Ideally, every nutrient your dog needs should be present in its dog food. However, nutritional research is generally far ahead of the dog food regulatory standards established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). To gain marketing advantage, many dog food manufacturers are supplementing their foods, but with no AAFCO standards the amount of supplementation is variable and often times minimal.
Below are recommendations of some common supplements and age groups that would benefit from them.
Ages: 6 weeks and Above:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
- EPA (eicospentaenoic acid)
Antioxidant vitamins help counter the harmful effects of “free radicals” that are a naturally occurring during oxygen metabolism, protective immune responses and liver detoxification of chemicals. DHA and EPA help regulate the immune response and aid in reducing allergic responses. These fatty acids also aid in skin and fur health. Research also suggests that DHA and EPA improve brain development in puppies.
Unfortunately, few dog foods contain vitamin C or protective amounts of vitamin E. DHA and EPA are often included indirectly by the addition of flaxseed oil. Conversion to DHA and EPA from flaxseed oils varies with individual metabolism.
Vitamin C and E daily doses vary from 10mg or IU for small dogs to 100mg or IU for large dogs. Fish body oil is a rich source of preformed DHA and EPA (no coversion required). 10-20mg combined DHA and EPA per pound of body weight daily is a safe dose.
Ages: 5years and Above:
It is not uncommon for dogs 5 years and older to start developing osteoarthritic changes in their joints. Owners often notice their dogs experience more stiffness or more difficulty in rising. Exercise may be gingerly at first and then warms to more normal activity levels. Dogs may resist longer walks or periods of exercise. These are all signs of possible arthritic joint changes.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin are very safe supplements that are thought to strengthen the surface of joints and decrease pain during movement. Dosage recommendations for glucosamine/chondroitin vary dramatically so you should consult your veterinarian for the proper dose for your dog. There is little evidence that veterinary products are superior to the much cheaper human products, so shop wisely.
Ages: 10years and above:
- SAM-e (S-Adenosyl methionine)
The liver is a key organ for the body. Its job is to convert nutrients to supply the body’s needs and detoxify by-products of metabolism. Over time this can cause damage to the liver cells themselves.
SAM-e is an amino acid derivative that helps reduce damage to the liver cells. Silymarin is an extract from the milk thistle plant and also helps reduce damage done to the liver. Separately or combined, these compounds have been found to be effective in reducing liver damage. Both are very safe.
Daily doses for SAM-e range from 100mg for small dogs to 300-400mg for large dogs. Silymarin can be dosed daily at 25-50mg for small dogs, 125-150mg for medium dogs and 250-300mg for large dogs.
Remember to always consult your veterinarian before adding any supplements to your dog’s diet to ensure they are appropriate for its health status.
~Dr Ken Tudor
The Dog Dietitian
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