners also provide supplements to their dogs. Of course, there is love, but there are also practical reasons why pet owners give supplements to their dogs.

Some of these supplements are antioxidants that can help combat the effects of aging while others help the dog’s coat shine with less shedding. As well, there are also supplements that can help alleviate the effects of arthritis.

That said, some pet owners will give their dog’s supplements simply for the sake of it.

This raises the question: do dogs really require supplements? This article examines this issue to determine if pets, like humans, need nutritional supplements or not.

Do Dogs Need Supplements?

It depends on what you are feeding your dog. For people who feed their pets commercial dog food, the pet doesn’t generally need any supplements because most commercial pet food are designed to contain enough minerals and vitamins to meet each pet’s requirements. On the other hand, if you have shifted from commercial dog food to homemade meals, then there is a high chance that your dog will require supplements.

However, you cannot simply add any nutrition supplement pill into your pet’s food or water bowl; you should be properly informed about do’s and don’ts about this practice. Work closely with your vet to find out more about the nutritional content of your pet’s homemade meals. Licensed professionals are trained to give you proper suggestions about the correct supplements that you will need to add.

Are There Risks Involved?

Yes, there are risks involved in giving your dog supplements. If your pet is receiving sufficient amounts of minerals and vitamins from their food, then giving supplements will provide the minerals in excessive quantities, and this excess can cause health complications.

For instance, excessive calcium can cause bone and kidney issues while too much vitamin A can cause problems with the blood. This is why it is very important that you work closely with a licensed veterinarian.

Do Supplements Work?

Simply put, some supplements work while others do not. It all comes down to how the supplement is made and how it is used.

Fatty acids, for instance, have been shown to help the dog’s coat look much shinier. Furthermore, fatty acids have been proven to help in reducing most inflammations.

Antioxidants such as vitamin E can help reduce the effects of aging in dogs such as memory loss. If you see signs of forgetfulness or delayed mental cognition in your pets, ask your vet about vitamin E supplements.

Consulting Your Vet

It is highly important to consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any type of supplement. For instance, one reason for your dog’s dull and shedding coat might not be aging but a skin condition. Another example: if your dog has a weak rear end, this could be due to a neurological issue and not because of a lack of minerals in the pet’s food.

Here’s an additional warning: If your dog is under medication, note that some of the ingredients in nutritional supplements may cause a negative reaction with the medication.

To reiterate, taking your beloved pet to the vet can help you determine if you need to provide your pet with supplements. However, as mentioned, if your pet has a balanced diet that contains all essential vitamins and minerals, there is really no need to provide your dog with supplements.

Do Supplements Really Have Nutrients?

Sadly, pet supplements are not held to high-quality standards in quite the same ways as human supplements. In fact, there is a huge percentage of pet supplements in the market that do not provide the nutrition levels that they claim to on the packages.

Which brings us to the next question: If you worked closely with your vet and indeed found that your dog needed supplements, how would you identify the ideal brands?

A good way to find quality pet supplements is to read reports by organizations such as the National Animal Supplement Council or

When Pets May Really Need Supplements

One of the main reasons that can prompt a dog owner to give supplements to their pets is if the pet has a medical or health condition.

That said, with proper nutrition from an early age, many dogs will not require supplements.

Note however that many dog owners will give their pets supplements thinking that they are boosting their health while in reality, they are doing more harm than good.

How to Choose a Supplement

Here are six (6) handy tips that you can use when considering nutrition supplements for your dog.

  • Choose nutritional supplements for your pet dog from a product provider that specializes in making pet supplements for dogs such as
  • Buy a supplement from a company that does quality control checks. You can find this out by locating the lot number on the supplement packaging or label.
  • Check for certifications from an independent organization that verifies supplements.
  • Look out for claims that are too good to be true such as alleviating diseases such as cancer or hip dysplasia.
  • Avoid giving human supplements to dogs as some can contain harmful substances such as garlic that can harm your pet dogs.
  • Understand the minerals and vitamins that your dog needs. This way you are more likely to choose the correct supplements as opposed to sound-alikes.

Are Dog Supplements Regulated?

There is very little information on the internet regarding the safety of pet supplements. That said, organizations such as the FDA are doing what they can to provide the right information to pet owners on the safe use of the pet supplements.

What You Should Know About Supplements in Dog Food

You will need to check the stated supplements in your dog food to find out if it is in the correct amounts or proportions. For instance, while some dog food contains glucosamine/chondroitin, depending on the restrictions of a particular state or region, it may or may not be in amounts sufficient for therapeutic purposes.

At the same time, you may also find puppy food that contains vitamins to help prevent urinary tract infections (UTI). Others may also contain DHA vitamins that help boost cognitive functions.

Most vets will agree that you are much safer using dog food that contains minerals and vitamins than giving supplements to your dog.

Why You May Need Supplements for Homemade Dog Food

If you have decided to ditch commercial dog food for homemade dog food, then it’s important to take note of your dog’s nutritional requirements as well as the nutrients in homemade dog food. This will help you choose the right type of supplements to give your dog.

Keep in mind that different homemade dog foods will provide different nutrients to the dog. You would be surprised at how lacking homemade dog food can be on vitamins and minerals.

While they may be well balanced in terms of macronutrients – proteins, carbs, and fats – they  will often lack essential vitamins and minerals.

Supplement for Dogs

There is no denying that all living things – including pet dogs – require minerals and vitamins. When looking to give your dog such nutrients you will basically focus on multivitamins, probiotics, glucosamine, fiber, and Omega 3 fatty acids. Here’s a brief review.

Multivitamins – Your vet may recommend multivitamins for your pet. Do not give your dog a multivitamin made for humans. To remain on the safe side and to ensure that your beloved pooch doesn’t consume anything toxic, ask a vet to suggest specific brands of multivitamins.

Probiotics – This popular type of pet supplement includes healthy bacteria. Probiotics help to restore the bacteria in the dog’s gut. The vet will often recommend probiotics to help treat dogs with gastrointestinal issues. If your dog was recently under antibiotics, probiotics can help restore loss of gut bacteria.

Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM – This supplement can be highly beneficial for dogs with orthopedic conditions such as hip dysplasia or arthritis. It can provide lubrication to the joints and help reduce pain and inflammation.

Fiber – Your vet may recommend including fiber in the dog’s diet. This helps to make the stool bulk up to help prevent anal gland issues. It can also help in treating gastrointestinal issues as well as constipation.

Omega 3 fatty acids – These can help if your dog has medical conditions such as heart disease, joint inflammation, arthritis, certain cancers, or skin conditions.

When choosing any supplement for your pet, make sure that you avoid giving human supplements or fatty fish. Instead, go for a pet-specific formula.

Supplements That Are Toxic to Dogs

Many pet owners are under the impression that multivitamins are completely safe for pets. However, when consumed in large doses, some of them can be highly toxic. The four most harmful minerals and vitamins to dogs when taken in large doses, are calcium, vitamin D, iron and xylitol.

Xylitol, in particular, can result in low blood sugar and can even result in liver failure. Vitamin D can cause calcium levels in the blood to spike and can also result in kidney failure. Too much iron can result in organ damage. Taking too much calcium can also cause kidney damage.

Final Thoughts

There is plenty to think about and consider before providing your dog with supplements. Note that if you use commercial dog food with added minerals, your dog will generally have no need for supplements. You should only provide supplements if your dog has a medical condition or if you use homemade dog food that can often lack micronutrients.

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