Much like people use supplements, supplements for dogs are also a way to fill in the gaps in their nutritional needs and help support organ function or manage a specific health problem. Although most dog foods are formulated to give them all the nutrients they need, some age groups or dogs with certain health problems may need something else that will complement their diet due to a deficiency they may have.

Another reason why there might be a need for supplements for dogs is when owners choose to feed them homemade dog food instead of using store-bought materials, because when you’re making the food yourself, chances are there may be lacking some nutrients that your dog really needs.

In any case, it’s crucial that you always talk to your vet or a dog nutritionist before giving your dog any supplement. That way you’ll know exactly what nutrients and vitamins your dog is lacking so you don’t overdo it on anything. In this post, you’ll learn about the most common types of supplements for dogs.

1. Antioxidants

The body produces free radicals as a natural result of being exposed to ultraviolet rays, air pollution, and also digestion. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage DNA, cell membranes, and other parts of cells.

They do this because they lack a full complement of electrons which they’ll end up stealing electrons from other molecules, damaging them. These free radicals can promote cell aging, increasing the chances of developing cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants ​​neutralize free radicals and they do this by giving up some of their own electrons.

Antioxidants can be found in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Selenium and there are several treats you can give your dog that are boosted with these nutrients that have antioxidants.


2. Glucosamine

Glucosamine is a very popular supplement for dogs’ joints and it’s an essential component of glycoproteins that are found in joint synovial fluid and connective tissue. They’re often used for treatment in humans and can also be beneficial for dogs that are prone to joint problems.

Although glucosamine can help heal joints, it is sugar-based which can be harmful to dogs with diabetes. Some synthesized glucosamine derive from shellfish shells and some dogs can be allergic to them.

Glucosamine is easy to administer and available in many forms such as pills, powders, and treats.

3. Omega-3

Omega-3 is a group of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids and it’s a very popular supplement amongst dog owners that want their dogs to have a shiny coat and reduce shedding. It contributes to healthy skin and fur and controls inflammation .
Dogs that don’t have enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet will usually have a dull or dry coat, hair loss, tend to become overweight, have eye problems, show signs of muscle weakness and its wounds may take longer to heal. One of the most popular ways to add this nutrient to a dog’s diet is by adding fish oil to their daily meals.

4. Probiotics

Our bodies (as well as dogs’ bodies) always have both good and bad bacteria. Whenever there’s an infection, that means the balance is off and there are more bad bacteria that are causing the infection. Adding probiotic supplements to a diet is a way to add good bacteria to help regain that balance. 

Probiotics work mainly in the digestive system, helping break down dog food to better extract and absorb nutrients, create vitamins and metabolize medication. However, using the wrong dosage can lead to diarrhea and other digestive issues. This type of supplement for dogs comes in several forms. It can be something as simple as adding plain yogurt to your dog’s diet, or purchasing probiotic capsules, or powders.


5. Vitamins

Vitamins are essential nutrients that enable your body to work properly and to stay healthy. ​​Different vitamins play a different role in the body, and each organism requires a different amount of each of them to stay healthy. Most vitamins will come from food because the body either does not produce them or produces very little of it.

Whenever a dog needs extra vitamins for any reason, vets may prescribe a multivitamin. Multivitamins for dogs are similar to the ones used in human nutrition. They have different types of vitamins and minerals that dogs need for their general health. The most common way to give multivitamins to dogs is through treats.

The vitamins and minerals that are most important for dogs are:

  • Thiamin (Vitamin B1): helps with breaking down and absorbing carbohydrates;
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and Niacin (Vitamin B3): help with enzyme functions present in many biological activities such as digestion, reproduction, growth, etc;
  • Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6): helps blood cell function, immune response, nervous system function, and hormone regulation;
  • Folic acid (Vitamin B9): helps protein synthesis;
  • Vitamin K: metabolizes calcium into the bones and promotes healthy blood coagulation.

Making sense of it all

If the dog food you’re currently giving your dog says it’s complete and balanced, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to buy any supplements for dogs as it should be already getting all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs. The only exception to this is if your vet recommends one due to a specific nutritional need. Otherwise, you can stay clear from any supplement and too much of certain nutrients can be bad for your dog.

One thing you should never do is give your dog any human supplements as they have very different nutritional needs and some of them can contain xylitol which is toxic to dogs.

It’s also important to note that supplements for dogs aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. There are still few studies that have tested their long-term safety. So if your vet decides that giving your dog a supplement is the way to go, make sure to follow theirrecommendations and only pick products that have a quality seal by the National Animal Supplement Council.