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Should I Give My Dog Supplements? (Vet Answer)


Mar 21, 2023
dog waiting for the owner to give the supplement


dog waiting for the owner to give the supplement
Dr. Iulia Mihai Photo

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A balanced diet and physical activity are the essentials to keeping your dog healthy. But what do you do when your dog’s diet is not balanced or they suffer from vitamin-mineral deficiencies? In such cases, you should ask your veterinarian for supplement recommendations.

Most supplements can help your dog in many ways. For them to have a shiny coat and healthy skin or an increased appetite, vitamins and minerals are extremely important. Supplementing these can also help strengthen your dog’s joints and bones, relieve pain, or aid in chronic diseases.


What Are Supplements for Dogs?

The purpose of these products is to supplement the daily intake of nutrients when certain substances are missing or are not found in sufficient quantity in a dog’s diet or when a dog has specific nutritional requirements.

Supplements may contain vitamins, minerals, plant extracts, amino acids, enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, and antioxidants.

Who Needs Supplements?

Usually, dogs that need supplements are:

  • Puppies
  • Senior dogs
  • Dogs with chronic diseases
  • Dogs with nutritional deficiencies
  • Dogs diagnosed with conditions that cause malabsorption of certain nutrients
  • Dogs that must eat a vegan diet

Should I Give My Dog Supplements?

Most pet food manufacturers formulate diets to provide all the essential nutrients that dogs need to develop and thrive. Therefore, dogs fed a quality and balanced diet usually do not need supplements unless their veterinarian recommends otherwise. Dogs that are fed inadequate, low-quality diets, for example, can develop nutritional deficiencies. These can be corrected with supplements of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

So, if your dog is receiving good quality food that they tolerate and assimilate properly and that gives them all the nutrients that they need, do not change or supplement it because there is no need to do so! Otherwise, you risk making your dog sick and even killing them (as can happen in the case of vitamin D toxicity).1

If your dog is healthy and receiving an adequate diet, but you still want to give them supplements, contact your veterinarian first. If you prefer to cook for your dog instead of feeding them commercial diets, it may be necessary to supplement their food with vitamins and minerals. If your dog is in their growth period (puppies up to 1 year) or is a senior, the vet may recommend supplementing their food with various vitamins and minerals.

giving shih tzu a dog supplement
Image Credit: ALPA PROD, Shutterstock

The 7 Types of Supplements for Dogs

There are several types of supplements for dogs.

1. Calcium Supplements for Growing Puppies

In the first months of life, puppies, regardless of breed, have a fast growth rate, so the calcium and vitamins in their diet may not be enough to fulfill their nutritional needs. Depending on your dog’s size, calcium supplements and vitamins can be given up to a certain age. After this period, maintenance vitamins and minerals will be administered.

Certain dogs of large and giant breeds may also require an injectable calcium treatment during their growth period, but only after a veterinary check-up.

However, supplementing your pet’s diet with calcium is usually necessary when dogs suffer from malabsorption or other pathologies. But don’t supplement your puppy’s food with calcium on your own — always ask your vet for advice! Dogs cannot assimilate the excess calcium, and it can lead to various conditions, especially in senior age.

2. Supplements for Senior Dogs

Senior dog supplements contain a mix of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help them with the health problems that occur with age. They effectively reduce the signs of aging, support the immune system, and help your dog enjoy life.

Senior mixed breed dog resting at home
Image Credit: Larissa Chilanti, Shutterstock

3. Supplements With Probiotics for the Health of the Digestive System

Digestive health is essential to your dog’s well-being. Supplements containing probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes contribute to better absorption of nutrients and relieve problems such as stomach sensitivity or chronic diarrhea.

Other beneficial effects include:

  • Help control skin infection problems
  • Support the immune system
  • Help eliminate smelling stools
  • Help reduce unpleasant odors in your dog’s mouth
  • Help counteract negative side effects caused by antibiotics
  • Prevent digestive problems and vomiting
  • Reduce excess intestinal gas and bloating

4. Supplements for Maintaining the Health of Joints and Bones

Joint pain can affect dogs of any age, though older dogs are more prone to arthritis (inflammation of the joints). Arthritis in dogs is a common health problem and can go unnoticed for years, as your pet will ignore the pain and discomfort until they become severe.

Joint and bone supplements aid in relieving pain and discomfort and help dogs maintain mobility by reducing joint stiffness.

The best dog joint and bone supplements include:

These compounds help decrease inflammation and improve your dog’s body’s ability to strengthen and repair damaged tissues.

You can start giving your dog joint supplements at an early age to minimize the risk of articular problems later, but talk to your vet first.

5. Supplements to Increase Appetite

If your dog has no appetite due to systemic infections, pain, liver and kidney problems, dental disease, cancer, or other reasons, your vet may recommend supplements. The most recommended is mirtazapine. In addition to low appetite, this supplement can help with vomiting and nausea.

Golden Retriever dog eating
Image Credit: chendongshan, Shutterstock

6. Supplements for Healthy Skin and Shiny Coat

These supplements come in the form of oils, pills, or powder. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, found mostly in salmon oil products for dogs, are ideal for improving your pet’s diet, especially when they have itchy and flaky skin and dull fur.

7. Supplements for Convalescent Patients

These supplements help dogs recover from digestive disorders such as gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, or other ailments, support rehydration, and increase appetite. They can also be recommended to anemic dogs or pets that have just undergone surgery for a faster recovery.

These products usually contain electrolytes, easily absorbable carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and prebiotics.

divider-dog paw

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Dog Supplements Safe?

Dogs’ supplements are safe as long as the veterinarian recommends them. Even if the package states that they are natural, that does not mean they cannot make your dog sick or even kill them. Dogs that lead a healthy lifestyle and have an adequate and balanced diet do not require supplements unless your vet says otherwise.

dog owner talking to vet
Image Credit; SeventyFour, Shutterstock

How Many Supplements Are Too Many for My Dog?

Always respect the indications and dosage provided by your vet. If they did not tell you how many supplements to give your dog per day, follow the dosage written on the package. If you forgot a dose, give your dog the next one when you remember. If you are unsure whether you gave your dog their dose, just skip that day, and give them the next one as scheduled. Overdose can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, seizure, tremors, etc.

Can I Give My Dog Multiple Supplements at Once?

It is generally safe for your dog to take several types of supplements at once. Just make sure the common ingredients do not overlap too much. You also need to consider how they should be taken, as certain supplements can irritate your dog’s stomach. It’s recommended to administer these supplements after your dog has eaten.



Generally, dogs that consume an adequate and balanced diet do not need to take supplements. If you think that your dog needs them, though, talk to your veterinarian first. Although supplements are usually safe, an overdose can occur if you give your dog too many at once. Signs of overdose include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, tremors, and seizures. In severe cases, they can lead to your pet’s death.

Featured Image Credit: Billion Photos, Shutterstock

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