Updated Aug 25, 2022
I was seeing a lot of conflicting information on dog supplements. So I researched the topic, with particular interest on how it applies to our Cane Corsos.
For sure, supplements and vitamins for humans have become a very big deal. The market was valued at $167.8 Billion in 2019 and is expected to increase to $306.8 Billion, according to Globe Newswire.
And it looks like the popularity is extending to include our pets. According to Allied Market Research, the pet supplement market was valued at $596.8 million in 2019, and is estimated to reach $822.6 million by 2027. Other research has quoted even higher numbers.
In this article, we dig deep into what every dog owner should know...
Dog Supplements vs Dog Vitamins
The two terms are often used together, but it's important to understand the difference between the two.
Vitamins consist of vitamins only. Even if it's a multivitamin, it's confined to vitamins.
Supplements on the other hand, can contain vitamins, but also other components, such as Chondroitin and/or Glucosamine for joints, amino acids, proteins, antioxidants and more.
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The FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) claims that dogs receive a full and balanced diet, including the vitamins they need, from commercially-produced dog food. But I'm not sure how much confidence I have in the FDA, in terms of providing reliable and unbiased information about dogs' health.
In order to decide whether your dog might need vitamins, you first need to assess the food you are giving them. If your dog is already receiving the vitamins he needs, an excess can be dangerous. If you are feeding your dog with commercial dog food, check the product label, for a list on vitamins and minerals present.
These are the most important vitamins that your dog needs:
There are other requirements for good heath.
Choline is an organic compound which is neither a vitamin nor a mineral. Amongst other things, it is required for healthy brain and liver function, and a well-functioning nervous system..
Calcium and Phosphorus are minerals needed for healthy bones and teeth
Potassium, Sodium and Chloride are electrolytes which play a big role in controlling fluid balance.
Common Dog Supplements
These are the four supplements most commonly given to dogs:
Let's take a quick look at each...
Glucosamine has become very well-known for its benefits for humans with joint issues. This has trickled down to dogs -- Glucosamine is the most popular supplement for dogs.
If your dog suffers from joint problems, a Glucosamine supplement for dogs is a good choice.
One of the most common health problems Cane Corsos can suffer from is Hip Dysplasia. They may also be affected by Elbow Dysplasia and Panosteitis. Glucosamine can help with all of these.
There is also another option for dogs with joint health problems. CBD has been proven to be very beneficial for joint pain.
A study undertaken at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine tested CBD oil as a treatment for dogs with osteoarthritis. The study reported "a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity" with no observable side effects.
We have a full article where you can see all about CBD and its benefits:
CBD And Your Dog — 23 Things You Should Know
Omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish oil are just as beneficial for dogs as they are for humans. Just as with humans, it is difficult for dogs to get a sufficient fatty acid levels without a dietary supplement.
Fish oil promotes healthy heart function, and also benefits the dog's coat. It can also help with joint pain, boost brain function, and strengthen the immune system.
Salmon oil is the second most popular dog supplement.
Antioxidants are important for protection from free radicals. Which are reactive molecules containing oxygen. A dog's immune system and nervous system are at risk from these.
Vitamins C and E are common antioxidants. Antioxidants are found naturally in fruits and vegetables, but these are not typically included in a dog's diet.
A good supplement is the easiest answer.
Probiotics are bacteria which perform a useful function. They are found in the stomachs of dogs (and humans), where they help with digestion, help fight infection and strengthen the immune system.
You may know of probiotics as a recommendation for humans after they have taken a course of antibiotics. This is because the antibiotic may have killed the probiotics, which now need replenishing.
It's widely known that live yoghurt is a source of natural probiotics. But yoghurt intended for humans may not be the best choice for your dog. It can contain sweeteners which are dangerous for dogs.
Dogs can eat plain yoghurt with no sweeteners. But, again, pet supplements are probably the easiest and safest way to get the probiotics to your dog, and be sure it is the right thing.
Dog Supplements For Joints
Probably the most common cause of joint pain and dysfunction in dogs is osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease.
It occurs where is a progressive breakdown in cartilage that protects joint and helps the joint to operate smoothly. The result is joint pain and decreased mobility, and maybe swelling. As dogs get older, the ability to produce cartilage decreases.
