3 Ways Supplements Can Improve Your Dog’s Joints, Digestion, and Health

Martha G. Cline, DVM, DACVIM
By Martha G. Cline, DVM, DACVIM on May 2, 2024
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Your dog’s nutritional needs are constantly changing. As a puppy, they needed food to fuel rapid growth and build strong muscles and bones. In adulthood, a complete and balanced diet provides the nutrients your dog needs to stay healthy and active. And then in their senior years, food that helps support aging joints and gastrointestinal health can enhance your dog’s quality of life.

No matter how old your dog, pet parents and veterinarians are turning to supplements to boost their dog’s regular diet. Supplements should never take the place of a complete and balanced dog food, but they can help address some health issues and provide peace of mind. If you’re considering supplements, it’s always a good idea to talk with your vet before starting your dog on any new products.

In this article, we’ll examine how you can use supplements to support your dog’s health and prevent some of the common issues that afflict dogs as they get older, including digestive upset, joint problems, and more.

Dog Joint Supplements: Protecting and Preserving Mobility

Mobility issues are some of the most common health issues affecting adult and senior dogs—and one of the most common reasons vets recommend supplementation. Throughout life, active dogs put a tremendous amount of pressure and wear on their joints, which can cause conditions like osteoarthritis or age-related breakdown of cartilage. Along with maintaining a healthy weight, supplements are one option to help maintain mobility.

Best Joint Supplements for Dogs

Joint pain shows up in various ways. You may notice that your dog no longer wants to jump up onto a favorite couch, or perhaps he’s stiff and surly in the mornings. This may be caused by osteoarthritis—which commonly affects aging dogs—or it may be an underlying condition like hip dysplasia.

Your veterinarian can perform a nutrition assessment on your dog when they come in for a visit, to help determine the best diet for your dog and their individual needs.

Combined with appropriate medications, a healthy diet to maintain an ideal body weight, and used under the supervision of your vet, supplements can help support your dog’s mobility and maintain the fragile cartilage in your dog’s joints.

Your veterinarian can perform a nutrition assessment on your dog when they come in for a visit, to help determine the best diet for your dog and their individual needs.

Some of the top canine joint supplements include:

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin: These two ingredients work together to support the cartilage that lubricates and cushions joints.
  • Collagen: Collagen is a type of tissue that lines joints and helps them stay slippery and mobile.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Typically derived from cold-water fish, omega-3 fatty acids support a normal inflammatory response in naturally aging joints.

Purina’s Pro Plan Joint Care combines these into one formula that can be administered daily.

Supporting Healthy Digestion in Dogs

As they get older, dogs often experience digestive issues that affect their quality of life. This may be related to underlying conditions, such as inflammation or infection. It may also be caused by age-related changes to their digestive tract.

Common symptoms of stomach upset include vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms include changes in appetite, drooling, retching, belching, pain, abdominal pain, or changes in bowel movements. Some dogs with gastrointestinal upset may benefit from a change in their diet. These can include changing to a diet with a high digestibility, one that is fiber-enhanced, or modifying their protein source depending on how long a pet's had gastrointestinal upset.

Dogs experiencing vomiting that lasts for more than two consecutive days should visit their vet. Once at the vet, your vet may run tests to determine if there’s an underlying cause, or they may recommend making dietary and nutrition changes to support healthy digestion in older dogs.

Age-Related Changes to Your Dog’s Digestive System

In recent years, animal health experts have begun to better understand how aging changes your dog’s digestive tract. In a healthy digestive system, the intestines are colonized with billions of beneficial bacteria called probiotics. Unlike bacteria that cause disease, these bacteria are beneficial: they help keep the immune system healthy and the digestive tract working optimally.

FortiFlora is a single-strain probiotic that has been extensively studied in dogs, demonstrating health benefits like immune and gastrointestinal support.

As your dog ages, however, the number and type of intestinal bacteria change. Newer studies have shown that levels of beneficial bacteria called lactobacilli and enterococci decrease in dogs’ intestines. Researchers in one study linked these age-related changes in the gut to an overall decline in health.

FortiFlora is a single-strain probiotic that has been extensively studied in dogs, demonstrating health benefits like immune and gastrointestinal support.

Probiotics for Dogs

Maintaining a healthy population of gut bacteria is important in dogs of all ages. The bacteria in the gut help maintain the right pH balance in the gut, and they support a healthy immune system. About 70% of your dog’s immune system is located in their digestive tract, where it’s important to maintain the right levels of healthy bacteria to support strong immunity.

Purina’s Pro Plan FortiFlora probiotic is a vet favorite for control of occasional diarrhea as well as promoting intestinal health and balance. It contains the beneficial probiotic Enterococcus faecium SF68. FortiFlora is a single-strain probiotic that has been extensively studied in dogs, demonstrating health benefits like immune and gastrointestinal support.

Protecting Your Dog’s Golden Years

Even the healthiest dog will naturally slow down a little as he gets older. Their joints may creak a little, their dental health is harder to maintain, and their eyes may get cloudy or have trouble seeing. They may pack on some extra pounds as their activity level decreases.

While no one can stop time, you can take steps to support healthy aging in your dog so they have as many good years as possible. The first step is to pay attention to any changes in behavior, including any signs of pain or changes in their eating or voiding, and keep regular appointments with your vet.

At some point, you may also need to transition your dog to a food formulated for seniors. Talk to your vet about what to look for and how to transition successfully. Senior dog food is typically formulated to be easier to digest and may have other health benefits to support health issues common in aging dogs. Your veterinarian can perform a nutrition assessment on your dog when they come in for a visit to help determine the best diet for your dog and their individual needs.

Finally, working with your vet, it might make sense to provide a little extra boost in the form of supplements to round out their diet. Some of the more popular supplements pet parents turn to include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (often sold as fish oil): Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of a healthy diet. They have been shown to support healthy brain function.
  • Multivitamins: Multivitamin and multimineral supplements are gaining traction with pet parents. These supplements are not required in dogs that are fed a complete and balanced dog food, as all essential nutrients will be provided in their diet. Some supplements may provide additional vitamins or minerals for a specific health benefit like antioxidant support. 

Dog Supplement FAQs

What’s the best way to give my dog supplements?

Supplements for dogs come in a variety of formulations, including pills, powders, and chews. After consulting with your vet, you can follow the label instructions to give the product. Always follow the label instructions, or your vet’s instructions, on dosing and how frequently you give the supplement. Never give your dog human supplements unless instructed by your veterinarian.


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Benyacoub J, Czarnecki-Maulden GL, Cavadini C, Sauthier T, Anderson RE, Schiffrin EJ, von der Weid T. Supplementation of food with Enterococcus faecium (SF68) stimulates immune functions in young dogs. The Journal of Nutrition. 2003 April.

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Martha G. Cline, DVM, DACVIM


Martha G. Cline, DVM, DACVIM

Sponsored Content Author

Martha Cline is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed a rotating internship at Oradell Animal Hospital in New Jersey and then returned to the University of Tennessee for a small animal clinical nutrition residency. She is board certified with the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Nutrition). In December 2021, she joined the Professional Resources Group as a Veterinary Communications Manager at Nestlé Purina PetCare.

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