3 Nutritional Supplements for Your Dog — Are They Safe? Do They Work? : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Wednesday Jul 11 | BY |
| Comments (11)

You may have a pill container for your supplements,
but does he really need one too?

Have you taken a walk through your pet store lately? If so, you may have noticed several shelves devoted to canine supplements. Pills, liquids, chews, bones, and more now contain vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other supplemental ingredients that may or may not be good for your pet.

It’s no secret that the human dietary supplement industry earns billions for the makers of these products on an annual basis. It was only a matter of time before companies tried the same thing with pets, and the venture is succeeding. After all, we’re so close to our dogs, we assume that they would benefit from a daily vitamin and mineral supplement just like we would.

But is it really safe to give our dogs supplements, and if so, are some more recommended than others?

Experts Question Current Pet Supplement Industry
According to a report by the National Academies on the safety of dietary supplements for horses, dogs, and cats, “Growing numbers of pet owners are giving their pets dietary supplements in hopes of supporting their health.” At the request of the FDA, the Natural Research Council convened a committee of experts to assess the safety of supplements. The report concluded the following:

  • It is clear that safety of the same supplements in humans does not guarantee safety in animals.
  • The absence of laws and regulations that specifically address animal dietary supplements causes considerable confusion to the industry and the public.

Indeed, the whole idea of supplementing the diet of dogs is still in its infancy, with few studies providing guidance as to what supplements are effective, at what dosages. That means that pet owners need to tread carefully in this arena, and choose only those products you think your dog truly needs—and that have shown so far to be safe.

One of the top ten conditions reported in dogs for 2009, arthritis can be especially difficult for both pet owner and pet. It can limit activities you once enjoyed together, like walks and frisbee games, and can also make it difficult for your animal to continue to be close to you, especially if stairs become a problem.

Sold alone or in combination with chondroitin, MSM, and other ingredients, glucosamine can be found in supplements and even in quality dog food brands. Though some studies have found glucosamine to help ease arthritis symptoms in humans (while others have not), studies on dogs are limited. Of these, one showed a small benefit, while another showed none. In fact, a short feature in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the recommendation of glucosamine and chondroitin as an alternative to NSAID medicatoin for the treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs.

The good news is that the risks with this supplement are negligible. In other words, most likely it’s not going to hurt your dog to try it. Many pet owners swear by it, seeing real improvement in their dogs after use. The important thing is to look for a quality supplement that provides at least 1,000–1,500 mg a day of glucosamine, 1,000 mg/day of MSM, and 800 mg/day (or more) of chondroiton. (Less for smaller dogs. Check with your vet.)

Fish Oil
This is another of the popular supplements in use for dogs today, and it’s difficult now to find a food that isn’t fortified with omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil. These supplements are used for allergic skin disease, with some clinical trial evidence supporting its efficacy. Many owners also use fish oil supplements to help ease arthritis. Again, the studies are limited, but one showed no significant difference between dogs that received fatty acid supplements and those that didn’t, while the other showed only limited effectiveness. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), however, released an overall positive press release concerning the studies, indicating that fish oil may improve arthritis symptoms for dogs.

A 2010 review of the evidence concluded there is some evidence that fish oil supplements can improve coat quality and reduce the dosage of steroid medications needed to control itching, but that the effects were small.

Unlike glucosamine, however, owners need to use some caution in adding fatty acid supplements to their dogs’ diets. A study published in 2010, for instance, noted that though fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects at low concentrations, increased dietary consumption can increase the risk of free radical damage in the body. Feeding 21 healthy dogs these supplements resulted in more fatty acids in the blood, but also an elevated lipid peroxidation.

The researchers cautioned that more studies need to be done, and “caution should be exercised when supplementing commercial canine diets with polyunsaturated fatty acids as some types may increase the risk of lipid peroxidation and oxidant injury.”

Recommended doses of omega-3s are 175 mg/kg body weight.

In humans, they seem to help regulate digestive processes and boost the immune system, among other things. Studies in dogs are limited, but there are a couple showing benefits. One published in 2009, for instance, found that probiotics may provide veterinarians with another tool for the management of acute diarrhea in dogs. A second study published in 2010 found that probiotics may reduce the convalescence time in acute self-limiting diarrhea in dogs.

The problem with probiotics seems to be finding a quality product. A recent study found that many tested had inaccurate labels, with many not containing the amount or species of organisms claimed on the label.

Overall Conclusions
There are many other supplements out there that are currently popular with dog owners, including lysine, milk thistle, SAM-e, digestive enzymes, and CoQ10, but most still have very few clinical studies behind them. The arena of pet-based nutritional supplements is still new, and research is only just beginning. We’re likely to learn more about the unique nutritional requirements of dogs as we go, so it may be best to use caution at this point.

Like humans, dogs need a lot more than a vitamin here or there to achieve optimal health and long life. In addition, figuring out where a particular supplement may benefit your best friend is likely more complicated than we’d like to think, involving an analysis of his current diet and exercise habits, as well as his particular health challenges. Your best bet may be to talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s health, and to ask about what supplements may be beneficial. Then use your own best judgment, but realize that more is not necessarily better.

Kev’s Thoughts:

The first question to ask is “do you feed your dog a natural diet.”

If you’re feeding them dry, carbohydrate rich food then chances are your dog is eating the SADD (Standard American Doggy Diet) diet.

I’ll comment more on our own personal experience with Jonny 5 when the cat supplement recommendations are published, but I think the key here to remember is that less is likely better — unless your dog has an issue and seems to show improvement using a supplement.

