Does My Dog Need Supplements? How To Optimize Your Dog's Diet

Supplements provide missing ingredients in your dog's diet to help them live longer. Common uses include joint pain, digestion issues, and skin & coat problems.

Aly Walansky

Updated May 25, 2023 • Published April 08, 2020

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Does My Dog Need Supplements? How To Optimize Your Dog's Diet

In this modern age of pet care, people are more concerned with their pets' wellness than ever. We're paying attention to ingredients, we're buying health insurance, and we're constantly searching for new ways to boost our dog's nutrition. One of the most common means of doing so is by adding supplements to your dog's diet. But, like with anything else we're putting in our dogs' bodies, we want to be careful we're making the best decisions.

That's why we spoke to the experts — vets and nutritionists — about what supplements are, which dogs need to take them, and what aspects of a dog's everyday life they can help with. Here's everything you need to know about dog supplements:

What Are Supplements?

A nutritional supplement is a concentrated form of an ingredient added to a pet's diet to boost nutrition and enhance a pet’s health or wellbeing. Supplements provide and bolster essential, but often hard-to-come-by ingredients in your dog's diet. These may not be necessary for every dog, but for some dogs, they can really help improve their quality of life. Supplements are often used to treat the following:

  • Joint and mobility

  • Digestive and immunity

  • Skin and coat

  • Allergy relief

  • Heart health

  • Behavioral problems

  • Antioxidants and more

“Healthy dogs who are eating high-quality, nutritionally complete, and balanced dog foods won’t benefit from most nutritional supplements, particularly vitamins and minerals that are already present in their diets at appropriate levels,” says Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, who serves on the advisory board for Pet Life Today.

Of course, just as with people, different dogs will have different supplement needs. “Age, breed, lifestyle, overall health/ existing medical conditions, and the quality of food they are eating all can have a great effect on what supplements a dog may benefit from,” says Gary Richter, DVM, Medical Director of Holistic Veterinary Care, founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition.

Remember, too much of some vitamins, minerals, and other supplements can be just as dangerous as too little, so be sure to use all supplements as directed.

Will My Dog Benefit From Supplements?

Dogs who have or are at risk for certain health problems can benefit from some types of supplements. “L-tryptophan and alpha-casozepine may help pets manage stress and anxiety and Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, which is useful in the management of many different conditions including osteoarthritis and allergic skin disease,” said Dr. Coates. Also: “Antioxidants like vitamin E and beta carotene may be helpful in supporting the immune system and preventing premature aging,” says Dr. Coates.

Additionally, veterinarians commonly recommend nutritional supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin as a part of treatment plans for osteoarthritis, adds Dr. Coates.

“Dogs with joint pain and arthritis, allergies or other skin problems, flaky or dry skin, chronic diarrhea” can benefit, explains Dr. Sara Ochoa, a small animal and exotic veterinarian in Texas and a veterinary consultant for Any dog who suffers from a chronic condition, such as joint pain, skin problems, or digestive problems could benefit from a supplement.

Supplements are great for many different problems. These are some of the most common symptoms that would make vets recommend supplementing your dog's diet.

Canva - Boxer Dog Getting Bandage after Injury on Leg

Joint Pain

For dogs with any joint or ligament injury, certain supplements can help. “Glucosamine and Chondroitin will help with inflammation of the joints. Omega will also help with joint inflammation,” says Dr. Ochoa. If your dog is in a lot of pain, there are new studies that point to CBD products that can also help with pain associated with arthritis.

Skin & Coat Problems

Omega 3s and EFA are great for skin problems or flaky skin. “There are three different common Omega 3 fatty acids for dogs, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA),” says Dr. Ochoa. Omega 3s are a common fatty acid supplement that's becoming very popular to use in dogs. This supplement has been proven to help with allergies, skin disease, heart and kidney disease, lymphoma, and much more. This is a great supplement to add to your pet's diet.

Canva - cruciferous vegetables capsules, dietary supplements for healthy eating

Digestive Issues

“Probiotics are good bacteria that are naturally found in your pets' intestinal tract, in medication form for your dog to take,” explains Dr. Ochoa. Probiotics can be ingested as a paste, powder, or in a capsule. “These can be put on your dog's food to help restore the natural gastrointestinal microflora in your dog's gut,” says Dr. Ochoa.

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