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The Facts About Vitamin and Mineral Supplements for Dogs

Amanda was raised with dogs and has kept dogs all her life. "Dogs aren't just pets," she says, "They're workmates, friends, and family."

While a third of dogs in the USA are fed supplements daily, American Veterinary Medical Association studies suggest that they are largely unnecessary and may even cause harm in some cases

While a third of dogs in the USA are fed supplements daily, American Veterinary Medical Association studies suggest that they are largely unnecessary and may even cause harm in some cases

Does Your Dog Need Dietary Supplements?

Mineral and vitamin supplements are commonplace these days, and millions of us take them every day. The debate goes on about their effectiveness and the potential long-term impact on our health and well-being of taking supplements. Scientific studies continue, while some folks are convinced and others still have their doubts. But even if you fall in the former camp, should you be giving mineral and vitamin supplements to your dog?

A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that up to a third of all dogs in the USA are fed dietary supplements regularly1.

The most popular supplements include multivitamins, treatments for arthritis, and fatty acids to improve skin and coat condition. The nutritional supplements for pets industry is worth about $2 billion per year, according to estimates.

But does your dog need supplements if you're feeding him a complete and balanced diet? A vet may prescribe supplements for an ageing or ill dog. But many dog owners may give them when they aren't necessary and may do more harm than good.

Does Your Dog Need a Vitamin Supplement?

Commercially produced dog food certified by the Association of American Feed Controls should provide your dog with all his dietary needs, including micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.

If you make your dog's food at home or feed a raw food diet to your dog, then he may need added vitamins and minerals. Before feeding homemade dog food or any specialized diet, always speak to your vet or an expert animal nutritionist to make sure it's right for your dog's needs.

If your dog is in normal health, then a balanced, nutritious diet is all he should need to eat. While you may add supplements to his diet, you're probably wasting your money

If your dog is in normal health, then a balanced, nutritious diet is all he should need to eat. While you may add supplements to his diet, you're probably wasting your money

Are Vitamin Supplements Harmful to Dogs?

Feeding supplements on top of a well-balanced diet could harm your dog, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Excessive calcium may interfere with natural bone development, especially in puppies. Added vitamin A could lead to dehydration, arthritis, and damaged blood vessel, and too much vitamin D may cause loss of appetite and muscular atrophy. Always consult your vet before adding supplements to your dog's diet.

Are Herbal Supplements Safer for My Dog?

Most herbal supplements go to market without clinical trials to find if they work and how safe they are. Sometimes, if your dog is ill, herbal supplements may interact with medicines from the vet in ways which could be harmful to your dog. Your vet can recommend which herbal supplements are helpful, which may be harmful, and which have no effects at all.

Supplements marketed as "herbal", "natural", or "organic" are probably no better or worse for your dog than any other

Supplements marketed as "herbal", "natural", or "organic" are probably no better or worse for your dog than any other

Do Vitamin and Mineral Supplements for Dogs Work?

While the FDA oversees the manufacture and sales of vitamin and mineral supplements for dogs, the industry is not regulated. That means products often go to market without proper clinical trials and testing. Veterinary organizations are unanimous in warning that despite several supplements helping with certain conditions, little scientific evidence exists to support their widespread use.

10 Most Popular Dietary Supplements for Dogs

A table showing the 10 most common dietary supplements for dogs, what they're supposed to do, and whether or not the claims are supported by scientific research (2)

SupplementHealth ClaimSupported by Scientific Evidence?

1. Glucosamine

Prevents arthritis

No

2. Fish Oil

Cardiovascular health and skin condition

Yes

3. Probiotics

Promote healthy digestion

Inconclusive

4. Multivitamins

Supplemental nutrition

No

5. Lysine

Prevents infections

No

6. Milk Thistle

Purge toxins

Inconclusive

7. S-adenosyl methionine (SAM-e)

Promotes healthy liver

No

8. Digestive Enzymes

Aids digestion

No research available

9. Coenzyme Q10

"Boosting" immunity

No

10. Azodyl

Promotes healthy intestines

No research available

Are Supplements Added to Commercial Dog Food?

There are strict guidelines for labeling on dog food packaging, including lists or ingredients and the percentages of vital nutrients the food contains. Manufacturers may add vitamins and minerals to their products. However, these are often in token quantities and not considered an effective dose. The exception is a specially prepared "therapeutic" food prescribed by a vet for dogs with specific ailments.

Does your dog need dietary supplements? Most vets think probably not. Unless he has a specific illness, a good, balanced diet, water, and plenty of fun and games should be all he needs to stay healthy and happy

Does your dog need dietary supplements? Most vets think probably not. Unless he has a specific illness, a good, balanced diet, water, and plenty of fun and games should be all he needs to stay healthy and happy

Your Dog Probably Doesn't Need Supplements

While you can buy dozens of brands of vitamin and mineral supplements over the counter, there's little scientific evidence to support their use. If your dog eats a healthy, balanced diet, he probably doesn't need them. If you have any doubts, always talk to your vet who can recommend a proper diet, treatment, and a reliable supplement if needed.

References

  1. "Assessing pet supplements" in JAVMA news. Retrieved from: https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/170115a.aspx
  2. "The Top Ten Pet Supplements: Do They Work?" in Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved from: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-top-ten-pet-supplements-do-they-work/

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2018 Amanda Littlejohn

Comments

Amanda Littlejohn (author) on November 01, 2018:

Hi Ellison,

Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. Glucosamine supplements are used in humans to treat joint pain associated with osteoarthritis, and similarly for dogs.

But scientific studies measuring the effectiveness of such supplements in humans demonstrated no effects (1) either as pain relief or as an anti-inflammatory when compared to a "placebo", namely a "fake" supplement with nothing in it but water, sugar and chalk (usually).

Similar trials have been carried out on dogs and show no improvement in lameness or mobility after taking the supplements.(2)

If you give your dogs good food in the right amounts for their breeds, ages, and lifestyles, water, plenty of exercise and lots of love, that's all they need. Come to think of it, that's all any of us really need!

References:

(1) Chondroitin Sulfate and Glucosamine Supplements in Osteoarthritis. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/tr...

(2) "Glucosamine and chondroitin use in canines for osteoarthritis: A review" in Open Veterinary Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC53562...

Ellison Hartley from Maryland, USA on November 01, 2018:

So interesting, I have always heard glucosamine was one of the most highly recommended for joints. Guess it depends on who you ask. My dogs don't get supplements Just the best quality dog food that I can afford.

Amanda Littlejohn (author) on October 29, 2018:

Hi Shelley,

Yes, supplements for animals are simply not regulated and so companies are happy to market them without proper scientific testing. The best is that you may be throwing your money away and the worst is that you may be causing harm to your pet. And again, there may be useful supplements for dogs, but until they're properly tested, how can we know?

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 28, 2018:

I’m surprised how many of these have little support. People are probably wasting their money unless there is scientific evidence to support a supplement.

Amanda Littlejohn (author) on October 28, 2018:

Hi Ruth,

You're welcome. I'm glad it helped you better understand your dog's nutritional needs.

Ruth Pointon on October 27, 2018:

This article has taught me a lot about my dogs nutrition I didnt know, thanks for putting it together.