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Vitamins for Dogs – The Good, The Bad, and the Unecessary

Vitamins for your dog?

For some dog owners, the reason they give supplements or vitamins to their dog is the same reason THEY take them – better nutrition. Like people, some dogs do not get all the vitamins they need from their diet. Vitamins and supplements can help fill the nutrition gap.

Supplements for Skin Health?

One of the biggest complaints and most frequent reason for veterinarian visits is skin problems for dogs.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Oils: These are often confused but it is important to understand their different benefits and sources. Omega-3 comes almost exclusively from marine sources – commonly labeled as generic fish oil or cod-liver oil.

Fish Oil: Dr. Andrew Weil, well-known health expert, recommends fish oil for dogs, citing its benefits not only for skin and allergies but also for cholesterol and kidney disease. We have been giving our Labradoodle, Monty, fish oil for about 6 weeks. The results are mixed. His skin is a little better, but we are not sure if this is due to the fish oil or the fact that we are monitoring his food intake and limiting dairy (which does seem to be a trigger for him). The fish oil isn’t hurting him, but we may end up discontinuing it and see if his problems return. Monty is getting the same fish oil capsules that I am taking – straight from my local pharmacy.

Update: After nearly two months, we saw mixed results. His coat seemed marginally better, but there was no improvement in his skin. Ultimately, we determined that his shampoo was the irritant. We switched to a hypoallergenic shampoo and a medicated shampoo. The shampoo made a bigger impact. We discontinued the fish oil.

Alpha linolenic acid:  Found in plant oils, alpha linolenic acid also contains the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center “Omega-3 fatty acids — especially EPA and DHA — have been shown to reduce inflammation and may help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease and arthritis. They may be also important for brain health and development, as well as normal growth and development.”

It contains anti-inflammatory properties. Generally this is added as a supplement directly to the dog’s food.

If you choose to use plant oils such as olive oil, be sure that the oils do not contain any soy oil which can bind with the nutrients and actually make them unavailable to the dog. Soy can also be an allergy trigger in itself.

Gammalinolenic Acid (from primrose oil) is another fatty acid which can benefit your dog’s itchy skin. Some dogs also benefit from Vitamin A or zinc. You should also consult with your veterinarian before starting any supplements, especially if your dog is taking other medications. She can assist you determining proper dosages and set expectations for results.

Special situations: pregnancy, dieting, puppies, chronic illness, and more

There are definitely times when your dog experiences greater stress on their bodies. While there may be a reason to switch to a different food, often, dog owners don’t want to upset their dog’s digestion, and instead choose to supplement their diets with vitamins.

There are as many supplements as there are conditions. While many vet sites give a limited thumbs up to some supplements, most recommend that your dog is better served by a food that is designed to meet their dietary needs. Higher fiber and lower carb for dogs with diabetes. Some sites recommend fresh fruits and veggies as well as raw meat as better than supplements.

Pregnant dogs are best with a high-quality diet that meets their increased nutritional needs – especially after the puppies are born and they are nursing. The American Kennel Association (AKA) cautions against vitamins, warning that “excessive amounts of calcium or vitamin D can cause…birth defects.” Work with your vet to assure that the dog-mom-to-be gets the right balance of nutrition to assure a healthy litter.

How fast can you expect to see results?

Most supplements take several weeks to work. If you see no improvement after 12 weeks, consult with your veterinarian. She may be able to advise as to continuing the supplements or a whether it’s better to try a different course of treatment.

With supplements for the coat, often the old coat needs to grow out or shed before you begin to really notice. For some dogs, this can mean you measure results over the course of a year or more.

Too much is NOT better

Most dog health experts do not recommend dosing your dog with too many supplements at once. Even though it’s tempting to want to throw everything at the problem, you can actually make the itching worse if your dog has a reaction to one of the supplements. And worse, if you’re mixing supplements, you won’t know which is making the problem worse.

Take the claims of miracle cures and instant results with a healthy skepticism.  Don’t keep adding more to get faster results or combining multiple supplements without guidance from your vet.

Talk with your veterinarian

Your veterinarian knows your dog including current medications, underlying conditions, chronic problems, and breed-specific issues. Work with them to determine what supplements and vitamins could benefit your dog.

Bottom Line

For some dogs, supplements can provide the nutrients that they either are not getting from their diet, or would require the dog being over-fed to achieve the nutritional balance you and your vet are looking for.

You may be better off finding the right food which is already balanced rather than hoping you can somehow dose him the right way. And some things that you attribute to nutritional deficiencies may actually be environmental. Our German Shepard, Astro, had itchy skin and a dull coat. We tried all sorts of vitamins and additives. We did a limited food diet (fish and potatoes, grain-free, high-protein limited ingredient). What ultimately found out is that he was allergic to several types of pollen;  what worked was frequent baths and Benadryl. He still had allergies, but we could keep him reasonably comfortable. All the supplements and diet tricks were a waste of time for his allergies.

Whatever you do, do it as a team with your vet. They are trained to understand what is best for your dog.

Resources:

University of Maryland Medical Center study

American Kennel Association “The Care and Feeding of the Pregnant Bitch”

VetInfo: Canine Vitamins for Dogs with Diabetes

Disclaimer: DeluxePup.com is not a veterinarian (nor do we play one on TV). Speak with your veterinarian before giving any medications, supplements, or vitamins to your dog. Only your vet will know about potential complications or conditions specific to your dog. Information provided on DeluxePup.com is meant to educate you to have a conversation with your vet about your dog so you can work together for your dog’s healthiest life.

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