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Should My Dog Take Vitamin Supplements?

The answer depends on your pet’s health. “Dietary supplements are not necessary for healthy pets eating a nutritionally balanced diet, but may benefit pets with certain medical conditions,” says Dr. Lisa M. Freeman, professor of clinical nutrition at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Appearance and agility

If your dog is deficient in certain vitamins or minerals, your vet may recommend supplements. These can include fish oil, which contains fatty acids that reduce shedding and improve a coat’s shine. Other examples include glucosamine and chondroitin, which are commonly given together to help protect the joints from arthritis.

Help for fussy eaters

Your dog may also benefit from supplements if she eats a home-cooked diet, which may require vitamins and minerals to round out the meals' nutrition. Supplements may also help if your dog is a picky eater, consuming very little or only willing to eat foods with low nutritional value. In cases of tummy upset, probiotics may be useful.

Most of the time, if your dog eats a well-balanced and nutritionally comprehensive dog food made with real ingredients, a vitamin and mineral supplement is not necessary—and could even be potentially harmful.

Beware of drug interactions

There are few studies that correlate vitamin supplementation with long-term canine health. However, some supplements contain other additives that may diminish the effectiveness of certain medications. Most pet food companies ensure their formulas contain the right balance of vitamins and minerals; adding more can disrupt this balance.

Don’t share human products

If a veterinarian decides your dog could benefit from supplementation, choose brands specifically made for dogs, and check the label to make sure it contains a suitable allowance of vitamins according to breed and size. Do not give vitamins made for humans to your pet, as they have different concentrations of vitamins than those specifically made for dogs.

Rather than look for a multivitamin or mineral supplement, pet parents would do well to provide their dog vitamins through high-quality, commercially prepared pet food. Make sure to choose one that’s right for your dog’s stage of life—a puppy’s diet will likely differ from that of an adult dog—although companies often market a food formula that is healthy for dogs of all ages.   

If you have any questions about vitamin supplements, talk to your veterinarian.