Type “supplements for dogs” into your favorite search engine and you’ll be bombarded with products promising to improve your dog’s itchy skin, joints, and heart health, and to enhance their homemade diet and general health.
But, does your dog really need supplemental support? Will supplements really make a difference to your dog’s health, mobility, and longevity? We consulted a wide variety of expert sources to separate truth from marketing tactics.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines a supplement as: “A feed used with [sic] in conjunction with another feed to improve the nutritive balance or performance of the total feed, and intended to be fed undiluted as an addition to other feeds.” Or, in the case of base mixes (i.e., vitamin and mineral combinations intended to balance homemade diets), “further diluted to produce a complete feed.”
According to pet supplement sales data, dog and cat owners are eating up the idea of enhancing their pet’s health with dietary supplements. In April 2019, the pet supplement industry was valued at approximately $636 million, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts, and most could be attributed to dog owner spending. Pet supplements have been steady, sometimes outstanding, pet market performers for more than a decade. They have maintained momentum thanks to the pet market’s driving focus on health and wellness, age and obesity-related health conditions, nutrition’s role in a dog’s preventive health and wellness routine, and functional ingredients and products targeting specific health conditions.
The supplement aisle at your local big box pet store is a cornucopia of carefully crafted concoctions for every four-legged affliction. Fortunately, your dog is unlikely to ever need most of them.
Take a closer look at the supplements used most commonly in dogs.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, a natural anti-inflammatory compound that can improve your dog’s skin and coat, relieve irritating allergies, and ease chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are also recommended for pets suffering from, or at-risk for, various heart conditions.
However, high fish oil doses can negatively affect your dog with problems that include digestive upset, diarrhea, and pancreatitis, so always consult your veterinarian before adding fish oil to your dog’s diet.
Glucosamine is a cartilage-building amino sugar found in the fluid surrounding your pet’s joints. Glucosamine is a well-known joint supplement for dogs that veterinarians frequently recommend for arthritis-related pain and stiffness, because they believe supplemental glucosamine can help reduce joint pain and support healthy mobility in senior dogs. A 2007 study in The Veterinary Journal demonstrated that glucosamine supplements reduced pain and increased mobility after 70 days of treatment but, with that exception, clinical research validating glucosamine’s effectiveness for joint health is limited.
Probiotics (i.e., beneficial bacteria) are now popular human dietary supplements, so it’s no surprise that they’ve found their way to our four-legged friends. Probiotics are typically fed to your pet to improve their gut microbiome and support intestinal health, and sometimes to treat diarrhea. Probiotics are available in many forms, including yogurt, pills, and powders, and are included in some dog food formulas.
The human hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) craze has reached your dog’s food bowl. But, don’t worry—CBD contains none of marijuana’s addictive or mind-altering properties. Dog owners give their canine companions CBD or hemp supplements for their relaxing and pain-relieving effects for problems from anxiety and allergies, to cancer support. CBD and hemp-containing products include chews, treats, peanut butter, and CBD-infused honey.
Milk thistle has been shown to safely and effectively treat a number of liver conditions. Specifically, milk thistle can protect the liver against toxins, stimulate new liver cell growth, and act as a potent anti-inflammatory. Most dogs tolerate milk thistle well, but high doses can lead to upset stomach, gas, and mild diarrhea, which reducing the dosage can remedy.
In most cases, probably not. Despite the marketing hype, AAFCO says, “Generally speaking, healthy dogs and cats that are fed a complete and balanced diet appropriate for their life stage do not [need supplements].” However, the organization concedes that “Veterinarians sometimes prescribe special ‘supplements’ or ‘therapeutic diets’ for pets with certain disease conditions.”
At Ollie, we know plenty about creating a balanced diet. Our recipes are designed to ensure your pup has everything they need in each personalized portion. We work closely with veterinary nutritionists and source only the highest quality human-grade ingredients that will keep your dog nourished and healthy. Their personalized meal plan is then tailored to their exact needs, based on their breed, life stage, weight, and activity level.
Although supplements—especially those labeled natural or plant-based—may seem safer than traditional pharmaceutical drugs, supplements are not risk-free and should never be fed to your pet without veterinary approval. Unauthorized supplements and dosages can interact with your dog’s current medications, mask serious underlying health issues, create a false sense of security, and cause more problems than they solve.
If you think dietary supplements would benefit your dog, work closely with your veterinarian to ensure an accurate diagnosis and to develop a targeted treatment plan. Your veterinarian may need to monitor your pup’s condition with periodic blood tests and exams to stay informed about their ongoing treatment plan and supplement dosage.
If your veterinarian doesn’t recommend a name-brand supplement, you likely will be overwhelmed by the many choices. Look for a well-known brand with a good industry reputation—checking for the The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) Quality Seal, which indicates compliance with rigorous third-party testing and strict quality standards, makes this easy.
Next, give your dog only supplements labeled for pet use. Human-use products, despite the same name and primary ingredient, may contain unsafe doses or pet-toxic ingredients such as xylitol.
Finally, look closely at the product’s ingredients. Like dog food, supplements can contain cheap fillers and harmful or unnecessary additives that aren’t always included on the label. ContactCall the manufacturer to ensure your pet’s supplement doesn’t contain these ingredients:
If you’re concerned you may not choose a safe, high-quality supplement, ask your veterinarian for brand or manufacturer recommendations.
While many high-quality supplements are designed to improve your dog’s quality of life, others prey on your desire to ensure your dog receives nothing but the best. If confusing supplement labels and advertisements trigger uncertainty, remember—a complete and balanced dog food such as Ollie provides everything a healthy dog needs.
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