As a dog owner, you love your pet enormously. Your beloved pet has given you so much meaning and happiness in life. You want to return the favor by ensuring they are as healthy and happy as possible.
It’s also a matter of responsibility. You are meant to care for your dog in all ways. One of the most important aspects of caring for your dog is nutrition. Proper nutrition is crucial for a dog to be at their best. That’s true not only in the sense of physical health, but also emotional, psychological wellbeing.
But what counts as good nutrition? Is feeding your dog a high-quality dog food enough? Or should you give your dog vitamins and supplements in addition to their regular diet? Does it make a difference how old your pet is? Or their physical condition? These and similar questions are something every dog owner should know something about.
The Basic Facts
Dogs, like humans, need vitamins and minerals to survive and flourish. The vitamins you already know the names of — vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, and B vitamins such as thiamine, folic acid, and riboflavin — are not just vital to people, but to dogs as well. It’s the same with minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. However, the amount in which these vitamins and minerals are needed by humans and canines is not the same.
Before modern advances, the only way a creature could get vitamins and minerals was through food. Today, diet is still the primary source for vitamins and minerals. Supplements are exactly that — something in addition to the vitamins and minerals acquired through food, rather than a replacement.
Most Dogs Don’t Need Supplements
A good, quality dog food should provide most dogs with all the vitamins they need to be healthy. That’s because high-quality dog foods are specifically designed to contain the vitamins and minerals a canine’s body requires for proper functioning.
As a dog owner, you should look for dog foods that provide a complete and balanced diet. The dietary requirements for canines can differ widely depending on age, breed, and other factors. Choosing a dog food appropriate to your pet should mean your dog gets all the vitamins and minerals needed. Generally, that’s all you must do.
However, not all dogs are fed a diet of commercial dog food. If you have opted for a homemade diet, the chances your dog needs vitamin supplements go up. Nonetheless, a properly designed home diet should still be able to provide your pet all the vitamins and minerals it needs. Consult with your dog’s veterinarian to make sure that the diet you are using is providing enough vitamins and minerals.
When Supplements Are Necessary
However, while most dogs may be fine without taking extra vitamins and minerals, it’s the exceptions to that rule that can loom large. Vitamins and minerals are vital to good health. Thus, a dog that misses out on getting all the minerals and vitamins it needs may be in considerable health risk.
When a dog requires supplements, it is often because they have one of a few medical conditions. Some dogs suffering from arthritis may benefit from taking glucosamine/chondroitin supplements. Fish oil supplements can be useful for dogs that have heart disease, kidney disease, or cancer. Other conditions that may make supplementation necessary include gastrointestinal issues, cognitive conditions, coat problems, weight loss, and inflammation.
If your dog does have a condition that makes supplements necessary, your veterinarian will be able to tell you. That means that it is crucial to schedule regular check-ups where your vet can assess your pet’s health. Of course, being proactive is important too. Watch carefully for warning signs of health issues. Take your pet to the vet whenever you notice something worrying.
Health and nutrition, whether in dogs or humans, is complicated. Even something extremely beneficial (and in fact necessary to life) can become harmful in too large amounts. A perfect example of this is the risk of vitamin D toxicity in canines.
Vitamin D toxicity occurs when a dog has far too much vitamin D in its system. Unlike some other vitamins, excess vitamin D cannot be easily eliminated. Vitamin D toxicity causes a variety of serious problems, including vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Worst of all, kidney failure and death can eventually result.
Most risks associated with taking vitamins are not as serious as vitamin D toxicity, it’s true. However, the example of vitamin D toxicity does prove the point that overloading with too many vitamins is not good for canine health.
There are other serious health problems that can occur if vitamins or minerals are consumed in too large quantities. Excess amounts of the mineral calcium can make bones grow too quickly in puppies of certain breeds, resulting in problems with the skeletal system such as hip dysplasia. Meanwhile, vitamin A in huge amounts can result in joint pain, dehydration, and blood vessel damage.
Choose a Supplement Carefully
Aside from specific conditions and health problems, another potential risk associated with supplementation for dogs is simply that a proper, canine-appropriate supplement must be chosen. There are, of course, a multitude of vitamins and minerals intended for human consumption on sale.
But, while it might seem harmless to feed these products to your pet, that is unwise. Vitamins designed for humans may have formulations containing vitamins in concentrations too large or small for dogs. Only consider supplements that are specifically designed for canine use.
Matters are further complicated by the fact that dietary supplements are notstrictly regulated. That means you must exert care when shopping for supplements. First, check labels closely to make sure the supplement contains the ingredient you are looking for. Look for products with a lot number, an indicator of quality control practices. Another good sign is a brand that’s had clinical studies of its product done.
Consult With a Veterinarian
Expertise is important. Your dog’s veterinarian is the one who has the knowledge to provide an expert opinion on whether or not you should give your pets vitamins and minerals. While general knowledge is useful, it is a vet who knows how to apply those general principles to the specifics of your individual pet.
Your dog’s veterinarian will know how to steer clear of the risks associated with vitamin supplementation described already. Since needs can vary so much from one dog to another (especially across breeds), the assessment of a vet is needed before you give your dog any extra vitamins and minerals.
Even more importantly, your dog’s vet will know which supplements might interact with any medication your dog is taking. It would be tremendously dangerous for your pet to take supplements willy-nilly, as the side effects of drug interactions are often extremely serious. If you are considering giving your dog a particular supplement, always get approval from your vet first.
Ultimately, it is rare for a dog to need to take a vitamin or mineral supplement. While it is a very good thing that such supplements are on the market, few owners have need to avail themselves of the products. If you feed your dog a high-quality, complete, balanced dog food, your beloved furry friend will almost certainly get all the vitamins and minerals needed to be healthy and happy.