5 Dog Supplements You Must Know About

A dog with bottle of supplements or vitamins.
A dog with bottle of supplements or vitamins. Photography by Holly Hildreth Photography.

The shopping bag thudded onto the exam table. “These are the ones I have out on the counter. There could be a couple more I missed. I was in a hurry.” Good thing I had plenty of time to sort through the enormous mound of dog supplements, vitamins and magic pills covering the table. OK, I’m joking about the magic pills, but one label promised that it “works like magic.” Needless to say, I was skeptical. “Mrs. Kilbey, I’m thrilled you’ve taken such an immense interest in Barney’s health. I’d like to help simplify things and share with you my top five supplements I consider for every dog. I’m sure they’re in here somewhere.”

1. Omega-3 fatty acids

A happy dog with a bowl of food.
Is your dog getting the supplements he needs? Photography ©damedeeso | Thinkstock.

The first supplement I recommend for any dog, cat or person is an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA have been recognized as powerful brain fuels for nearly a hundred years. The best sources of DHA/EPA for dogs are oils from fish and algae. Omega-3 supplements may potentially improve learning and preserve memory and cognition, aid eyesight and the nervous system and combat harmful inflammation.

DHA/EPA is a dog supplement that’s also helpful in treating arthritis, allergies and many skin conditions. Pets fed dry commercial diets rich in omega-6 fatty acids benefit from daily omega-3 supplements. Adding DHA/EPA to your dog’s diet helps restore a healthier balance of omega-6 to omega-3. Dosage may vary widely and depends on the dog’s age, weight, diet and medical condition. I typically use pet omega-3 formulations and avoid supplements with added Vitamin D.

2. Glucosamine

Dog glucosamine products are everywhere: Television advertisements boast miraculous claims, pet store shelves overflow with choices, and social media stories are abundant. But where there’s hype and hope, there’s also hoax. How can you tell the difference? I’ve been an advocate of glucosamine for decades, but I’ve become increasingly wary of some of the products.

One of the first things I look for when choosing dog supplements is the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal. NASC was established in 2002 to ensure quality and reduce risk for animal nutraceuticals. Next, is the company reputable and trustworthy? Can I speak to someone about ingredient sources, research and quality control? Finally, is there evidence to support usage? Veterinary formulations of glucosamine have been well-researched and have earned my trust. Talk with your veterinarian about the best glucosamine supplement for your dog.

3. Probiotics

I attended a special nutritional conference focused on probiotic research for humans and dogs last summer. A team of Harvard scientists impressed the audience with multiple studies proving probiotics’ positive health impacts in humans and animals. Improved digestive health, enhanced immunity and preventing many diseases were just a few of the potential benefits.

I left feeling validated and committed to promoting probiotics for my pet patients, especially those being boarded, stressed, undergoing anesthesia or with GI problems. I advise using a veterinary formulation or whole food probiotic containing at least one billion CFUs (colony forming units) daily.

Learn more about probiotics for dogs >>

4. S-Adenosylmethionine

SAMe, an anti-inflammatory supplement, is used primarily in dogs with liver disease, cognitive decline and arthritis. In humans, SAMe is also used to improve mood and combat depression and Alzheimer’s, and some veterinarians use it in certain behavioral conditions. I recommend SAMe for older pets with declining mental function, liver problems, toxin exposure and as part of my arthritis treatment. I only use special veterinary formulations proven to be properly absorbed. These products have a special coating that prevents stomach acid breakdown.

5. L-carnitine

I’ve recommended carnitine to my canine patients for years as an aid in weight loss, heart disease and to support brain function in older pets. (I also take it.) Dosing can range from 100 milligrams to 2 grams per day, based on the dog’s individual needs. Before I prescribe it, I always check for hypothyroidism, due to carnitine’s potential to impair thyroid hormone function. When treating obesity or heart disease, I often combine with omega-3, coenzyme Q10 and taurine.

Other dog supplements to know

These are only a few of the most common dog supplements your veterinarian may recommend. I’d also add turmeric, B vitamins, medicinal mushrooms, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) … the list can grow. My best advice is to talk with your veterinarian, determine your pet’s needs, and focus on a few supplements that make the most sense for your dog. Look for the NASC seal, ask for peer-reviewed studies, and investigate the manufacturer. What you choose to feed — and supplement — is the most important health decision you make for your dog each day.

Don’t overdo it when it comes to dog supplements

While I’m an outspoken advocate for nutritional dog supplements, I also urge caution. Research the safety and validity of a nutraceutical and ask your veterinarian about dosing. Pet owners often inadvertently overdose their pet on a favorite additive due to lack of information. Your veterinarian will offer therapeutic dosages based on a pet’s weight, age, breed and medical condition. We don’t know the long-term effects of excessive doses of many common supplements on pets, so I err on the side of caution.

I also rotate many supplements. Because of potential variances in production, processing, storage and handling, I switch manufacturers every three to six months. I began this nearly 25 years ago when concerns about contaminated omega-3 fatty acid supplements originated. To help counter the accumulation of any specific contaminants or prevent inadequacies, I chose two or three trusted brands and rotated them, a practice I continue to this day.

