A Comprehensive Guide to Supplements for Dogs

A Comprehensive Guide to Supplements for Dogs

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) reported that about 68% of adults in the U.S. take some sort of dietary supplement or multivitamin daily to help fill gaps in nutritional intake. Does that mean your pup needs supplements as well?

More and more dog owners are turning to dog supplements to help boost their pet’s health. There is a growing number of brands providing an increasing amount of supplement options as well. The sheer number of brands and information out there is overwhelming! We hope that this comprehensive guide will be a helpful resource for determining if your pup needs supplements and what type of supplements to consider.

Does my dog need a dietary supplement?

There are 3 main reasons pet owners should consider adding natural supplements for dogs

Compensate for nutrient deficiencies

Adding supplements to your pup's diet such as a vitamin and mineral supplement to homemade dog food is a good idea if you’re aware your dog’s food has some nutritional gaps or you discover possible deficiencies because of a vet visit. Homemade dog foods, although healthy and minimally processed, also often have nutritional gaps. Check in with a qualified veterinary nutritionist to double check any recipes you are using for homemade dog food to ensure they are getting their full nutritional needs met. You can then compensate for any missing nutrients with carefully selected supplements.

Another great article: The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Dog Food

To boost the nutritional content in a dog's diet

Most dog food companies advertise that their diets are the best possible for your pets. Unfortunately, many of these products barely meet the minimum essential nutrients required to keep your dog healthy. The minimum is definitely not optimal in most cases. Therefore, many pet owners err on the side of caution and consult their vet about which supplements may be beneficial to add based on their pet’s current diet. 

Related Reading - How fresh pet food can boost the nutrition in your pup's diet

Help fight off a current or predicted health problems

An example of using supplements for therapeutic reasons would be giving a joint supplement for dogs with arthritis to treat pain and promote healthy joints. In contrast, using a certain supplement to hopefully prevent the onset of disease is called preventive supplementation and should only be used if a disease is expected.

Pet owner with dog

Some mistakes to avoid when supplementing


Too much of a good thing can turn bad. Certain minerals like calcium, iron, copper and zinc can cause toxicity when given in large doses to dogs. This is known as mineral poisoning. Certain minerals bind others, so over-supplementing can cause a deficiency in others. For example, copper binds zinc, so an overabundance of copper can cause a lack of zinc because it is bound to copper and no longer bioavailable. To avoid over-supplementing, full research any supplements you are considering giving to your pup and check in with your vet before starting supplementation.

Imbalanced supplement ratios

With certain nutrients, the balance of one to another plays an important role. For example, calcium to phosphorus ratios in a dog's overall diet should be between 1:1 and 2:1. Many pet parents use calcium supplements for homemade dog food. However, incorrectly balanced supplements like calcium to phosphorus can cause rickets in puppies and osteoporosis in older dogs.

Negative interactions with medications

If your dog is on a certain medication, ALWAYS check in with your vet before supplementing. Even giving natural dog health supplements such as medicinal herbs can have drug interactions with medication. For example, White Willow Bark is a herb with medicinal properties used to manage pain and inflammation because it naturally contains salicin, an active compound found in aspirin. However, White Willow Bark has many negative interactions with common medications such as butazolidin and rimadyl as well as aspirin.

Long term effects

Supplementing a certain nutrient over a long period of time can cause a dog's body to stop producing their own supply of that nutrient.

Random supplementing

Although popular media and current trends recommend random nutrients at various times like green lipped mussels, coconut oil, or vitamin k supplements for dogs, it's important to fully read up on any supplements you consider adding to your dogs diet before including them. There should be a compelling reason to include a supplement in your dog's diet.

“Should I give my senior dog supplements?”

Senior dog

Firstly, most people wonder when their dog is actually considered a senior. Although factors such as breed, genetics, and activity levels are part of the equation, generally 7 years of age or older is considered a senior dog. 

Once your dog reaches their later years, their nutritional needs change. Meeting these varying needs are important in ensuring continued good health for your senior pup. For example, senior dogs need high quality proteins but require less energy and carbohydrates from their diet. The American Kennel Club (AKC) states “The right food and supplements should be considered an essential building block of healthy aging, with the aim of minimizing the signs of growing older and enhancing your dog’s quality of life.”

