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Can I give my dog supplements?

By Jessica Vogelsang, DVM


The pet supplement industry brings in over a billion dollars a year, so clearly lots of people think so! A better question is, “should I give my dog supplements?” The answer to that depends on what you want to give, and why. Here are some of the most commonly used supplements:


Joint and arthritis support


One of the most popular categories in pet supplements is joint support, and with good reason. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are widely used in both human and veterinary medicine, and are well accepted in the medical community as a safe and effective complement to more traditional medications. I often recommend these for senior pets, particularly larger breed dogs who are often prone to joint disease.


Skin support


EFA (essential fatty acid) supplementation is a mainstay in many veterinary dermatology offices, for its anti-inflammatory properties and for its ability to strengthen the skin’s function as a barrier. Fish based fatty acids have a more optimal ration of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids than vegetarian based EFAs such as flaxseed.


Gut support


Got a flatulent dog, or one who always seems to be suffering from midnight bouts of diarrhea? Probiotics, intended to flood the GI tract with “good” bacteria, are often helpful for mild cases of GI upset.


Liver support


A healthy pet should not need a liver support supplement, but in dogs with specific liver conditions, milk thistle or SAM-e can help reduce inflammation and improve liver function. Veterinary-specific formulations exist and are my go-to for dogs that would benefit from them.




Commercial dog diets are formulated to meet very specific nutritional guidelines, meaning they have all the vitamins and minerals your dog needs. The only time I usually recommend them is if you are feeding a home-cooked diet or other diet that needs those additional supplementations. When in doubt, ask your vet.


Image: WilleeCole Photography / via Shutterstock

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