By Karen Sturtevant, Special to VetriScience
At one time or another, every dog owner has asked the question: “Does my dog need to take a supplement?”
There is not one correct answer to this question. As with most replies, the safe answer is, “Maybe.” Many commercial dog food manufacturers formulate their food to be nutritionally sound with the correct amounts of vitamins and minerals for each stage of a dog’s life.
But, not all dogs or dog foods are created equal.
One popular brand of dog food may be full of fillers, while the specialty pet store’s brand may lack high quality proteins. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) states that a dog’s diet should consist of a meat, vegetables, grains, and fruit. Some of these essential nutrients may not be found in fido’s food.
Now, we all know it’s a challenge to feed your dog a complete and balanced diet. If only everything tasted like bacon! That’s where multivitamins and supplements can play a key role in providing the full spectrum of nutrients that your pup requires to live a happy, healthy and active lifestyle.
Every Dog is Unique
Be mindful that the nutritional needs of dogs differ. Toy breeds have vastly different requirements than large breed dogs. A two-year-old Chihuahua performing agility work compared to a nine-year-old senior Husky, and an immune-suppressed three-year-old German Shepherd will require different nutritional regimens than a young and healthy 120-pound Black Russian Terrier.
The systems of the body, whether human or animal, are delicate. A body in balance will function at optimal levels. A body lacking essential nutrients will continually be in a state of unhealthy flux.
As with humans, vitamins are essential for dogs’ systems to function properly, blood to clot, muscle to grow and the body to heal. Deficiency of a specific vitamin or mineral can manifest as digestion problems, loss of muscle or hair, or stunted growth. If your dog needs support for specific health concerns such as their skin, immune system, inflammatory response, joint mobility, G.I. tract, or bladder, then a condition-specific supplement in addition to a multivitamin, would be beneficial. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend a supplement based on your dog’s unique needs.
Nutritional Balance is Essential
For those ambitious dog owners providing and preparing a raw or homemade diet, finding the correct nutritional balance is difficult. Even with a diet rich in lean proteins and fresh produce, vital nutrients may be lacking. In this case, it’s likely that a multivitamin and supplement would be recommended.
Dogs being housed in shelters or rescues will most likely benefit from a multivitamin and supplement as many had been eating anything they could just to survive. Their digestion, elimination, immune, skin, coat, muscle, brain, and skeletal systems will benefit from a boost.
Each nutrient has a job. A daily multivitamin can be beneficial but your dog may require a more targeted, condition-specific supplement as well. Always consult with your veterinarian before starting any nutritional supplement regimen. Recommendations will be made based on the dog’s history, medical status, age, breed and health.
Our dogs are our family, our friends, and our shadows. We owe it to them to be the best advocate for their health and welfare.