One of the challenge of doing studies on supplements and dogs is that you can’t ask a dog how they’re feeling and get the same type of response as you would with a human. It can be argued that dogs are less likely to bark out how much pain then have on a scale of 1-10.

Also, contrary to what Colleen has inferred here, I don’t think you need science to prove everything before you take it (or maybe even give it to your dog.) I actually haven’t looked at much study on lettuce — if there even is much — but I’m still eating it like it’s going extinct.

But even contrary to that, your dog is much less likely to tell you — with specificity — that its stomach hurts, or it feels foggy, or any other symptom it’s experiencing. Yes, you can read your dog’s behavior, but it is just too subjective for your to determine what’s happening or what it’s feeling 100% of the time.

So, bottomline, if the dog needs some gut healthy foods, fish or fish oil, or joint relief — run with these supplements and report back with what you observe.

Do you add supplements to your dog’s diet? What results have you seen? What would you recommend?

* * *

Photo courtesy kola1079 via Flickr.com.

The National Academies, “Safety of Dietary Supplements for Horses, Dogs, and Cats (2008),” Division of Earth and Life Studies, http://dels.nas.edu/Report/Safety-Dietary-Supplements-Horses/12461.

“Two Studies of Fish Oil for Canine Arthritis,” The SkeptVet Blog, January 25, 2010, http://skeptvet.com/Blog/2010/01/two-studies-of-fish-oil-for-canine-arthritis/.

John M. Walters, et al., “Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Dietary Supplementation Induces Lipid Peroxidation in Normal Dogs,” Veterinary Medicine International, Volume 2010 (2010), Article ID 619083, http://www.hindawi.com/journals/vmi/2010/619083/.

Brennen McKenzie, “The Top Ten Pet Supplements: Do They Work?” Science Based Medicine, http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/the-top-ten-pet-supplements-do-they-work/.

Kelley RL, et al., “Clinical benefits of probiotic canine-derived Bifidobacterium animalis strain AHC7 in dogs with acute idiopathic diarrhea,” Vet Ther. 2009 Fall;10(3):121-30, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20037966.

Herstad HK, et al., “Effects of a probiotic intervention in acute canine gastroenteritis—a controlled clinical trial,” J Small Anim Pract 2010 Jan;51(1):34-8, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20137007.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. crow says:

    Check out Dr Karen Becker who know more about this stuff.


  2. Gail says:

    Yes, Dr Becker is a great holistic vet and if you go to the website, you can sign up for her newsletter. I currently feed my dog a raw meat diet, I buy it frozen from my holistic vet and give probiotics, krill oil and kelp plus a supplement called canine immune support. We lost his half brother last year to lymphoma so we’re trying to stay ahead of the game with him, no health problems so far.

  3. Gale says:

    of the fish oils, Wild Salmon oil is the best. If your dog has heart disease, then CoQ10, WSO, taurine, Vit E and Lcarnitidine will help. Glucosamine helps arthritic dogs.

    WSO is also an anti-inflammatory that does work with dogs. Vets don’t know a lot about what dogs should eat, so they say no for supplements, but check out Monica, who has studied only what our pets should eat, and has some of the best info on the web, and supplements and books that will help you with anything wrong with your dog. When my dog was diagnosed with heart disease at 8.5 yrs of age, ad lung cancer at 9, Monica’s help helped me keep him alive, and he will be 12 in September.

  4. Darlene says:

    Lew Olson has the best holistic and natural products for health as well as for treating conditions. http://b-naturals.com/ is a dogs & cats ‘health’ website for supplements

  5. Brianne says:

    Our dog had some sort of tumor/cyst on his paw, so we searched out what we could do for him. The biggest thing we learned was we were feeding him the wrong diet. We found Pat McKay’s website, and she guided us on switching him to a raw diet, and giving him some supplements. The growth has stopped growing and has changed color. Our dog is so much happier now. I know there are a ton of supplements, but the ones we order from her, really seem to be doing the trick. Check out http://www.patmckay.com

  6. Kris Gallagher says:

    The Dr mercola website has great pet supplements. Spirugreen is a brilliant supplement which has perked up all my dogs. My eldest ( a German shepherd ) has benefited greatly from their joint formula as well as their probiotics while thewas on long term antobiotics for a skin condition. They are all on a raw diet of mainly green tripe , chicken frames and salmon and offal. One of my shepherds died recently to bloat from kibble so only feeding raw from now on.

  7. Stephanie says:

    We feed our adopted lab grain-free kibble in the AM and homemade/real food for dinner. Her dinner consists of a meat protein, sprinkle of diatomacious earth, flax oil and a blended mix of greens and fruit. Mid -day, after her morning walk and swim, she gets a drink with a few berries, goat yogurt, a sprinkle of powdered greens and her very favorite – coconut oil. She LOVES coconut oil. Her diet has made her coat shiny/healthy looking, and her teeth are great. Oh- I forgot – her hors d’ouevre is 1/2 a brazil nut.

  8. Theresa says:

    Kevin, What do you feed Johnny5?

  9. SS says:

    My dad’s dog has benefited from glucosamine/condroiton supplements – he gets around better. I feed my dog a raw/dehydrated food (Honest Kitchen) without grains and canned food without grains because of our last dog who died of cancer, when I researched it, most of the experts said no grains for dogs, which what I had given her.

  10. Anna K. says:

    Stephanie, I love the “hors d’ouevre”.

    Comments are closed for this post.