Up to a third of U.S. dogs receive vitamins or supplements, most commonly to improve arthritic joints, reduce shedding, improve the appearance of the dogs coat, alleviate gastrointestinal, or reduce the effects of aging. But are dog vitamins and supplements necessary, do they work, and can they even be harmful?
If you dog exhibits symptoms of a disorder it is important to determine the cause. Coat issues may be caused by skin, metabolic or hormonal problems. Difficulty moving could be caused by arthritis or may be a neurological problem. By using vitamins for dogs without first consulting with your veterinarian, you run the risk of making a problem worse or causing a harmful interaction with other medicine your dog may have been prescribed.
Remember, many dogs can receive necessary vitamins and minerals from commercially available dog food. However, frequently dogs, such as those on a homemade diet, may develop deficiencies in some areas. It is important to check with a veterinarian to see if your pet is getting the best vitamins for dogs from its diet, or if a dog vitamin needs to be added.
Excess consumption of some vitamins and minerals can have negative effects. Excess calcium in the dog’s diet can cause skeletal problems. Vitamin A may harm blood vessels, cause dehydration and lead to joint problems. Too much Vitamin D can prompt appetite, bone, and muscle problems.
However this is not say supplements have no place in your dog’s diet. It depends on a variety of factors, not the least of which are what it is used for, what the dosage is, and how it is manufactured.
Many supplements carry little risk. Probiotics have almost no risk of side effects and are generally safe for long term use. Fatty acids may help coats look better, while fish oil supplements can reduce inflammation and are generally considered safe.
Some, while mostly safe, do need to be used properly. Vitamins C and E can reduce inflammation and improve cognition in older dogs, but long term use, particularly in younger dogs, has not been thoroughly researched. Supplements like Glucosamine-chondroitin not seem to have much on effect on minor joint pain, but dogs with moderate to severe pain may see some benefit.
Also, state regulations may restrict the amount of certain supplements in dog food to levels far below the amount needed for a therapeutic dose. Always check the label to determine how much of the supplement is actually present.
Even then, testing has shown that up to sixty percent of dog foods may not necessarily contain the amount of the nutrient they claim to have. In many cases, the quality is lower than it is for human supplements but things are improving. The FDA oversees animal supplements, and the National Animal Supplement Council is now setting labeling guidelines, testing products to insure they provide the amount of nutrients advertised, and requires reporting problems with supplements. The group includes approximately 90% of the industry as members.
There are some simple guidelines any dog owner should follow when to determine they are getting the best dog vitamins and supplements possible:
1. Know the exact name of what you’re looking for and read the label. Don’t be fooled by similar sounding products.
2. A more reliable source of the desired supplements may be found in a prescription dog food which generally contain therapeutic levels of the supplement.
3. Use brands that have commissioned clinical studies and specialize in one product.
4. Always check for product’s lot number. This ensures the quality can track problems and is checking quality.
5. Is there a contact number for the company? Use it, and ask questions regarding how the product was made, by whom, and how long they have been making the product.
6. Question products that claim to cure or totally eliminate diseases or conditions. Generally if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
7. Check that supplement’s contents have independently verified by a reputable certifying agency or organization.
8. Never give human supplements to dogs as they can have different effects, and may even be dangerous.
Follow these guidelines and you faithful companion is sure to have a happy, health, and long life.