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Keys Facts About Dog Vitamins and Supplements

Supplements can help some dogs overcome nutritional challenges and deficiencies.

March 21, 2024 4 min read
Keys Facts About Dog Vitamins and Supplements

Some dogs are finicky about what they eat, while others will happily plant their faces in any "chow" you present to them. While most commercial dog foods do a good job of providing essential vitamins and minerals, some dogs may need more of certain key nutrients than their normal diet can give them. Let's delve into the world of nutritional supplements for dogs, from the reasons your dog might need them to some of the most common forms of supplementation.

The Daily Balancing Act of Canine Nutrition

You may already know that dogs need sufficient daily amounts of basic macronutrients such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and fiber (along with that other all-important macronutrient, water). Beyond these basics, however, dogs also require a balance of micronutrients, including many different vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. When a dog consumes the macronutrients in food, its digestive system breaks them down into micronutrients for use throughout its body. Fortunately, omnivores such as dogs can get the nutrition they need from both plant and animal sources.

Signs That Your Dog Needs Vitamins

Micronutrients play pivotal roles in all kinds of physical functions for dogs. A nutritional insufficiency or imbalance can produce or worsen a variety of health conditions. Be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms of malnutrition in your dog:

  • Fatigue, lethargy, loss of energy, or exercise intolerance.
  • Unexplained skin problems and/or hair loss.
  • Changes in your dog's fecal consistency or bathroom habits.
  • Emotional changes, especially depression caused by an abnormal gut biome.

Even when a dog receives a well balanced diet, he or she may suffer from underlying conditions that interfere with nutrient absorption, making supplementation a must. For instance, if your dog has pancreatic issues, an intestinal infection, or a congenital inflammatory gastrointestinal tract inflammation, it may need different nutrients than a healthy dog just to keep its physical processes running normally.

Some dog nutritional supplements provide relief from chronic pain and other uncomfortable conditions. These supplements have anti-inflammatory properties that make them a viable alternative for pets who cannot tolerate anti-inflammatory medications well.

Common Supplements and Vitamins for Dogs

Canine nutritional supplements not only address the health issues noted above; they may also help with chronic health complaints. Take a look at some commonly-recommended dog supplements:

  • Water-soluble nutrients - Water-soluble nutrients are readily absorbed during digestion. Any unused amounts are eliminated by the kidneys and passed as urine. The antioxidant vitamin C protects cells against oxidative damage and supports immune function. The B vitamins help with energy regulation, fat metabolism, neurotransmitter production, cellular functions, and maintenance of many physical processes. Another nutrient, choline, can help prevent or reduce cases of fatty liver disease.
  • Fat-soluble nutrients - Since fat-soluble nutrients are stored in the body and broken down in the liver, they require more precise and careful administration to prevent them from reaching toxic levels. Even so, they're crucial for canine health. Examples include vitamin D (a critical vitamin that dogs cannot produce internally), vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant), and vitamin K (which enables normal blood clotting).
  • Minerals - If you feed your pet homemade dog food instead of a commercial formula, your vet may recommend mineral supplements to ensure sufficient amounts of essential micronutrients. For instance, calcium and phosphorus are critical for healthy teeth and bones, while magnesium supports the proper function of nerves and muscles. The right balance of electrolytes such as chloride, potassium and sodium help ensure normal nerve function while also helping your dog's tissue stay hydrated.
  • Probiotics - Your dog's gut needs a healthy number of "good bacteria” to counterbalance "bad bacteria" and promote normal food absorption. You can get dog-friendly probiotic supplements in the forms of capsules, gels, chews, and powders.
  • Fish oil - Fish oil capsules provide your dog with a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids can help sustain optimal neurological function while also easing painful joint issues such as arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help protect puppies and adult dogs against heart disease. If your dog is genetically predisposed to heart disease, your vet may suggest a fish oil supplement as an extra safeguard.
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin - Speaking of arthritis, your arthritic pup might experience significant pain relief and improved joint mobility by receiving daily glucosamine and chondroitin. These two nutrients, which manufacturers often combine in their products, work together to support healthy cartilage and keep joints lubricated.

Ask Your Veterinarian Which Vitamins and Supplements Your Dog Needs

While a wide variety of dog vitamins and other supplements are commercially available,that doesn't mean your pooch should take them all. You should always rely on your veterinarian's guidance in determining what to feed your pet. Sometimes, adjustments to your dog's diet might be enough to correct a nutritional imbalance. In other cases, medications might do a better job at tackling health conditions. Keep up with those regular wellness exams so your vet can give you the best advice on keeping your canine pal happy and healthy!

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