Hachiko Debate: Supplements- when are they necessary and when are they a waste of money?


Dog’s that are in good health and eat balances diets should not need supplements. In fact sometime supplements can also do harm- so before you decide that your dog needs them take a moment to look at the real need.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association from 2006 the most common supplements given are multivitamins, fatty acids (to improve coat shine), Probiotics (for gastrointestinal problems), supplements to support arthritic joins and antioxidants (to counter aging effects such as cognitive dysfunction).

Now it’s estimated that one third of every dog in the US receives some kind of supplement, and we are talking about a 1 Billion dollar market, that has little scientific evidence behind it. The FDA and many vets believe that pets receive a balanced diet when they are feed commercially processed dog food, while others think they are a good way to improve health.

There are a few general rules of thumb when considering  adding supplements to your dog’s diet:

You may consider adding supplements (after consulting with your vet!) if:

  • You feed your pet a homemade diet
  • You dog as particular health needs

You probably don’t need supplements if:

  • When you dog is in good health
  • If you feed them a store bought pet food diet (they usually contain the ingredients you are looking to supplements and adding more may have adverse effects)

Why is this such a big issue? Well overdoes of vitamins can be very bad. According to vets excess calcium can cause bone problems, too much Vitamin A or D can lead to vitamin toxicity with effects such as dehydration, joint pain, muscular atrophy and loss of appetite.

If, after consulting with your vet, you do decide to add supplements then here too you need to do your research and choose carefully! The National Animal Supplement Council checked joint support products on the market, and found that 25% didn’t really contain what they claimed on the label. When ConsumerLab.com tested thee probiotic supplements they only found one with enough dosage to be effective.

What to look for when looking at pet supplements:

  • Know exactly what ingredient you are looking for and check the label
  • Look for brands that have commissioned clinical studies
  • Gauge their expertise- look for brands that specialize in one area, or contact them directly to understand how the product was formulated and how long they have been in business
  • Look for certifications from third parties (such as the National Animal Supplement Council)
  • Do not give your pets human supplements. There are ingredients that are harmful to dogs!
  • Don’t fall to false promises- if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Supplements promising to alleviate cancer, parvovirus or hip dysplasia? Move along…

What do you think? Do you give your pets supplements? Why? Tell us in the comments!

Additional Reading:

Pets WebMD supplement guide

Pet MD Supplement guide

Top 10 supplements and do they work

Life with Beagle- are supplements worth it?

3 thoughts on “Hachiko Debate: Supplements- when are they necessary and when are they a waste of money?

  1. Hi Y’all!

    So that’s why my Human doesn’t feed me anything the vet doesn’t tell her to feed.

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog


  2. Yes we supplement food. The senior dogs get a supplement that was recommended by a field trialer that said he found his dogs recovered more quickly from intense training. Our vet approved so we tried it and we have found it does help them. They also get yogurt with their meals as a pro-biotic. Freighter only gets a bit of coconut oil to help his coat along as he will be in the show ring this Spring. I do agree that you have to be careful what you give. I am contacted all the time for supplement reviews and I turn them down because I do not think it is something to add causally. Thanks for joining the hop.


  3. We also use supplements. Sampson gets supplements to help with his arthritis and we are currently working to find the right formulas for Delilah to help her with her liver levels. Of course, none of this is done without consulting our vet.

    But we also lean towards the natural way of life as opposed the the pharmaceutical. I could just use pain pills for Sampson and put Delilah on steroids, but I prefer not to.

    It is always wise to consult with your vet and consider nutrition and lifestyle before adding any type of supplement. 🙂


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