If you haven’t already started consulting your vet about the dog bone health supplements and best senior dog vitamin supplements to include in your dog's diet, it’s a good time to start as many senior dogs will benefit from having a nutritional boost in their food. Among the best dog health supplements for senior dogs are glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid, as they facilitate joint care for senior pups. The best senior dog arthritis supplements contain all 3 ingredients.

Another alternative, if the world of supplements seems daunting, is to switch to a high quality food that is specifically geared towards senior dog needs. 

Also Read - How to Choose a Healthy Dog Food

There are a lot of supplements available and each has its own benefits. For example, glucosamine and chondroitin may protect cartilage in the joints and if your dog has osteoarthritis, adding a mixture of these supplements to his diet could help him very substantially. It is important to do your research on the best senior dog joint supplements to include in your older pup's diet.

Commonly used supplements

Raw dog food supplements

Since many people make their own mix of raw meals for their pets, each is unique and based on different research. This also means that there are more chances that a raw diet may not be providing your dog with the best possible levels of nutrients. Based on the specific raw diet (number of bones, types of meat, addition of vegetables etc.), your dog will have varied nutritional deficiencies that will need to be met by adding certain supplements. It is essential to do your research about what gaps exist in your dog’s current diet and talk to your vet or a certified pet nutritionist about how to supplement properly. 

Homemade dog food vitamin supplements

There are hundreds of dog food recipes that you can try at home. The most difficult part is figuring out which recipes are reputable. The best ones will provide precise measurements of ingredients and supplements. Although some do not like the idea of using supplements, it is quite hard to find a mixture of only whole foods that will fulfill all of your dog’s nutritional needs. If your dog is under one,  it’s very important to include specific puppy supplements for homemade dog food that are specific to their needs.

Just like raw diets, homemade pet food recipes are very diverse and the supplements need to be picked to complement a specific recipe. The safest way to figure out which supplements to use is to figure out your pet’s nutritional needs, pick out the recipes, and then consult a pet nutritionist about what’s missing. Some of the most common dog supplements include multivitamin supplements, hip and joint supplements, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium. Let’s talk about some of these in more depth!

Dog with a food bowl

Omega 3 supplement for dogs

Omega 3 fatty acids are a very important part of a dog’s diet as they are essential in supporting good overall health, positively contributing to your pet’s brain, heart, kidney, and liver functions. Many people also believe that they help fight skin allergies, improve coat quality, and reduce inflammation. In fact, many pet owners use it for this purpose specifically. 

The AKC states that the most common way people provide omega-3 fatty acids is by adding fish oil to their dog’s food. The popularity of fish oil comes second only to Glucosamine supplements. Essential fatty acids are also found in sardines as well as oils from flax, chia, and hemp. Overall, Omega-3 oil derived from marine sources is the best omega supplement for dogs.

Also Read - Why Kafka’s Includes Omega-3 Fish Oil in All Our Recipes

Omega 6 supplements for dogs

Omega 6, like Omega 3, are fatty acids essential to a dog’s diet and are found from both animal and plant sources. Omega 6 fatty acids are beneficial for normal reproduction, growth, immune function, and skin and coat health. A popular place to find these products is from Omega Alpha dog supplements.

Glucosamine as anti-inflammatory

Glucosamine is an amino sugar that helps build cartilage in dogs’ joints. A dog’s body naturally produces its own glucosamine, but the levels of production will decrease as the dog ages, typically leading to stiff and sore joints.

Many people believe adding glucosamine supplements is effective in treating arthritis, relieves joint pain, and increases mobility. You can find glucosamine in many forms, including pills, powders, or treats. 

Vitamin B12 supplements for dogs

Many pet parents search for the best dog vitamins and supplements to add to their dog's diet, but many of their vitamin needs should be met naturally as part of a balanced and complete pet food.

However, if your pup has health issues such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or any pancreatic issues, one vitamin supplement to consider is B12. Most dogs get enough vitamin B12 from their food as it's especially abundant in meat (especially organ meat), fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. In a healthy dog, the pancreas, intestines, liver, and kidneys absorbs and stores B12. But in a sick dog, one with IBD or pancreatic issues, their organs may not be able to do this job effectively, ultimately leading to B12 deficiencies.

