The Growth of Dogs and Supplements
The trend towards giving supplements to dogs is on the rise nationwide. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), as many as one-third of all pet dogs in the United States may be getting regular supplements along with their daily meals and treats.
But why are supplements suddenly so popular for pet dogs? Do dogs really need these supplements? What supplements might be helpful for your dog? Find out the answers to these and other questions.
Why Are Owners Giving Dogs Supplements?
Veterinary medicine as a field has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade. Today, veterinary researchers know so much more about whether and how certain supplements may be beneficial for pet dogs.
Part of the reason for this explosion of research is because as veterinary medicine improves, pet dogs are living longer! So now veterinary science is tasked with helping dogs not just live longer but enjoy better quality of life into their golden years.
Another part of the reason is because as interest grows, more funding is available to conduct veterinary research. This gives veterinary researchers more opportunities to explore the potential benefits of supplements for dogs and other beloved companion animals.
As more data becomes available and veterinarians are able to share study results with their clients, pet owners are making greater use of supplements shown to provide longer life and better quality of life for their dogs.
Meet the Most Popular Dog Supplement
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the hands-down most popular and widely-used dog supplement is glucosamine.
Glucosamine was discovered in Italy in the 1960s. Glucosamine is a naturally-occurring compound, which means it is made by the body. The Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) states that glucosamine is an important building block for bone, cartilage and tissue, joint fluid and muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Scientists have identified a relationship between glucosamine and proteins that cause inflammation. Glucosamine can inhibit inflammation by blocking these proteins. This effect is amplified when glucosamine is combined with chondroitin, another chemical the body makes naturally.
While scientists first researched glucosamine and chondroitin for their benefits to people, it didn't take long for veterinarians to become interested in each for their benefits to companion animals as well. Happily, a comprehensive review of research to date recently published in the AVMA Journal supports the benefits for dogs as well.
Why Take Dog Supplements When the Body Makes Them?
This is a great question many dog owners have! It is a valid, smart question in light of the increasing numbers of dog supplements on the market today, many of which are easy to buy over the counter with no veterinarian prescription needed.
You don't want to over-supplement your dog and you don't want to give your dog supplements they don't need. But you also don't want to steer clear of all dog supplements and miss out on the ones that might really help your dog feel better.
As Medical News Today explains, the simple truth is that over time and with age, the body often makes less and less of certain valuable compounds your dog needs to stay healthy and pain-free. It happens with people and it happens with pets.
This is where supplements come into the picture. If you can give your dog a supplement to replace naturally-occurring chemicals that are no longer being made in sufficient quantities inside your dog's body, this in turn can help restore lost function and ease discomfort for your pup.
What Types of Dog Supplements Can Your Dog Take?
Dog supplements, like people supplements, come in many different forms. This is helpful when you have a dog with special medical concerns like sensitive stomach or trouble swallowing pills. There are capsules, tablets, soft chews, powders, liquids and treats you can give your dog.
It is important to talk with your canine veterinarian if you have any questions about the best form to use with your dog. Some types are faster-acting but faster to wear off, such as tinctures you add to your dog's water. Other types are slower to take effect but last longer, such as treats that must pass through your dog's digestive system before being distributed to the cells of the body.
There may be some combinations that will work better for your dog's specific health symptoms, such as combining glucosamine with chondroitin or MSM, another popular supplement that is also naturally-occurring in the body.
Dosing should also be discussed with your veterinarian, especially if your dog is very big or very small. If your dog is still a puppy, always talk with your veterinarian before offering any supplements!
When Should You Not Give Your Dog Supplements?
While dogs and people have lived together for centuries and sometimes it can feel like your dog knows you better than any person does, dog bodies work differently than people bodies in some important ways. This is why you always want to use a supplement specifically made for dogs, even if that supplement is also one that people take, such as glucosamine.
You also want to read the manufacturer's fine print carefully to discover recommendations for proper dosing, whether to give with meals or between meals and whether there are any known side effects.
Supplements may be "natural," but this doesn't mean they are not powerful. After all, the pain reliever that changed the world, aspirin, was originally made from a plant called white willow bark!
For this reason, there are some times when you may not want to give your dog supplements. If your dog is on any medication, always talk with your dog's veterinarian first to be sure there are no possible interactions.
If your dog is still a puppy, never give supplements unless your veterinarian specifically recommends this.
For healthy adult dogs, it is smart to talk with your veterinarian before adding a preventative supplement just to make sure your dog can really benefit from the additional nutrients.