Supplements for Dogs: All the Terms You Need to Know

Supplements for Dogs - Terminology Explained

Supplements for Dogs: All the Terms You Need to KnowSupplements for dogs are becoming more popular, but what’s with all these terms?

Dog supplements and their ingredients can be used as an additional source of nutrients normally lacking in regular dog food.

Supplements can reduce the effects of a (potential) deficiencies in dogs, or serve in a normal canine diet as a source for therapeutic or other beneficial properties.

With more popular dog supplements coming into the market, there is an ever-increasing number of terms associated with supplements for dogs and their ingredients that eventually confused dog owners.

Some of these terms have precise definitions while others may be more vague, or have varying usage. Certain terms are simply marketing claims that bare no legal or scientific definition. Below I’ll explain these dog supplement terms in short, layman terms.

Anti-oxidants for dogs

Oxidation is a chemical reaction that changes one substance to another very similar substance, but one with very different properties. Iron turning to rust is an everyday example of oxidation.

In technical terms, oxidation is the transfer of electrons or hydrogen from one substance to another.

In biological systems, oxidation reactions can produce molecules that are missing electrons. These molecules are called “free radicals” which can cause chain reactions of oxidation resulting in damage to the dog’s body cells.

Anti-oxidants prevent these chain reactions from occurring in the canine’s body by “donating” an electron to the free radicals thereby making them non-reactive.

Uses on anti-oxidants in canines

In dogs, anti-oxidants have been prescribed for the prevention of diseases such as cancer, coronary heart disease, liver disease and osteoarthritis.

Anti-oxidants commonly added to dog supplements include vitamins A, vitamin C, vitamin K and vitamin E, beta-carotene, lycopene, zinc, selenium, coenzyme Q10 and alpha lipoic acid.

Nutraceuticals for dogs

Nutraceuticals are foods or food nutrients that are given to dogs to provide a health benefit, and to prevent or treat diseases. The term “nutraceutical” is a combination of the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical”.

Nutraceuticals can therefore be divided into three broad categories:

  • Dietary supplements
  • Functional foods
  • Medicinal foods

To have their beneficial effect, nutraceuticals are usually administered in a larger dose than the daily requirement of that same food when used as a nutrient.

Nutraceutical products contain supplements or novel plant ingredients for specific health conditions in dogs.

Uses of nutraceuticals in canines

Because nutraceuticals are a wide range of dog supplements or ingredients, their purported benefits are also wide-ranging.

It has been claimed that nutraceuticals for dogs improve health, prevent chronic diseases, prolong the aging process and support the structure or function of the body.

Dietary supplements in nutraceuticals include: vitamins, minerals, herbals, non-herbals, probiotics, dietary enzymes.

Functional foods in nutraceuticals include: oats, bran, psyllium and lignin, prebiotics, omega-3 milk, canola oil, stanols (benecol).

Multivitamins for dogs

Dog Supplements - All the Terms You Need to KnowGiving vitamins to dogs is one of the most popular ways of supplementation among dog owners.

are a group of 13 organic compounds and vital nutrients that animals require in limited amounts, but which the animal cannot synthesize in sufficient quantities. It must therefore be obtained through the diet.

This means the term “vitamin” is conditional upon the circumstances of your dog and the individual dog himself.

Multivitamin supplements for dogs are very often combined with other ingredients such as minerals.

Uses of vitamins in canines

Vitamins are essential for tens of thousands of functions in the body, often in combination with minerals and enzymes.

Some, such as vitamin D, have hormone-like functions as regulators of the metabolism of mineral, or regulate the growth of cells tissues such as some forms of vitamin A. Others function as anti-oxidants (e.g., vitamins E and C).

The largest number of vitamins, the B-complex vitamins, help enzymes in their work in metabolism. Others assist in digestion and nutrient absorption, and keep the skin and hair healthy.

The primary vitamins are often classified according to whether they are soluble in fat or water. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are soluble in fat, whereas vitamins C and B-complex are soluble in water.

The fat soluble vitamins are stored by the body in special fat storage cells called lipocytes. The water soluble vitamins are usually excreted in your dog’s urine.

Probiotics for dogs

Probiotics are live micro-organisms that when administered in sufficient amounts, benefit the recipients.

Over the last few years, it has become increasingly popular to give probiotics for dogs.

Probiotics are administered to canines to ensure normal levels of the natural intestinal bacterial population. This is done by suppressing the growth of unhealthy, undesirable or disease causing (pathogenic) bacteria.

