If you’re a supplement taker, you already know that certain nutrients go a long way toward alleviating or reducing common human ailments. Your dog can reap the same benefits with pet-specific supplements. Here are some top options to consider.
Glucosamine + collagen
Achy joints, especially from hip dysplasia, are a common but manageable affliction, especially in senior dogs.
When you’ve got a hurting dog, finding side-effect-free solutions rises to the top of your wish list. Fortunately, more recent research gives reason for hope.
In one well-designed study, scientists divided 20 arthritic dogs into four groups and treated them with supplements for four months. One group took 10 mg UC-II, a type of collagen. Another group took 2,000 mg glucosamine combined with 1,600 mg chondroitin. A third group took all three supplements, and the final group took a placebo. After each month, researchers tested dogs’ pain levels, which decreased regularly. All dogs, except those given a placebo, experienced improvements in overall pain, pain upon limb manipulation and exercise-associated lameness, but the dogs who took all three supplements showed the best results. Tellingly, the dogs’ pain returned 30 days after the supplements stopped.
More good news for glucosamine
Another study by many of the same researchers duplicated these results using the same supplement doses and study design. This time, they split moderately arthritic dogs into four groups for five months. Based on observations, all dogs who took the supplements showed significant pain reduction, but when using special sensors to gauge pain, only the UC-II collagen group showed benefit. But best of all, no side effects appeared in liver, kidney or overall physical function.
Today, glucosamine is the number-one supplement for dogs, according to the American Kennel Club. You’ll find it in pills, powders and treats, often combined with chondroitin sulfate.
Omega-3s for sore joints
Another sore-joint winner for dogs: omega-3 fatty acids. In a recent study, a multicenter veterinary group tested more than 125 arthritic dogs who were fed an omega-3-enriched dog food. The food contained more than 30 times the regular dog food’s omega-3 content and an increase in the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.
Why is this important? Too-high omega-6 levels boost inflammation, and that’s no bueno for anyone, human or canine. At six weeks, dogs who chowed on the test food showed significantly improved ability to rise from a resting position and play.
Omega-3s for skin and fur
Omega-3s also benefit your animal’s skin and fur quality. Savvy barnyard breeders who know this trick add flaxseed to horse and sheep feed to improve coat luster. Flaxseed’s alpha-linolenic acid—which basically means an essential fatty acid— on contact with animal hairs can result in a sleeker, shinier and healthier coat. Drizzle 1–2 tablespoons of cold-pressed, unrefined flaxseed oil onto dog food daily, recommends researcher C. Leigh Broadhurst, PhD.
Although there’s scant research focused on probiotics for dogs and cats, researchers do know that dogs suffering from gut-health issues, such as chronic diarrhea and inflammatory bowel disease, commonly have an unhealthy microbiome (colonies of bacteria that live in your dog’s ears, skin, mouth, respiratory system and most of all, in their digestive system).
An interesting recent study found that people share more microbiota with their own dogs than with other dogs—just like cohabiting couples share more gut bacteria than do people who live in different households. That suggests that whatever probiotic you’re taking for your own gut may also be suitable, in pet form, for your dog.
Talk with your vet before introducing a supplement into your dog’s diet to rule out any hidden health issues and ensure a supplement won’t negatively interact with any other medications. And choose pet-specific products; ingredients found in human supplements, such as garlic, can be harmful to your pooch.