dog vitamins

The Reality of Dog Vitamins and Supplements

dog vitamins

Vitamins and supplements are part of the daily rituals for millions of people, but should dogs take them?

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), in 2013 Americans spent $13.14 billion dollars in the supplies/Over-the-Counter category. The category includes food, medicines, vitamins, supplements, and more. The category is expected to topple $13.72 billion in 2014. We are spending on nutritional supplements and vitamins for our precious pooches, but what is exactly needed, what’s considered “too much,” and do our dogs really need the extra stuff?

We went to one of the top sources for holistic care of pets in this country, Dr. Patrick Mahaney. Mahaney is a veterinarian and President at California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness (CPAW). I have known Mahaney for years and consider him to be an excellent resource who keeps pace with current trends and is an industry expert.  Mahaney’s terrier, Cardiff, is living (and thriving) despite his diagnoses of Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia and more recently, cancer. Here’s the scoop on vitamins and supplements for dogs:

cute dogs

Is a vitamin necessary for dogs and if so, what should a dog parent look for in a high quality vitamin?

In the veterinary community, there are many differing opinions about if a vitamin is necessary for the health and longevity of our canine companions.  As most commercial dog food is supplemented with vitamins and minerals to meet after basic AAFCO nutritional requirements, usually a dog’s needs would appear to be sufficed by what’s in their food.  Yet, most pets eat processed commercial diets made with added vitamins that are synthetic instead of whole food based vitamins derived from minimally processed fruits, vegetables, and other food sources.

Judith Decava’s book Good Foods/Bad Foods: A Little Book of Common Sense Nutrition gives an insightful explanation of why natural/whole food-based vitamins are better absorbed by the body then their synthetic counterparts. So, for my patients I recommend nutraceuticals that contain vitamins that are whole food based, such as the line of canine and feline products from Standard Process.

Patrick Mahaney
Dr. Patrick Mahaney with his dog, Cardiff.

We are giving our dog coconut oil. This has come up a lot lately in the news. What are its benefits?

Adding coconut oil to a dog’s diet can help to increase polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in the body which provides many health benefits.  Coconut oil is rich in a natural anti-inflammatory compound called lauric acid and medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that benefit the nervous system, skin, and joints (among other body systems).

As dogs are omnivores having carnivorous tendencies, they actually better absorb animal-sourced omega fatty acids than vegetarian sources.  So, when I feel one of my patients’ health conditions merits a fatty acid supplement I suggest fish oil-based omega fatty acids over plant-based sources like coconut oil.

It’s best that dog owners seek the guidance of their veterinarian before starting a course of omega fatty acid supplementation you ensure that an appropriate product is chosen and safe dosing occurs.


Joint supplements are very popular, and something we use as well. In terms of a joint protective, what are some qualities a dog parent should look for when deciding on which one to administer?

When striving to improve a dog’s joint health, it’s common to provide a chondroprotectant (dietary supplement that benefits joint health).

When choosing a product, it is best to use one that is recommended by a veterinarian and has been formulated specifically for pets. Occasionally, human products have ingredients that may be undesirable for overall pet health.

Additionally, make sure that the product meets Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), as such certification provides higher quality control over products.

Finally, I always suggest choosing products made with USA or Canada sourced ingredients over others coming from countries with questionable manufacturing practices, like China, Mexico, etc.

dog ACL brace

What is the difference with all of these fatty acids on the market and which one(s) do dogs really need?

There are many types of fatty acids.  The most common that we veterinarians focus on to benefit the health of our canine patients are at Omega fatty acids.

To make the situation even more complicated, Omega fatty acids are broken down into three, six, and nine categories.  Omega three and nine fatty acids are considered to be anti-inflammatory while Omega six fatty acids can be pro-inflammatory.  Omega three fatty acids are where I place my recommendations and recommend owners provide a supplement for their dogs having disorders of the skin, joints, nerves, or having any condition associated with inflammation (skin allergies, immune-mediated diseases, arthritis, cancer, etc.).

The total Omega three content of a supplement is composed by EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), and other omega threes.  EPA is considered to be most important in reducing inflammation while DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is the primary structural component of the brain and retina.

Since Omega 6 Fatty Acids are considered pro-inflammatory (lead to Arachadonic Acid synthesis) they can negate effect of Omega 3 supplementation and I don’t recommend their inclusion for omega fatty acid supplementation.


