Are Supplements Really Good for Your Dog?

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If you watch commercial television at all, you regularly see advertisements for treatments, compounds, and supplements that boast of the ability to make you live longer, look prettier and act smarter while you are at it. We are naturally dubious about these claims, especially when they end the ad with the disclaimer that the federal government has not approved these items for the stated purposes. Because we have this reaction when considering whether or not to use supplements for ourselves, we are equally suspicious when it comes to determining whether or not some of the additives available for our dogs are truly worthwhile. The issue is that we want the absolute best health for these animals that are more than pets to us. The question is, how can we know if these supplements are actually helpful for our dogs?

The Science Behind Supplements

The good news is that research laboratories and regulatory agencies are currently taking close looks at all the different substances that are touted as being healthy for our canine companions. Among those testing and offering oversight is the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). A number of other groups and industry labs, for instance, the Consumer Laboratory, are also involved in objectively testing test supplements for safety as well as efficacy. The growth of the pet supplement industry has sparked this interest because about one-third of American dogs receive some sort of vitamin or supplement. The first-tested compounds have been the most commonly used, such as joint medicine compounds. More recent supplements, such as the use of CBD oil for dogs, have been less widely investigated, but still, show promising results.

Supplements That Work

You should note first that there are some supplements that have been evaluated as being safe to give to dogs. This does not mean that the supplements have actual health and medicinal value. As a pet owner, you are likely interested in those compounds that are not only safe but effective. One of the most extensive reports on supplement testing records that the supplements which are both safe and useful are fish oil (for allergies), probiotics, SAM-e, Coenzyme Q10, and Lysine. There are other supplements as well that are just coming onto the market that has been tested by third-party labs and show some real promise, such as Hemp oil products. Interestingly, the most common products, such as multivitamins and glucosamine do not seem to have much health impact on dogs.

Questionable Supplements

Researchers are quick to note that not all supplements human beings use are safe for pets, who are referred to the scientific literature as “companion animals.” Among the human-safe but pet-dangerous group of supplements, garlic tops the list as it causes anemia in animals even as large as horses. Other herbs causing issues were ginger, ginseng, and ginkgo. Supplements containing caffeine in the form of guarana can result in the death of canines. As the market and desire for pet nutritional supplements grow, federal regulatory agencies, industry labs, and veterinary groups are creating new venues to offer oversight. However, testing and research is a lengthy process. The use of supplements should entail checking out the lab data of those manufacturers who offer these nutrients.

When It Is Time For Supplements

You may have a natural urge to give your dog vitamins as it ages. As well-meaning as that may be, it is important to remember that overmedicating dogs—even with needed nutrients like calcium and Vitamins A and D—can be toxic. As you recognize that your dog needs some help with joint, coat, and energy issues, your first step is to speak to your vet. If you are giving your dog a prescription drug, the vet has to determine what supplement might interact adversely with the medicine. Once that has been determined, you can decide which nutritional supplements are best for your companion.

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