Dietary Supplements

Pete Wedderburn
14th January 2020 - 2 min read

Pet Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements have become big business in the pet world, just as in human nutrition. But are they necessary? And could they even be dangerous?

A pet supplement is defined as a product that’s intended to complement the diet, helping to support a normal biological function. Products range from multivitamins for overall health to targeted formulas that claim to alleviate specific problems. These products fall somewhere between nutrition and pharmaceuticals (drugs), and they’re often also known as “nutraceuticals”. 

Supplements For Skin And Coats

Essential fatty acids are a good example. If a dog has a dull, dry coat, or if it is prone to itchiness because of allergies, there’s evidence that a higher level of essential fatty acids in the diet can help. These oil supplements help in various ways that are invisible to the eye, at a microscopic level, but they can also make a visible difference, making the coat glossier.

A typical pet diet contains adequate fatty acids for an average pet, but a pet with a skin or coat problem may need a higher amount, and that’s where the supplements can be useful. 

Dietary Supplements

Supplements To Prevent Arthritis

Another example is a combination of two ingredients, glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate, that are marketed as a treatment for arthritis. Again, a pet that had no history of joint problems would not need an increased level of these nutrients in the diet, but there’s increasing evidence that for an older, creaky pet, daily supplementation with the right combination and dose of these nutrients can make a significant difference.

Pet Multivitamins

These are perhaps the best two examples of supplements that are genuinely useful, but there are many others where the need may be debatable. Very few pets need multivitamins, as long as they are on reasonable quality diets. Owners should be very careful about self-medicating their pets with nutritional supplements, just as with other, stronger drugs. It’s always worth asking your vet before starting your pet onto any new dietary ingredient.

dog taking tablet

There’s a wide range of different brands out there, and some are better than others. Pet owners should use products designed and licensed for pets, rather than using supplements sold for human use. When research has been done on a product to demonstrate safety and efficacy for use in animals, it can be reckless to use something else just because it’s a little cheaper.

Alternative Nutritional Supplements

Vets may also suggest an alternative to nutritional supplements: you can buy diets for specific medical conditions that have had appropriate ingredients added during manufacture so that there’s no need to add anything else. There are now diets for pets with skin disease, arthritis, canine cognitive dysfunction (the dog equivalent of Alzheimers), and even cancer. Each of these diets is pre-supplemented, as appropriate and although the diet may cost more than a standard diet, it’s often cheaper than normal food plus the cost of the extra supplement.