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Does My Dog Need Supplements?

09/06/2015 11:11 BST | Updated 08/06/2016 10:59 BST

A lot of people are persuaded by clever and attractive advertising and marketing to spend money on supposed 'health' products for their pets. The Internet is full of products that promise cures or improvements to your pet's condition - but are they really necessary? And are they indeed safe?

For some dogs, supplements may be a useful and may be worth trying but keep expectations realistic. I don't have anything against supplements that serve a purpose however; my own opinion is that most are not really necessary. You could be wasting your money and the safety of some of the products could be a concern.

For example, without proper medical supervision, some herbal remedies can be bad for your dog and can interfere with other medication they may be on already. If your dog has had surgery, digestive enzymes and salmon oil should not be fed for ten days before and after because they may have a blood-thinning effect. Cod live oil is high in Vitamins A and D so your dog should not be given more than the recommended upper limits. Glutamine should not be fed to a dog with brain cancer; rosemary should not be given to dogs suffering from seizures or epilepsy. Vitamin C should not be given to a dog that forms calcium oxalate stones and these are just a few examples.

The best advice is to talk to your vet about not only the dangers of certain supplements but also dosage and how to administer them. It is better to be proactive than reactive.

Multi Vitamin and Mineral Formulations

A dog that is fed a balanced diet should not be given additional vitamins or minerals, because over feeding of these could upset the balance and cause more harm than good. If you feed your dog a commercial dry food, extra nutrients can be obtained through giving it fruit and vegetables.

If you give your dog a home-prepared food, it might need additional supplements but they should match the diet and should be tailored to suit the individual.

Joint Support Supplements

A dog that suffers from arthritis may benefit from being given glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM. They probably won't cure the arthritis, but they may slow down the onset.

Fish Oil

If your dog is not being fed regularly on fatty fish, fish body oil might be recommended as a source of Omega 3 fatty acids that support a healthy brain, eyes, heart and skin, as well as being anti-inflammatory.

Cod Live Oil

I do not recommend cod liver oil as your fish oil supplement. Cod liver oil is high in Vitamins A and D, care must be taken not to give your dog more than the regulated upper limit.

Probiotics

These are the good bacteria that live in a normal healthy digestive tract and it may be beneficial to add probiotics to promote good digestion and support the immune system. They can also manage diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal problems.

Although live yoghurt contains these 'good' bacteria, it would be necessary to feed a bucket full of yoghurt to supply the same amount of probiotics that a good-quality supplement does.

Digestive Enzymes

These break down the food in your dog's stomach and intestine so that the food can be absorbed. Older dogs or those with gastrointestinal problems might benefit from these supplements, though with a healthy dog it might be better to change their diet before using a digestive enzyme supplement.

L-Glutamine

L-Glutamine fuels the cells that line the mouth stomach and intestines. After vomiting or diarrhoea, the tissue normally regenerates within three days, but if your dog is old or has other health issues it may be low on the nutrients needed to rebuild those tissues, in which case it may need a Glutamine supplement.

This is a supplement that is frequently given to dogs to promote the healing of the lining of the tract. Glutamine has the added bonus that it feeds the cells of the immune system also.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides, a form of fat that is digested easily, so it can be recommended as a supplement for a dog that has gastrointestinal problems or cannot tolerate much dietary fat.

Taurine

This is critical for healthy heart function and because excess taurine is excreted in the urine, it may be sensible to add it to every dog's diet.

CoQ10

Red meat and organ meats contain CoQ10 which is a naturally occurring antioxidant. It is probably best known for its support in cardiovascular health. I usually recommend it for dogs that needs additional support for heart health such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, performance athletes and dogs on drugs which are known for there toxicity to the heart.

Kristina Johansen advises on general canine nutrition and home prepared diets. You can visit her site at: www.elmoskitchen.com