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About one-third of dogs in the United States are given some sort of dog vitamins and supplements for everything ranging from dog arthritis and joint stiffness to heart health, digestion, and coat care. Although there hasn’t yet been sufficient research into the efficacy of these supplements to definitively say that they all work, there is some encouraging evidence to support the use of dog supplements for our pets. Here are some of the most popular dog supplements and why you might choose to give them to your dog.
One of the most popular supplements for dogs is glucosamine. Glucosamine is an amino sugar that is found naturally in the fluid around the joints to help build cartilage. Glucosamine is taken from the shells of shellfish and can also be made in the laboratory.
Many dog owners and veterinarians believe that glucosamine for dogs is effective in treating arthritis in dogs. For older dogs, it may relieve joint pain and improve mobility. Some studies have shown little to no effect. However, one study showed that a glucosamine supplement reduced pain and increased mobility after 70 days of treatment.
Available in many forms, including pills, powders, and chews, glucosamine supplements are usually formulated with chondroitin sulfate, which occurs naturally in the connective tissues of bone and cartilage. YuMove is the official joint supplement of the American Kennel Club, and it comes in chewable tablet and daily soft chew forms in formulations for both adult and senior dogs.
Another common supplement given to dogs is fish oil. Fish oil for dogs contains omega-3 fatty acids that are thought to improve coat quality and shine and help alleviate skin allergies. There has been some research into whether fish oils are useful in treating arthritis, heart health, and joint health, but so far, results are mixed. One study suggests that fish oils may reduce inflammation, and many dog owners use it for this purpose. Consult with your vet to make sure fish oil is right for your dog, especially if they are on any medications.
Antioxidant supplements for dogs are thought to counteract some of the effects of canine aging, such as memory loss and cognitive dysfunction. They’re also used as a treatment for heart disease in dogs and to reduce inflammation. Found in substances like vitamins C and E, antioxidants protect the body from free radicals, potentially harmful molecules that can damage cell membranes and even cause cell death.
Coenzyme Q10 for dogs is another natural and powerful antioxidant that helps convert food into energy and fights free radicals. It’s commonly used as an antioxidant supplement for dogs.
Given an increase in the use of probiotics in people, it’s not surprising that probiotics for dogs have also become popular. Probiotics live naturally in a dog’s digestive system in the form of live bacteria that aid with good digestion and intestinal health.
As supplements, probiotics for dogs can help treat diarrhea and other digestive problems. Probiotics for dogs come in several forms, including some yogurts, capsules, chews, powders, liquids and gels, pastes and purees, and in certain digestive health dog food formulations.
What to Know About Using Canine Supplements
Always consult your vet before giving your dog supplements. Your dog may have an underlying condition that needs medical attention. And if your dog is taking medication, supplements for dogs (even herbal ones) could have a harmful effect. Be a savvy consumer, and keep an eye out for claims that sound too good to be true. Supplements will not cure cancer, parvo, or other serious diseases.
Buy a reputable brand from a respected company, preferably one that specializes in supplements, has conducted clinical studies, and/or has earned certification from an independent organization like the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC). Also, don’t assume that supplements for people are automatically safe for dogs. Some, like those containing xylitol, can be toxic or even fatal. Always read ingredients and consult with your veterinarian.
Whether herbal or lab-formulated, there is some evidence to suggest that supplements can be helpful. There has been minimal research on their long-term effects, but some studies and anecdotal evidence have shown successful results, whether in the form of a shinier coat, peppier step, better digestion, or improved cognitive function. And isn’t that what we all want for our dogs?