Calcium and vitamin D supplements for dogs

Proper levels of calcium for a dog are crucial as it positively contributes to their overall growth, bone health, teeth maintenance, and much more. If their food is currently lacking in calcium-rich ingredients such as ground bone, eggs, dairy products, and veggies, then it’s time to think about vitamin and mineral supplements for your dog such as calcium. If your dog isn’t getting enough calcium, he could be in danger or weakness, muscle twitching, and seizures. 

The understanding of Vitamin D and its place in dogs’ health is a bit less clear. It is clear that too much Vitamin D can be toxic to dogs, but that in the correct doses it helps grow and maintain strong bones, as well as helps to control inflammation. Ensuring you know how much Vitamin D3 is currently part of your dog’s diet is very important because it will allow you to fill gaps (or cut back too much) with necessary supplements. 

Many people use multivitamins, which often include Vitamin D. Multivitamins for dogs are similar to those used by humans. Most dog multivitamins contain Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, Vitamin K1, and a few other minerals. Using multivitamins is easy, but make sure to consult your vet because it is difficult to regulate specific amounts of each individual vitamin and can lead to overdoses.

Running dog in a field

Digestive health supplements for dogs

The American Kennel Club (AKC) describes probiotics as living naturally in the body in the form of yeasts and live bacteria that aid with digestion and intestinal health”. Therefore, probiotics are among the best health supplements for dogs that you can safely add to your dog’s diet. It can help treat diarrhea and other digestive problems. You can find these supplements as yogurts, capsules, chews, or powders. 

Most people have heard of probiotics, but very little of prebiotics, which some experts say may be equally important. Prebiotics are types of fiber that help to support beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Dr. Lisa Brienen, DVM, a certified veterinary homeopath states, “While probiotics are known to help introduce good bacteria into the dog’s gut, it’s the prebiotics that will act as a fertilizer for the good bacteria that’s there.”

Since prebiotics are fibers, they are generally easier to fit into your dog’s diet through whole ingredients -- think beet pulp, sweet potato, or pumpkin. If your dog has poor digestive health, talk to your vet or certified animal nutritionist about adding probiotics and prebiotics supplements to your pets diet.

Supplements for dog kidney health

A dog’s kidney health is just as important as a human’s. The kidney helps dogs get rid of toxins and excess water from the blood in the form of urine. If kidneys are functioning optimally, then there could be serious health repercussions for your dog. It is important to feed your dog a diet that will help keep their kidneys healthy or provide benefits if your pet has already been diagnosed with kidney disease.

There are quite a few beneficial supplements to consider that will improve your pet’s kidney health.

We have already talked about the popularity of fish oil, and it is a very good supplement when dealing with kidney health. Supplementing with fish oil reduces stress to the tissues of the kidneys and can significantly help in slowing down the progression of kidney disease.

Certain organic dog vitamin supplements with antioxidant properties, like Vitamin E or Coenzym Q10, are beneficial to kidneys. It is recommended that Vitamin E be given in combination with fish oil because they are so complimentary. 

Another useful supplement for kidney health is Vitamin B-Complex. This helps dogs with kidney disease cope with the stress and replaces valuable vitamins that are lost because of increased urination. 

Anxiety and dog brain health supplements

We have come a long way from feeding our working dogs scraps and leaving them chained up in the backyard. Now we talk about pet nutrition, as well as mental health! If your dog is anxious, common behaviours include inability to relax (even at home), constant panting, and increased barking or reactivity. Some supplements to consider for your dog’s mental health include essential fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6 (we’ve mentioned them a lot because they’re that beneficial and important) and probiotics. 

The fresh food alternative

Sweet Olive Baby with Kafka's Organic Ocean Fish Feast

Picture courtesy of @sweetbaby.olive

Ensuring your raw diet or homemade dog food is completely balanced to meet all your dog’s needs is very difficult. You need to research, source ingredients, talk to nutritionists, buy supplements, prep the food, and do all the cleanup after! 

Do you need a more efficient alternative you can trust? At Kafka’s we ensure all of our pet meals meet AAFCO requirements and are vetted by board-certified pet nutritionists. We love transparency, so you’ll be able to find all the ingredients and nutritional analysis on our website and packaging! Our mission is to reimagine the pet food industry by providing hassle-free delivery of natural, fresh, and completely balanced pet meals for your dogs and cats.

Join the #FueledbyFresh family today by visiting our feeding calculator.

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