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Should I Give My Dog Supplements? Our Vet Answers

Written by: Dr. Iulia Mihai, DVM MSc (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on May 6, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog waiting for the owner to give the supplement

Should I Give My Dog Supplements? Our Vet Answers


Dr. Iulia Mihai Photo


Dr. Iulia Mihai

DVM MSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

A balanced diet and physical activity are the essentials to keeping your dog healthy. But what do you do when your dog’s diet is not balanced or they suffer from vitamin-mineral deficiencies? In such cases, you should ask your veterinarian for supplement recommendations.

Most supplements can help your dog in many ways. For them to have a shiny coat and healthy skin or an increased appetite, for example, vitamins and minerals are extremely important. Supplementing these can also help strengthen your dog’s joints and bones, relieve pain, or aid in chronic diseases.

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What Are Supplements for Dogs?

The purpose of these products is to supplement the daily intake of nutrients when certain substances are missing or are not found in sufficient quantity in a dog’s diet or when a dog has specific nutritional requirements.

Supplements may contain vitamins, minerals, plant extracts, amino acids, enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, and antioxidants.

Who Needs Supplements?

Usually, dogs that need supplements are:
  • Puppies
  • Senior dogs
  • Dogs with chronic diseases
  • Dogs with nutritional deficiencies
  • Dogs diagnosed with conditions that cause malabsorption of certain nutrients
  • Dogs that must eat a vegan diet
  • Dogs placed on diets not natural to their species, such as a vegan diet

Should I Give My Dog Supplements?

Most pet food manufacturers formulate diets to provide all the essential nutrients that pets need to develop and thrive. Therefore, canines fed a high-quality complete and balanced diet usually do not need supplements unless their veterinarian recommends otherwise. Dogs that are fed inadequate, low-quality diets, for example, can develop nutritional deficiencies. These can be corrected with supplements of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or antioxidants.

So, if your dog is receiving good quality food that they tolerate and assimilate properly and that gives them all the nutrients that they need, do not change or supplement it because there is no need to do so! Otherwise, you risk making your dog sick and even killing them (as can happen in the case of excessive vitamin D, which leads to toxicity).1

If your dog is healthy and receiving an adequate diet, but you still want to give them supplements, contact your veterinarian first. If you prefer to cook for your dog instead of feeding them commercial diets, it will most likely be necessary to supplement their food with vitamins, amino acids, and minerals. If your dog is in their growth period (puppies up to 1 year) or is a senior, the vet may recommend supplementing their food with various vitamins and minerals.

giving shih tzu a dog supplement
Image By: ALPA PROD, Shutterstock

The 6 Types of Supplements for Dogs

There are several types of supplements for dogs.

1. Calcium Supplements for Growing Puppies

All puppies, regardless of breed, have a fast growth rate in their first months of life, so the calcium and vitamins in their diet may not be enough to fulfill their nutritional needs. Depending on your dog’s breed and size, calcium supplements and vitamins can be given up to a certain age. After this period, maintenance vitamins and minerals will be administered. Pregnant or nursing bitches may also require calcium supplementation, but only after a veterinary check-up.

Supplementing a dog’s diet with calcium is usually necessary when they suffer from malabsorption or other pathologies. But don’t supplement your puppy’s food with calcium on your own—always ask your vet for advice! Dogs cannot assimilate the excess calcium, and it can lead to various conditions, especially in senior age.

2. Supplements for Senior Dogs

Senior dog supplements contain a mix of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help them with the health problems that occur with age. They effectively reduce the signs of aging, support the immune system, and help your dog enjoy life.

Senior mixed breed dog resting at home
Image By: Larissa Chilanti, Shutterstock

3. Supplements With Probiotics for the Health of the Digestive System

Digestive health is essential to your dog’s well-being. Supplements containing probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes contribute to better absorption of nutrients and relieve problems such as sensitivities or chronic diarrhea.

Other beneficial effects include:
  • Help control skin infection problems
  • Support the immune system
  • Help eliminate smelling stools
  • Help reduce unpleasant odors in your dog’s mouth
  • Help restore the microbiome after a course of antibiotics
  • Prevent digestive problems and vomiting
  • Reduce excess intestinal gas and bloating

4. Supplements for Maintaining the Health of Joints and Bones

Joint pain can affect dogs of any age, though older dogs are more prone to arthritis (inflammation of the joints). Arthritis in dogs is a common health problem and can go unnoticed for years, as your pet will not show any signs of pain and discomfort until they become severe.

Joint and bone supplements aid in relieving pain and discomfort and help dogs maintain mobility by reducing joint stiffness.

The best dog joint and bone supplements include:
  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin sulfate
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium
  • Methylsulfonylmethane

These compounds help decrease inflammation and improve your dog’s body’s ability to strengthen and repair damaged tissues.

You can start giving your dog joint supplements at an early age to minimize the risk of articular problems later but talk to your vet first.

5. Supplements for Healthy Skin and Shiny Coat

These supplements come in the form of oils, pills, or powder. Omega-3 fatty acids, found mostly in salmon or fish oil products for dogs, are ideal for improving your pet’s diet, especially when they have itchy and flaky skin and dull fur.

Golden Retriever dog eating
Image Credit: chendongshan, Shutterstock

6. Supplements for Convalescent Patients

These supplements help dogs recover from digestive disorders such as gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, or other ailments, support rehydration, and increase appetite. They can also be recommended to anemic dogs or pets that have just undergone surgery for a faster recovery.

These products usually contain electrolytes, easily absorbable carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and prebiotics.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are Dog Supplements Safe?

Dogs’ supplements are safe as long as the veterinarian recommends them. Even if the package states that they are natural, that does not mean they cannot make your dog sick or even kill them. Dogs that lead a healthy lifestyle and have an adequate complete and balanced diet do not require supplements unless your vet says otherwise.

dog owner talking to vet
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

How Many Supplements Are Too Many for My Dog?

Always respect the indications and dosage provided by your vet. If they did not tell you how many supplements to give your dog per day, follow the dosage written on the package. If you forgot a dose, give your dog the next one when you remember. If you are unsure whether you gave your dog their dose, just skip that day, and give them the next one as scheduled. Overdose can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, seizures, tremors, etc.

Can I Give My Dog Multiple Supplements at Once?

It is generally safe for your dog to take several types of supplements at once. Just make sure the common ingredients do not overlap too much. Your vet can guide you with the specific recommendations of supplements that your dog needs. You also need to consider how they should be taken, as certain supplements can irritate your dog’s stomach. It’s typically recommended to administer these supplements after your dog has eaten.


Final Thoughts

Generally, healthy dogs that consume an adequate and balanced diet do not need to take supplements. If you think that your dog needs them, though, talk to your veterinarian first. Although supplements are usually safe, an overdose can occur if you give your dog too many at once. Signs of overdose include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, tremors, and seizures. Unsupervised supplementation might do a disfavor to your dog’s health, and in extreme cases, they can even lead to your pet’s death.

Featured Image Credit: Billion Photos, Shutterstock

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