Healthspan staff October 16, 2018

Like humans, dogs can have vitamin and mineral deficiencies. But, unlike humans, pets can’t act on this themselves. The question is – are nutritional supplements suitable for dogs and which nutrients should we be giving them?

As is the case throughout the animal kingdom, health depends on diet. You can’t expect to be healthy if you don’t eat what’s good for you and you can’t expect your pet to be healthy if all you feed them is peanut butter (no matter how much they enjoy it!).

The best supplements for dogs

Some studies have shown dogs respond well to vitamins and minerals where needed. It was found that dogs and cats aren’t able to synthesise vitamin D adequately enough and are dependent on diet for the intake they require, so vitamin D3 is an essential supplement for Lassie.1

A randomised trial also found positive effects in dogs with osteoarthritis that were given glucosamine or chondroitin.2 And the benefits of fish oil omega 3 fatty acids on lameness and weight bearing in dogs with osteoarthritis has been realised, too.3

How to know if Rover needs a supplement

There are tell-tale signs that something with your pup isn’t right, and at that point you should take them to the vet for a check-up. Knowing what’s causing the issue could lead you to supplementation or changing their diet, but you should always consult your veterinarian first, as they will be able to point you in the right direction.

Home-prepared diets

If you choose to prepare your dog’s dinner for them instead of using shop-bought kibble, they may be missing key nutrients from their diet that ready-made food is fortified with. Ask a vet nutritionist for advice on what you can do to naturally boost the vitamins and minerals in your dog’s diet. Adding a multivitamin may be the most effective way to ensure they’re getting everything they need to be healthy.

Additionally, growing puppies are highly active, so they can benefit from nutritional supplements.

Odd eating habits

If your pooch Buster has skipped a meal or two because it’s hot outside, that’s not generally cause for concern; but any more than that and a visit to the vet should be considered.

A rough coat

A thick, shiny, soft coat is what you should find on Baxter, but it’s also a good way to tell if something isn’t right with your dog – look for a coat that’s dull, rough, dry or has bald patches, as this could indicate they’re eating the wrong kind of food, have an allergy or even a skin disease.

Lady of leisure

There’s a difference between your dog loving to lounge and being lethargic. If they’re uninterested in playing, going for walkies, or participating in activities they usually enjoy – especially for more than two days - you should get a professional opinion.

Vomiting or toilet habits

  • Vomiting isn’t always unusual for dogs but there are signs that a visit to the vet is needed:
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Has a fever

Equally, a pup’s toilet habits are a good indicator of their overall health. Dry, hard stools could be a sign of dietary problems, dehydration or ill health. Other signs to look out for are:

  • Worms in the stool
  • Diarrhoea for more than a day
  • Straining
  • Blood in the stool

If you spot any of these signs, it’s time to see the vet. Make sure to consult a professional before supplementing your pooch’s diet, too.

1 How, K.L., Hazewinkel, H.A.W. and Mol, J.A., 1994. Dietary Vitamin D Dependence of Cat and Dog Due to łnadequate Cutaneous Synthesis of Vitamin D.
2 McCarthy, G., O’Donovan, J., Jones, B., McAllister, H., Seed, M. and Mooney, C., 2007. Randomised double-blind, positive-controlled trial to assess the efficacy of glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis. The Veterinary Journal, 17 (1), pp.54-61.
3 Roush, J.K., Cross, A.R., Renberg, W.C., Dodd, C.E., Sixby, K.A., Fritsch, D.A., Allen, T.A., Jewell, D.E., Richardson, D.C., Leventhal, P.S. and Hahn, K.A., 2010. Evaluation of the effects of dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on weight bearing in dogs with osteoarthritis. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 236(1), pp.67-73.


Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.



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