Dogs have specific nutritional needs, just as people do. These needs can change as they go through life's stages, from puppies to adult and senior dogs. Veterinarians say that most of their nutrition should come from their dog food, which is why many brands of dog food have different formulas for dogs of different ages. But if your vet recommends dog or puppy supplements, you may find them to be beneficial.
Considering supplements for your dog
The American Kennel Club (AKC) estimates that about one-third of the dogs in the U.S. are given supplements of some kind. Although manufactured dog food should be nutritionally balanced, giving dogs all the right nutrients for their age, some dogs might need something extra. Dogs with arthritis, for example, might benefit from a supplement their vets recommend to help with that condition, whereas dogs without arthritis wouldn't need it. Keep in mind that vitamins and other supplements aren't regulated the way prescription medications are, so follow your vet's advice carefully on what supplements to give, how much, how often, and even the best time to give vitamins to dogs during the day.
Take notes on how your dog's condition seems after giving the supplements. Do you notice a marked improvement, or perhaps a little bit, or no difference at all? Write down your observations, and date them, so when your vet asks if the supplements are helping, you will have a clear answer. It may take time for supplements to help, and keeping a log will tell you exactly when they began to show their benefit. And above all, never ever give your dog vitamins or supplements that are meant for humans.
Asking about supplements for growth
There are supplements that are marketed as the solution to increasing your puppy's growth, but consult your vet before buying them. If a supplement can truly increase growth beyond the growth that is expected for the breed, that would be powerful indeed and even more reason to use it only with your vet's approval and guidance.
On the other hand, veterinarians sometimes recommend supplements that give puppies the nutrients they may need to round out their diet and help them stay healthy and strong so they can reach their growth potential. Some supplements are given to older dogs to help with conditions that come with age. The most popular supplements according to the AKC, and in order of their popularity, are:
- Glucosamine: Found naturally in the fluid around the joints, glucosamine builds cartilage, which can wear away with age. Supplements may be actual glucosamine taken from the shells of shellfish, or they may be manufactured in a lab. Either type seems to reduce dogs' arthritis pain and make movement easier, especially after about 70 days of treatment.
- Fish oil: This is given to improve dogs' coats, help with skin rashes, and reduce inflammation. It may also help with arthritis and heart health.
- Antioxidant supplements: Vitamins C and E are given to help with memory loss, heart disease, and inflammation. Another is Coenzyme Q-10, which converts food into energy and helps reduce free radicals that can cause disease.
- Probiotics: These help with digestion and intestinal health, and can be given to treat diarrhea.
Check into the vitamins dogs need
Many dogs have problems with eyesight, whether through aging or diseases that affect their breed; Vitamin A is known to help eyesight as well as growth. The B vitamins help the neural tissue and nervous system, and also with hormone regulation, enzyme functioning, and immune response. Vitamin C conquers free radicals, reduces inflammation, and improves cognitive functioning. Vitamin D is essential for development, keeping bones and muscles healthy, and processing phosphorus and calcium for bone growth. Vitamin E helps with the eyes, muscles, and reproductive system. Vitamin K helps the dogs' blood to clot properly.
However, too much of a good thing can be hazardous. Dogs should be getting all the vitamins and minerals they need through their dog food. Dogs fed a diet of human food may need additional vitamins and supplements to meet the dietary needs of dogs. But giving too much of a vitamin or supplement can cause serious problems, which is why it's important to follow your vet's advice on what to give, if any, and how much.
Understand about puppy vitamins for growth
Puppies have special dietary needs to keep up with their rapid growth. They need more calories than adult dogs, especially proteins and fats, and more calcium and phosphorus, too. There can be a lot of stress in puppies' lives as they are weaned, separated from their mothers and siblings, and adjusting to a new family and home. It's important that they receive all the vitamins and minerals their little bodies need to grow healthy and strong.
It's equally important, though, not to give more than their bodies need. For example, puppies are not able to regulate calcium until they are about 10 months old. Giving too much calcium before then may contribute to problems, possibly including the hip dysplasia some breeds tend to develop. It's interesting to note that, in general, large and giant dogs are more susceptible to having problems when fed too much calcium, while small breeds are less affected.