When choosing an omega fatty acid product, I recommend Nordic Naturals Nordic Pet line as the company regularly participates in “research in an effort to help correct the global omega-3 deficiency. To date, over 30 original studies using Nordic Naturals products have been published, and more than 30 are currently in progress.”

big dog

With all of this talk of supplements, how many is too many? It seems like there are hundreds if not thousands of supplements available these days.

There’s not an exact guideline for how many supplements is too many to give our canine companions.

My recommendation is for dog owners to closely work with their veterinarian to determine the need for providing dietary supplements based on current health status.  It’s important to provide a product that is safe and appropriate for pets.  Certain supplements like fat-soluble vitamins can be excessively given, stored in body fat, and create toxicity to the liver or other body systems (i.e. inducing illness in the face of striving to benefit a dog’s health).

If your veterinarian is not comfortable advising you on supplements, then I suggest finding another veterinarian who is by pursuing a consultation with a holistic veterinarian. One can be found via the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association (AHVMA).

QUESTION: Do you give your dogs any vitamins or supplements? What has worked for you?

 About Patrick Mahaney: 

To satisfy his creative urges, Dr. Mahaney writes a pet health column (Patrick’s Blog) and connects with animal aficionados worldwide through Q & A, videos, and radio interviews. He also guest blogs for Perez Hilton’s,i Love Dogs, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr. Patrick on, MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt, and Pet Docs On Call. Recently, he’s lent his holistic veterinary perspective to Jackson Galaxy’s My Cat From Hell on Animal Planet.


  1. We give our dogs fish oil and joint supplements. I really believe the fish oil makes a difference in their coat and skin. Since giant breeds are prone to joint issues (especially when growing), we like to supplement a bit. We try to choose supplements with minimal ingredients and made in the US.

  2. I feed Orijen, so I think the food is quality. Still, with Clementine’s back issues, I give both girls a half a talbet of glucosamine/chondrotine with MSM every day. I also give them one tablet each of GNC multivitamins-every other week. That way they get vitamins, but I don’t overload their systems. In addition, they get raw carrots or apples, and I bake them dog cookies occasionally. I watch the ingredients that they ingest like a hawk. So, to keep me in balance, Molly and Clementine chow on green grass like cows when I’m not looking!! 😉

  3. We give our dogs joint supplements, green lipped mussel, ground kelp, calcium, salmon oil, camelina oil and coconut oil (not all of the oils are given together), and we recently started giving the adults Revitamal.

    Our dogs are healthy and happy in part because of their diet and the rest is due to the supplements we’ve chosen. We work with a nutritionist for our dogs’ health.

    1. We are very cautious about what we give, too, and Dr. Mahaney is a trusted friend and amazing resource. We, too, are very diligent about what we give. So glad you are on top of things for your dogs, too, Kimberly.

  4. I have been giving Destiny 1000 mg of fish oil (in softgel form) for Omega-3s daily forever now. I also give her about 1 TBSP of liquid Glucosamine/MSM/Chondroitin supplement daily. I used to give her a tablet or capsule for the latter, but then I heard somewhere that those don’t get absorbed because of the high levels of acid in a dog’s digestive system. Doesn’t make sense now that I think about it. Guess I fell for a marketing scam to buy the more expensive liquid supplement! :/
    I also give her about 50 mg of Vitamin C daily, as well as a drop of apple cider vinegar and about 2 TBSP of kefir (probiotic powerfood!!). Thanks for the great post! 🙂

  5. It makes sense that you would want to use a pet supplement that has been recommended by a veterinarian. Considering that it is going to be used to help improve your pet’s health using one that is recommended by their doctor would ensure that it will do just that. It would certainly be safer than trying to do it on your own and accidently getting them sick.

  6. After reading this information, I’ll know the supplement is needed to our dog for many reasons. Make my dog’s joints and muscle more strong; I can follow your instructions. Thank you for sharing this information with us.

  7. I have a question: Is it okay that our dog takes his Omega gel cap whole wrapped in Cheese? Does it still do the job it is supposed to do? We give him one every day. Thanks

  8. I liked that you said that one thing to consider when buying supplements for your pet is to buy ones that are recommended by veterinarians. I would imagine that this would help promote good health for your pet. I would be sure to consider using quality supplements for my pets so that they will live longer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.