Not surprisingly, older dogs and giant breeds are at most risk of osteoarthritis. Cane Corsos obviously fall into this group, as a giant breed.
Dogs with osteoarthitis may exhibit:
As noted above, above, glucosamine and chondroitin have become very widespread in treating human joint conditions. These are also the most common in treatment of dogs.
These have proven to be effective. The National Library of Medicine has a report on a trial of glucosamine hydrochloride* and chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis of hips or elbows.
They reported that "Dogs treated with Glu/CS showed statistically significant improvements in scores for pain, weight-bearing and severity of the condition by day 70
*note that this test is based on glucosamine hydrochloride, not glucosamine sulfate.
Glucosamine hydrochloride promotes the growth and regeneration of cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate protects cartilage by reducing the destruction of cartilage. So the two clearly have synergistic effect.
Osteoarthritis in dogs was also addressed in another study. This time, the subject of the report, also published by the National Library of Medicine was the effect of oil omega-3 fatty acids on dogs with osteoarthritis.
The report concluded that "dogs with chronic osteoarthritis receiving carprofen because of signs of pain, feeding a diet supplemented with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids may allow for a reduction in carprofen dosage."
Dog Supplements For Itchy Skin
Our female Cane Corso, Maud, suffers from canine acne. This primarily affects the muzzle and chin, and results in red bumps.
Cane Corsos are not especially prone to canine acne, but it has been a long-standing affliction for Maud. It is intermittent rather than chronic -- in other words, it comes and goes.
In our case, the spots were under the chin.
We googled it and read up about other people's experiences, and soon saw that, in addition to medications or supplements, coconut oil can be used to combat this condition and help with healthy skin.
We can report from experience, that coconut oil has indeed been effective. Virgin coconut oil is what you want, and it's available in most supermarkets.
There are times, however, when this condition gets away from us, and we need medication for Maud. The standby is a benzoyl peroxide gel, which has quickly cleared up the problem
A fish oil supplement can be very beneficial, both as a prevention and a remedy for all sorts of skin issues, because the component omega-3 fats help to reduce inflammation. This helps with preventing the acne, and can also reduce the effect of allergies, and alleviate itching.
As noted above, salmon oil is the second most popular dog supplement, and is a good choice for ongoing prevention if your dog suffers periodically from canine acne, or other skin ailments.
Dog Calcium Supplements
Humans commonly take a multivitamin regularly, which probably includes calcium. The widely-known use of calcium is to promote bone strength. It also supports muscle function and helps with heart health, and nerve function.
Does calcium provide the same benefits for our dogs? Yes, your dog has the same need for calcium, and calcium performs the same functions for your dog as it does for you.
But that doesn't mean you can give your dog calcium supplements made for humans. These are formulated for higher weights and may contain ingredients which are harmful for dogs.
What you can do, as a possible alternative to calcium supplements is to use egg shells left over from your own consumption. It's a little time-consuming but simple enough.
We keep all the egg shells from cooking, baking, etc. We wash them and put them in a low oven for half an hour. Then they are simply crushed into a powder, which can be added to any pet food.
For a large dog like our Cane Corsos, we typically add a teaspoon or two to a meal 2 or 3 times a week.
A good calcium supplement is no doubt easier, but a free alternative might be helpful for some.
Dog supplements can be very beneficial in supporting many essential health functions, and as a remedy for many conditions.
A health condition that may benefit from a supplement is usually easy to spot, and it's relatively simple to match up with a high-quality supplement.
Dog vitamins are a more difficult area. They can certainly be beneficial, but it's not so easy to determine if they are necessary for your dog.
And an excess of certain vitamins can be problematic for the dog.
This requires an analysis of what food your dog is receiving and whether that food is already meeting his vitamin requirement.
Whatever supplements you decide to give your dog, be sure to use only supplements formulated specially for dogs. Choose a reputable company with a focus on quality control. Check the label for ingredients, and follow instructions for dosage.
NIH NLM National Library of Medicine
McCarthy G, O'Donovan J, Jones B, et al.
Randomised double-blind, positive-controlled trial to assess the efficacy of glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis
LJ gamble, JM Boesch, CW Frye, et al.
Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs
NIH NLM National Library of Medicine
by DA Fritsch
A multicenter study of the effect of dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on carprofen dosage in dogs with osteoarthritis
Allied Market Research