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Does Your Dog Really Need a Dietary Supplement?

Does Your Dog Really Need a Dietary Supplement?

. 4 min read

A quick Google search for supplements for your dog will bring up results for itchy skin, joints, heart health, and even supplements to add to homemade diets. But do you need to give your pup these supplements? You may notice a wide variety of brands and ingredients making bold claims to boost your best friend’s health. Are they true? We looked at a wide variety of expert sources to determine what is truth and what is a marketing tactic.


What Are Dietary Supplements for Dogs?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)T defines supplements as: “A feed used with(sic) in conjunction with another feed to improve the nutritive balance or performance of the total feed.”

An April 2019 report by market research publisher Packaged Facts revealed that the pet supplement industry had a value of about $636 million. In their research, they found that the majority of this spending was done by dog owners.

They state that “For over a decade pet supplements have been steady and at times outstanding pet market performers, maintaining momentum thanks (to) the overall pet market’s driving focus on health and wellness, increased attention to age- and obesity-related pet health conditions and risks, the strengthening embrace of nutrition as part of a preventative health and wellness routine, and ongoing high-level interest in functional ingredients and products targeting specific health conditions.”

What are the most frequently used supplements and what are they used for?

Fish Oil

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. It is used for many reasons including improving your pup’s coat condition, relieving allergies, and reducing inflammation. Some pet owners believe it can be helpful with joint health, heart health, and for treating arthritis.


Glucosamine supplements are most commonly used to treat arthritis. In senior dogs, some vets and pet owners believe giving glucosamine can help with joint pain and mobility. You may be wondering what Glucosamine even is. It is an amino sugar that is found in the fluid around joints. It helps build cartilage. There is not much clinical research that shows glucosamines effectiveness. However, a 2007 study in The Veterinary Journal showed that a glucosamine supplement reduced pain and increased mobility after 70 days of treatment.


Probiotics have become a popular supplement in human diets so it is no surprise that they have also found their way to our pups. Probiotics are believed to aid in digestion as well as boosting intestinal health. Additionally, they are sometimes used to treat diarrhea. They come in many forms including yogurt, pills, powders, and are even sometimes added to dog food formulas.


Yes, our dogs are using CBD and hemp too. Owners are giving their dogs CBD or hemp supplements for everything from anxiety and allergies to support after a cancer diagnosis. You can find hemp or CBD and hemp chews, treats, peanut butter, and even honey infused with CBD.

Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle has been shown to be a safe and effective way to treat a number of liver conditions. Specifically, it can protect the liver against toxins, stimulate the growth of new liver cells, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. It is generally well tolerated by most dogs. If you give too much Milk Thistle common side effects include upset stomach, gas, and mild diarrhea, all of which can be remedied by lowering the dosage.


Does my dog need supplements?

In most cases, probably not. Despite the marketing hype, AAFCO says that: “Generally speaking, healthy dogs and cats that are fed a complete and balanced diet appropriate for their life stage do not (need supplements).

At Ollie, we know plenty about creating a balanced diet. Our Recipes are designed to give your pup everything they need. We worked with veterinary nutritionists and have sourced the highest quality human-grade ingredients to keep your pup nourished and healthy. We tailor your pup’s meal plan based on a number of factors including their breed, age, weight, and activity level.

While most dogs on a balanced diet do not need additional supplements AAFCO does go on to remind pet parents that: “Veterinarians sometimes prescribe special “supplements” or “therapeutic diets” for pets with particular disease conditions.”

If your pup has a specific condition and requires supplements you will want to work closely with your vet. This may include periodic blood tests or physical exams to monitor your pup’s condition.

You should not give your pup supplements without consulting your vet first. Some of these supplements can interact with medication your pup is taking or cause more issues than they solve. Yes, even all-natural or plant-based supplements.

Another reason not to give your pup a supplement without consulting your vet is that you don’t want to mask an underlying medical condition. Even if it does make your pup feel better, not getting to the root cause, and getting proper medical treatment can cause little problems to become bigger ones.

If you do need to use supplements

Choose a brand that is well known and has a good reputation in the industry. If you aren’t sure check with your dog’s veterinarian. Avoid sharing human supplements with your pup, they can contain ingredients that are toxic to your dog, like Xylitol.

The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out