Tell us: What dog supplements to you give to your pooch?

Interested in supplements for dogs? Check out Healthy Solutions for Pets >>

Thumbnail: Photography by Holly Hildreth Photography.

Dr. Ernie Ward is an internationally recognized veterinarian known for his innovations in general small-animal practice, long-term medication monitoring, special needs of senior dogs and cats and pet obesity. He has authored three books and has been a frequent guest on numerous TV programs.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you!

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25 thoughts on “5 Dog Supplements You Must Know About”

  1. Pingback: 5 Dog Supplements You Must Know About – dogcaz.com

  2. Thanks for letting me know that omega 3 from algae and fish can improve learning, memory, and better eyesight for dogs. My sister is planning to buy omega 3 supplements for her newly adopted dog. She is also saying that she will directly buy algae dog treats. I think it’s a great idea given its health benefits for the pets.

  3. I wanted to thank you for going over different dog supplements. You mentioned that carnitine could be a good aid to support brain function in older pest. I’m kind of interested to learn if younger dogs could take it or if there would be a different alternative.

  4. It’s great to know all of this about these different dog supplements. I didn’t realize there were so many my dog could benefit from. If some sort of Omega-3 fatty acid supplement is your first suggestion, I’ll have to try that out.

    1. as i posted to melinda willette above, in case it helps your dog, i found bonnie & clyde omega 3 supplement to be the best. it’s certified by an objective 3rd party which is more than enough endorsement for me. i look for purity in what i feed my dog, not just what is in the supplement. i want to be sure that there are no pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, other contaminents. hope you can use this info, i would love if my hours of research benefits other dogs and saves their humans much time! linda

  5. hey ernie,
    if the nutrients will be there in natural foods , then is it good to feed suppliments to the dogs ?
    Like Omega-3 fatty acids present is fish, fish oil etc,
    Thanks in Advance

  6. Melinda Willette

    My 4 year old St. Benard has been dx’ed with idiopathic epilepsy since the age of 2, is on meds and home cook for her. Giving her lean 15% cooked pork, sweet potatoes, Fish Omega 3 oils, and strawberries. My vet, without testing her for any vitamin/mineral deficiencies wants me to give Human Vitamins, TUMS for calcium and other human vitamins and supplements. They are loaded with other ‘junk’ I don’t want my dog to have which may trigger seizures. I am also trying her on blueberries – she doesn’t like bananas. I know she should have more fresh vegetables in her meals …I have tried a powdered product (Balance It) which triggers seizures as well as Honest Kitchen. She seizes eating turkey, chicken and beef. Lean cooked pork (15% fat) works. I am wanting to know what other produce and calcium she can take and foods loaded with vitamins and minerals. Thank You, Most Sincerely, Melinda

      1. My dog has the same thing! We’ve been dealing with it for seven years now. She is off all prescription meds, finally. She is now on two drops of CBD oil in her food two times a day, and the chinese herb, Bu Xue Xi Feng Concentrated 90g Powder. her seizures have gone from major episodes approx four times a month, to two minor episodes twice a year!

  7. Pingback: Supplements and Superfoods for Dogs — What You Need to Know – Top Live Breaking News

  8. Jeannie Hallenbeck

    Thank you so very much. I tried coconut oil on my little buddy for his hot spots. The coconut oil did wounders for him. Thank you very much. Stewart also says thank you.????
    Sincerely yours Jeannie Hallenbeck,

  9. Pingback: What Food Supplements You Need to Give Your 🐶 Dog ·

  10. I have a extremely anxious, reactive dog I’m working a lot with. I use Solliquin as a calming supplement, I’m working with a trainer who is good with reactive, anxious dogs. I’m hoping one day I’ll be able to walk Winston without him barking and lunging and things that frighten him.

  11. Pingback: Turmeric With Forskolin Extract For Weight Loss – Fat Blocker

  12. Hi dr Ernie,

    I know that all (or at least most) of these nutrients are in all good dog food.

    But I did not know that too much can hurt. My mistake. I always found that the more nutrients the better. But I learned by reading your subject that you did not.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and making us learn some extra little things!

    Thank you!

  13. Elaine Granata Davis

    Thank you very much for your information. My dog has been fighting a cancer from last year. She has an amputated leg and now a tumor has been growing on her palm of the other leg. She likes to play and run and I can’t let her do it because she already scratched the palm of the her paw. She eats well, sleep well, go to the bathroom, etc. I don’t know what to do, but I’m so stress about it. She’s the only friend I have.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      Sorry to hear about your dog’s diagnosis. These articles might help:
      Thinking of you and your dog!

  14. I give my dogs advanced-hip-joint-chews-with-glucosamine-msm-chondroitin-turmeric.

    A 5 year old Staffordshire mix, a 2 year old Staffordshire and a 14 year old beagle.

  15. Pingback: 5 Dog Supplements You Must Know About – Doggd

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