Many commercially produced dog foods fortify their recipes with added nutrients to ensure your pup gets the nutrients they need. These pet foods, including The Honest Kitchen’s, are formulated to meet guidelines determined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) so pet owners can feel at ease knowing that their dog’s food is offering them adequate nutrition.
However, like humans, dogs can experience health issues like joint pain, immune system weakness, and general effects of aging that can benefit from introducing additional vitamins and minerals to their diet. As a result, some pet owners may decide to look into supplements for their dogs to help mitigate these issues based on recommendations from their veterinarian.
Below, we’ll discuss what you need to know about common vitamins and supplements, and how to collaborate with your dog’s vet to choose the best supplement for your pup.
What You Need To Know About Dog Vitamins
If your pet is eating a complete and balanced diet, they may already be receiving the vitamins and minerals they need — meaning that any supplementation could potentially throw off their nutritional needs.
How do you know what constitutes a balanced diet? According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a complete and balanced diet for dogs must meet one of the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient profiles, and pass a feeding trial using AAFCO procedures. When in doubt, check your dog’s food packaging — commercially produced dog food that meets AAFCO standards is labeled as such. While the phrasing may vary, look for an AAFCO statement near the bottom of the nutritional information, usually on the back or side of the packaging. The statement often provides more detailed information about how the food meets AAFCO standards.
If you suspect that your pet might need a vitamin, it’s always best to check with your vet. Below are the vitamins found in dog food, and how they impact your dog’s health.
Vitamin A is an essential vitamin required for optimal health. It affects the skin, muscles, coat, and nerves. If you notice your dog’s skin and coat losing their luster, it may be due to low levels of vitamin A. Puppies need vitamin A for muscle and neurological development.
According to the AKC, dogs need several B vitamins to stay healthy. Thiamine is important for using carbohydrates and maintaining energy levels, while riboflavin, B12, and niacin all help with enzyme function. Dogs also need vitamin B6 for glucose generation and red blood cell function. B9, also known as folic acid, is sometimes necessary for dogs with a known deficiency.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports the immune system, reduces cognitive aging, and reduces inflammation levels. It deals with harmful free radicals that can lead to premature aging in dogs.
Vitamin D balances phosphorus and calcium levels in dogs' bodies. This helps support healthy bone growth and is essential to developing healthy bones and muscles.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that protects cell function. It also helps your dog metabolize fat and protects against oxidative damage. Without enough vitamin E, your dog may have reproductive problems or deal with muscle weakness and degeneration.
Vitamin K allows a dog’s blood to clot effectively. This fat-soluble vitamin is important if your dog suffers a wound. Without enough vitamin K, a simple bump or cut could lead to fatal hemorrhaging.
What You Need To Know About Dog Supplements
Now that you know more about the vitamins that are key to your dog's health, you may be wondering how they differ from supplements.
The term “supplement” is a bit more all-encompassing than “vitamins.” While humans and pets can take vitamins to supplement their diets, vitamins are just one type of supplement. Other supplements include dietary minerals, proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, and probiotics.
Much like humans, dogs can enjoy several benefits from added supplements if your vet recommends them. These benefits include:
- Healthier hearts and coats, from adding essential fatty acids like omega-3 fatty acids. For puppies, this also reduces the risk of digestive problems and allergies later in life. Fish oil and coconut oil are examples of essential fatty acids.
- Improved digestion with prebiotics, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and amino acids. These help support better gut flora, which lessens the risk of stomach issues and gastrointestinal diseases.
- Improved bone formation, joint health, and cognitive function, especially for puppies. The right balance of nutrients from supplements during the puppy years can reduce the risk of orthopedic problems for adult dogs.
- Better immune function. Supporting overall health with supplements also supports the immune system, making your dog less likely to get sick or develop a serious disorder.
How To Choose the Best Multivitamins or Supplements for Your Dog’s Health
Pet owners who want their dogs to enjoy the benefits of a multivitamin or other supplement are often concerned about which supplement is the best choice for their dog's health. Note that you should always consult your vet before adding dietary supplements or vitamins to your dog’s diet and follow their recommendations.
First, know that human supplements are never a safe choice for pets. While they may have some of the right vitamins, they can have other ingredients that are harmful to your pet. Instead, look for vitamins made specifically for pets.
Second, look for vitamins with organic, whole-food ingredients whenever possible. For instance, if you want to add fish oil to your pet’s diet, consider wild Alaskan salmon oil instead of a generic fish oil because the ingredient is more organic and specific.
Finally, if your vet determines that you should use supplements, you will need to figure out how to give the supplements to your dog. Chewy vitamins often taste like treats, making them easy to give, but some tablets have to get hidden in foods like peanut butter to make them easier to eat. For more information, we've put together a detailed explainer covering what to look for when selecting a multivitamin for your dog.
Below, we'll dive into some of the health concerns that supplements are sometimes used to mitigate.
Strengthening Immune Systems
Our immune system does an excellent job at protecting the body from harm — when it’s working properly. But when the immune system is weak for any reason, the body is at greater risk of contracting infections and illnesses. Weakened immune systems also lead to delayed wound healing, so it’s not hard to understand why people incorporate immune-boosting supplements such as:
- Prebiotics and probiotics
- Vitamin C and other antioxidants
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
Joint and Hip Health
Hip and joint conditions can be debilitating, so doctors will sometimes recommend broad joint supplements with the following ingredients:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
General Support for Aging
As we age, our bodies require more of certain nutrients. While some bone, muscle, cartilage, and skin elasticity loss are considered normal signs of aging, sometimes these effects happen a little more rapidly than we’d like. As a result, doctors often recommend supplements for adults in their 50s that include the following:
- Vitamins C and E
- Fatty acids, including EPA and DHA
Alternatives to Multivitamins and Nutritional Supplements
While multivitamins and nutritional supplements can help you give your dog a healthier life, you do need to know that the FDA does not monitor them. Also, too much of certain vitamins can have the wrong effect. For example, calcium is important for bone development, but too much of it can cause problems with the skeletal development of large breed puppies. Vitamin A is essential to health, but too much of it can cause joint pain and dehydration. In other words, if you aren’t careful, your well-meaning supplementation could hurt your dog instead.
Focusing on a balanced diet that includes healthy, whole-food ingredients can eliminate the need for nutritional supplements and vitamins. A natural diet, especially for puppies, reduces fillers and improves the nutritional density of the food. As long as the pet food you choose is appropriate for your dog's life stage, you may not need additional nutritional supplements.
As you consider a high-quality, whole-food diet, consider adding some healthy broths to your pet’s food. They will love the taste, and you will add protein and a natural boost of healthy nutrients to their dietary intake.
However, it can be difficult to be certain that your pet is getting all their nutritional needs through their diet alone. If you do believe your pet might need a supplement, make sure you get your vet’s input on which supplements to include and how much of the supplement to give.
The Honest Kitchen’s Natural Dog Supplements and Broths
If you and your dog’s vet feel that supplements are the right choice for your pet, your next step is choosing the right one. The Honest Kitchen carries a healthy digestive supplement, a dehydrated prebiotic- and probiotic-packed goat’s milk, and nutrient-dense bone broths that provide an array of benefits, like joint health, digestive support, and immune system support. Plus, our Instant Bone Broth has been voted one of the top bone broth supplements for dogs by Canine Journal!