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Dog Supplements: Which Ones Really Help?

Dog Supplements are Big Business

Vitamins and supplements take a star role in so many aspects of daily nutrition, and several of these products come recommended by our doctors. It is no surprise that supplements for dogs make up a multimillion-dollar industry. But, which dog supplements really help? 

At Union Lake Veterinary Hospital, we agree that no supplement can replace good veterinary care, but some dog supplements provide real help. We are here to walk you through some of the more common dog supplements, what they are used for, and if they may be right for your canine companion.

Dog Supplements 101

It may come as a surprise, but a third of U.S. dogs are reported to receive some sort of supplement. These supplements have been heralded to support overall health, as well as address certain conditions that affect dogs. There is no conclusive evidence into most of these over-the-counter products, although a number of them have been studied in recent years. 

Most veterinarians agree that the use of complementary dietary supplements can, at times, be helpful when paired with veterinary oversight and prudence. The most popular categories are joint, digestive, and skin and coat supplements. On the rise are supplements that boost heart health. Which supplements in these popular categories are most likely to help your dog? 

Dog Supplements to Improve Mobility

These popular supplements are used to support dogs who have arthritis and other joint related problems, because they help to reduce inflammation. These include:

  • Glucosamine – Glucosamine is the most commonly used supplement for senior dogs and those recovering from a joint or ligament injury. This amino acid, made from shellfish, comes in pill form, powder, and treats.

  • Fish Oils – Fish oils contain Omega-3 fatty acids which have not only been beneficial for skin and coat health, but they have also been shown to help with arthritis and inflammation.

Many of these supplements have been useful in encouraging better cognition in aging dogs, as well.

Other natural supplements that have been useful in increasing mobility include turmeric (containing curcumin), papaya extract, antioxidants, and ginger (anti-inflammatory).

Digestive Health Supplements

Curious chowhounds often end up with a sore tummy, but there are those breeds who seem more susceptible to gastrointestinal issues due to allergies and food sensitivities. Certain supplements have been known to help with these GI concerns, including:

  • Probiotics – These “live” essential bacteria that live in the gut flora not only are necessary for digestion but can also increase better immunity in our four-legged friends. 

  • Digestive enzymes – Digestive enzymes are specialized proteins important for breaking down food that is ingested and turning them into energy. Digestive enzymes include proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

Other supplements that seem to have some advantages in supporting digestion are canned pumpkin, plain yogurt, and L-glutamine (an amino acid).

Supplements for Skin and Coat Health

Several dogs suffer from skin disorders due to seasonal allergies and other conditions. While the underlying cause of poor skin and coat problems needs to be addressed, some products have been known to help reduce itchy and dry skin. These include fish oils, biotin, and coconut oil.

Dog Supplements for Anxiety

For dogs that feel anxious, products like Adaptil and Composure can help them feel calmer without sedation. Stress can come from noises like fireworks or thunder, separation anxiety, traveling, visiting the vet and more. Adaptil comes in multiple forms (collar, diffuser, spray) to provide calming support and relaxation when your dog is stressed, while Composure is a flavored chew. 

Dog Supplements with CBD Oil

Dog supplements containing CBD oil (one of the active ingredients in marijuana) have exploded onto the market in recent years. They are said to help with chronic pain and anxiety but there is little scholarly research yet. A new study at Cornell University reported good results for dogs with arthritis. There is ongoing research by the veterinary field in hopes of demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of these products for pets. Veterinarians aren’t currently allowed to recommend hemp or marijuana-based products, though, for treatment of any pet disease.  

No Supplement Helps if Your Dog Won’t Take It

Supplement companies are looking at making dog supplements easier to take since we can’t really explain to a dog that a particular pill or powder is good for them. Companies are looking at producing more functional supplement forms such as chews.

The Bottom Line…

There are good reasons for the use of certain supplements, and we agree that they can help to enhance overall health. However, pet owners should use caution and consult their veterinarian before venturing into the dog supplement aisle. Products like pet multi-vitamins and supplemental products need to come under more careful scrutiny before experimenting on a pet. Not only are some questionable in terms of value but many have no quality control. 

That is why we, at ULVH, encourage you to ask about these supplements before you purchase them. There may be a better treatment or supplement option for your pet, if they are suffering from issues addressed in this blog. Please do not hesitate to call us with your questions about dietary dog supplements.