Uses of probiotics in canines

In dogs, the purported benefits of probiotics generally relate to improving digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, colitis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Probiotics are also administered for more general health problems such as reducing gas, improving the coat and skin, and reducing anxiety. It has been claimed that some probiotics can boost the immune system.

Bacteria species that might be used in probiotics for dogs include: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium longum and streptococcus thermophiles.

Note that products have recently appeared on the market called “pre-probiotics”. Although there does not appear to be an accepted definition of these, they reportedly help to increase appetite, feed conversion, maintain well-being and immunity.

Digestive enzymes for dogs

It is thought by some owners that enzymes required for optimal digestion are destroyed by the high temperatures and some of the chemicals used when processing commercial dog food.  Therefore, it is believed these may need replacing with supplements.

Uses of digestive enzymes in canines

Digestive enzymes for dogs are used when a dog suffers from digestive disorders such as colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic gastritis, liver problems, pancreatitis, or is otherwise unhealthy and may benefit from getting additional nutritional value from their food.

Digestive enzyme supplements may include ingredients such as pancreatic enzyme, protease (breaks down proteins into amino acids), amylase (breaks carbohydrates into manageable sugars like sucrose, lactose and maltose), lipase (breaks fats down into beneficial fatty acids) and cellulase (breaks down vegetables and fibres making them more useful to your dog).

Fatty acids for dogs

Supplements for Dogs - All the Terms You Need to KnowIt’s been proven how fish oil for dogs can help improve their health in many ways. Thus, with fatty acid supplements for dogs, we are interested in two classes: the omega-3’s and the omega-6’s.

In humans, fatty acids are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, decreased adverse events in people with heart disease, and benefits for patients with inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.

There is a third class of fatty acid which is sometimes mentioned, the omega-9 fatty acids. These decrease the concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood and skin.

By now, we know of certain health benefits dogs get from eating fish. However, consuming fish alone will not provide canines with sufficient amount of fatty acids.

Uses of fatty acids in canines

Fatty acids affect a number of body systems in your dog and are given for conditions including allergies and autoimmune conditions, arthritis, inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, dull and dry hair coats, yeast infections, eye disorders, heart disease and cancer cachexia, and plasma triglycerides and cholesterol levels.

With more studies proving the health benefits of fatty acids among canines, fish oil supplements for dogs are becoming increasingly popular.

Omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

Omega-6 fatty acids include:

  • Arachidonic acid (AA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Linoleic acid (LA)
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
  • Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA)

Prebiotics for dogs

Prebiotics are food ingredients (often complex sugars) that stimulate the growth of “friendly” bacteria in a dog’s gut, or inhibit the growth of disease-causing microorganisms.

Prebiotics feed naturally occurring intestinal bacteria in canines. Probiotics, discussed above, are one type of those naturally occurring bacteria.

Uses of prebiotics in canines

In dogs, prebiotics are used to treat diarrhea, re-populate the gut with beneficial bacteria after antibiotics, calm digestive upsets caused by e.g. travel and dietary changes, improve digestion and feces, and boost immune system function.

The most common source for prebiotics in inexpensive dog food is dried beet pulp.

In better quality brands, they are often listed as chicory root, garlic or fructo-oligosaccharide – a type of prebiotic fibre.

Medicinal herbs for dogs

Herbs are plants with flowers, seeds, or leaves that are used for food, medicine, flavouring or perfume for dogs.

Uses of medicinal herbs in canines

Medicinal herbs are believed to have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-tumor properties.

There are many herbs marketed as supplements for dogs. Examples include green tea extract, curcumin, garlic, ginger, aloe vera, Calendula flowers, milk thistle, Valerian, Chamomile and California Poppy, and many mushrooms (technically not an herb but are often marketed as one).

Minerals for dogs

Minerals are solid, naturally occurring, inorganic substances.

There are over 4,900 known minerals of which several are essential for the proper development and function of a dog’s body.

Uses on minerals in canines

Minerals have a wide range of functions in the body.

These include the formation of bone and cartilage, the activity of nerves and muscles, the balance of fluids, oxygen transport in the blood and the production of hormones.

There are two broad groups of minerals – trace minerals and macrominerals. Trace minerals are generally required in smaller amounts than are the macrominerals.

Trace minerals include chromium, copper, iron, iodine, manganese, selenium and zinc. Macrominerals include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulfur.