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9 min read

What Supplements Should I Give My Dog and Why

Licensed Vet Tech

Tracy Isenberg, LVT

Throughout your life, you've learned the importance of getting the right vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. From a young age, humans learn they need to eat well, stay hydrated, and exercise to grow up big and strong.

But as you grow older it's not always possible to get the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to stay healthy. And the same is true for your pets.

Multivitamins and human supplements are pretty common in the nutrition space. You might take biotin to help with skin, hair, and nails or vitamin C to relieve a cold. Like daily vitamins for humans, there are also supplement options for dogs.

While supplements may sound too good to be true, there are lots of benefits when given to dogs. If you're new to the supplement world, you're in shared company.

In this article we'll cover:

  • What are supplements for dogs
  • Why are vitamin supplements important
  • Do dogs need supplements
  • What types of supplements do dogs need
  • How to get started with supplements for dogs
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What are supplements for dogs

Supplements are small, concentrated doses of essential vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Active ingredients found in supplements can help support your dog's immune system, gut, skin, coat, and joints.

Dog owners (and pet owners alike) like supplements because they are convenient, quick, and easy to administer to their dogs. While they shouldn't be used to replace your dog's food, they often help supplement any gaps in your dog's diet.

What’s the difference between vitamins and supplements

It's not always possible to give your pet a specific vitamin that they need with food alone. This is why supplements are so helpful. Similar in benefits and use, there are a few key differences between vitamins and supplements.


Supplements are products that add nutritional value to your dog's diet or improve their health. Most companies manufacture supplements such as soft chews, powders, and liquids for easy feeding.

Supplements contain active ingredients that, when combined, can tackle health problems in your dog. Thought vitamin content can vary from one to the next.


Vitamins are one type of supplement. Other types of supplements include mineral supplements, herbal supplements, and nutrient-rich supplements.

Vitamins often contribute to the makeup of the specific supplement you give your dog. Depending on what your dog needs, a supplement can contain individual vitamins or combinations.

Vitamins contain a singular source of nutrientsSupplements contain lots of vitamins and mineralsVitamins and supplements come in tablets, soft chews, powders, and liquids
Vitamins are active ingredients in supplementsSupplements support a unique sign or health needVitamins and supplements have to pass efficacy and quality control efforts
Vitamins and supplements are available for dogs and cats
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Why are supplements important#

At the end of the day, dog supplements are not a replacement for healthy food, clean water, and regular exercise. But they can "supplement" the gaps in your dog's diet to ensure they live their best life.

Dog supplements won't be effective in curing every problem your dog faces. But, they can help prevent bigger issues from progressing.

Do dogs need supplements

For the most part, dog foods are complete and balanced with essential nutrients for your dog. If your dog is a healthy eater they are likely meeting their nutritional needs.

But, that may not always be the case and they may need a supplement. Here are a few reasons why your dog might enjoy a daily supplement:

  • They are picky eaters
  • They have food allergies
  • Your pet has a vitamin deficiency
  • Your pet is on a homemade diet
  • Your pet is at a specific life stage

Dog food is meant to be holistic. But even if your dog eats homemade dog food, they'll likely need extra nutrients to meet their required needs.

If your pet is lacking a full and balanced diet they might need a supplement for dogs.

What types of supplements does my dog need#

Your dog's health starts with consistent meals of nutrient-rich food. But, depending on your dog's needs, they may need specially formulated vitamin supplements in addition to their food.

Unfortunately, too much of certain vitamins can be harmful to dogs. Excess calcium can cause skeletal problems while too much vitamin D can lead to atrophy and weak bones.

What Types of Supplements Does My Dog Need

The best dog supplements are formulated to support the unique health issues your dog is facing. The most common types of vitamin supplements for dogs are:

  • Hip & joint health supplements
  • Skin & coat health supplements
  • Immune support supplements
  • Gut & digestive health supplements
  • Aging & brain health supplements
  • Multivitamins (all-in-one dog vitamin)

Before you get started with any supplement, talk to your vet. Then research the various types and benefits of each to determine what's best for your dog's health.

Joint supplements#

If your dog has become sluggish, lethargic, or recently started limping they could be suffering from joint pain. Joint pain is common in aging or senior dogs and certain dog breeds.

To combat stiff, achy, and sore joints your pet may need a supplement. These typically have a concentrated mixture of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that help:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Strengthen bones
  • Boost cartilage repair
  • Improve mobility

Some examples of joint supplements that can improve your dog's hip and joint health include glucosamine supplements. Glucosamine and chondroitin help protect the joints and reduce inflammation to prevent and slow the progression of arthritis.

Key vitamins in joint supplements for dogs:

  • Chondroitin sulfate
  • Vitamin D
  • Fish oil (Omega 3 fatty acids)
  • Glucosamine
  • Manganese
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

Skin and coat supplements#

Another common issue many dogs run into is with their skin and coat. When dogs are missing key nutrients from their diet, their skin and coat can take a hit. Common signs include:

  • Dandruff
  • Dull coats
  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Hair loss
  • Excessive shedding

A supplement can help support your dog's gut and digestion which contributes to healthy skin and shiny coats. Giving your dog vitamin supplements can also help with skin allergies.

Key vitamins in supplements for skin and coat:

  • Vitamin A
  • Biotin (Vitamin H)
  • Vitamin E
  • Fish oil (Omega 3 fatty acids)
  • Zinc

Gut and digestive health supplements#

Like humans, good health starts with a healthy gut and digestive system. The ingredients in your dog's food and how well they digest it can be a good sign of their overall health. Poor gut health often looks like this:

  • A lack of appetite
  • Loose stools
  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Licking or chewing on paws
  • Weight loss
  • Dull coats

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, giving your dog supplements may improve things. The best dog vitamins for gut and digestive health are ones that contain omega-3 fatty acids. This is an important nutrient since dogs cannot produce it on their own.

Key vitamins in supplements for gut and digestive health:

  • Vitamin B (like B2, also known as Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin E
  • Fish oil
  • Enzyme blends
  • Iron
  • Probiotics

Immune support supplements#

Beyond individual health issues such as joint health or skin and coat your dog also needs help with their immune function. Some common signs of immune system disorders include:

  • Loose stools
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Skin lesions or open wounds
  • Limping or favoring limbs
  • Pale gums
  • Heavy breathing

As your dog ages, they need their body to work for them, not against them. If they have a compromised immune system there are certain vitamins that can help them. These include vitamins that fight free radicals, protect against viruses, and boost their vision, hearing, and mobility.

Key vitamins in supplements for immune support:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Fish oil
  • Vitamin K
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Supplements for aging or senior dogs

Pet parents know, your young puppies grow into dogs far too quickly. Their health and nutritional needs have changed and their dog food may not be enough to support them.

Cognitive dysfunction is very common in aging and senior dogs. Some symptoms of aging in dogs include:

  • Lack of focus or attention
  • Memory loss
  • Trouble hearing
  • Vision impairment
  • Difficulty controlling movements

Staying on top of your dog's health will help you prevent or better manage these issues in the future. Certain vitamins are great for forming red blood cells, improving memory, and boosting brain function.

Key vitamins in supplements for older dogs:

  • Vitamin B (like B12, also known as Cobalamin)
  • Vitamin C and E
  • L-carnitine
  • Fish oil
  • Selenium yeast
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Multivitamin supplement for dogs

There are several essential dog vitamins and minerals that supplement your dog's body, health, and lifespan. Packing these into one complex supplement is often referred to as a multivitamin.

Key vitamins in multivitamins:

  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Glucosamine & chondroitin
  • Manganese proteinate
  • Selenium yeast

How to get started with supplements for dogs#

As pet parents, you are often the first to notice when your dogs aren't looking or feeling their best. If you've ruled out disease, illness, or other infections then it might be a vitamin deficiency — which supplements are made for.

If you're not sure where to start with supplements, follow these steps.

1. Know your dog's nutritional needs.

Dog food companies go through in-depth feeding trials to craft food that is nutritious, complete, and balanced for these factors. But dogs are not created equally and several factors impact your pet's health.

The most common factors include:

  • Breed
  • Age or life stage
  • Weight
  • Environment
  • Lifestyle

Whether your dog eats homemade dog food or the best dog food on the market, they each have their own needs. And they could benefit from a supplement.

Be sure to read the fine print on any supplement label, treat container, or food bag. Doing so will ensure they align with your dog's diet and unique needs.

2. Talk to your veterinarian.

Annual dog check-ups are perfect opportunities to talk to your vet about your dog's diet. And determine if a supplement is right for them.

Use this time to share a list of the foods they are eating. Also include the signs or symptoms you've noticed to give your vet a complete picture of their health.

A veterinary nutritionist can help:

  • Share tips to supplement your dog's diet
  • Assist in understanding supplement labels and ingredients
  • Provide recommendations for the types of vitamins they need
  • Educate you on the best supplement for your dog (or dogs)

Dogs are complex creatures. So, talk to your veterinarian to ensure your dog is getting the proper nutrients to live a long healthy life.

3. Track your dog's diet.

Another great way to keep track of your dog's nutritional needs is by monitoring their daily food intake. This is especially true if you are feeding your dog natural or homemade dog food.

Just like humans dealing with food allergies, dogs can benefit from logging the foods they eat and the behaviors that follow. Make note of dog food, human food, treats, soft chews, or vitamin supplements they eat every day. Plus, any changes or symptoms that arise.

4. Do your research.

Responsible pet owners spend time researching brands and products before they buy. A good rule of thumb when doing your research is, that claims that sound too good to be true probably are. If a brand promises to reverse or eliminate a health problem be weary.

The best dog supplements come from trusted brands that are transparent about what goes into their products. They should also be honest about the benefits they provide your pup.

Look for:

5. Find the right type for your dog.

Dog vitamins and supplements come in many shapes and sizes including soft chews, flavor tabs, powders, and dog food toppers. Find a supplement that you will give your dog every day and one they will actually eat.

The best dog supplement is one your dogs love and is specially formulated for their unique needs. As long as they have the right vitamins, it's essential for your dog to actually like the taste and type.

Vitamin supplement recommendations for dogs

Your vet is a good place to start when looking for high-quality supplement recommendations. But if you're looking for a shortlist to take to your next appointment, we've got you covered.

Here are 3 different types (and top recommendations) of supplements for dogs:

Soft chews


  • American Journey Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil
  • The Honest Kitchen Daily Boosters Instant Goat's Milk


  • Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets FortiFlora Digestive Supplement
  • Native Pet Organic Pumpkin Fiber & Diarrhea Relief


Meet Tracy Isenberg

Tracy Isenberg, LVT is a member of PetFriendly’s in-house vet team. Tracy has over 25 years of experience working in the pet space as a veterinarian technician. She received her degree from Omaha College of Health Careers. Tracy has two dogs, a Bernese Mountain Dog named Bruno and a Yellow Lab Mix named Libby.