How To Choose The Best Supplements For Your Dog's Needs, At Any Age

December 20, 2021
White medicine pills spilling out of bottle on wooden floor with blurred cute Shih tzu dog background.

Taking the best care of your dog is always going to require putting in some extra effort. At any stage in their life, giving your dog a bit more TLC will help them be the healthiest and the happiest they can be. Sometimes this means taking them for extra walks or on fun outings, and other times it’s doing research to make sure you’re getting them the best food for their needs.

With every dog having different individual needs and those needs changing at their different stages of life, sometimes the best care for your dog also comes in the form of supplements.

What is a supplement?

A supplement is an addition to your pet’s diet that will help boost a certain area where they are lacking nutrients or need extra help to relieve symptoms. There are two kinds of supplements: dietary and therapeutic. Dietary supplements are meant to increase a dog's intake of certain ingredients or nutrients in order to maintain healthy levels of those nutrients. These nutrients can be vitamins, proteins, digestive enzymes, or a variety of others. Therapeutic supplements, on the other hand, are meant to help the body prevent or treat diseases.1

Supplements can come in multiple different forms, though the most common way to add supplements to your dog’s care routine is orally. These can either be in treat form, where the supplement is given by itself as just a delicious treat, or as a liquid or oil that can be added to a regular meal and give it a boost of flavor and benefits.

How to choose the right supplements?

Depending on a dog’s age the amount and type of supplements that they may benefit from varies greatly. For younger dogs and puppies there are only a handful of reasons why they may need nutritional support. Senior dogs, on the other hand, are more likely to require a few supplements to be added to their diet.

When it comes to adding or changing anything in a dog’s diet, at any point in their lives, it’s best practice to talk with your vet about their individual needs. While it may be true that many dogs have benefited from adding a certain supplement, it’s best to discuss it with your primary vet to see if it will have the same impact on your dog. Health choices are individual and your dog may need something another dog doesn’t, or vice versa, so checking in with a vet before making these decisions will be safest.

Supplements to give your senior dog and why

Because Senior dogs have the most varied health problems, the following long list contains many supplements that would be useful for specific issues, and should not just be used in general health maintenance.1

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids for reduced inflammation

Many senior dogs experience arthritis as they get older. This is an inflammation of the joints that can make moving around anywhere from uncomfortable to painful. Adding a supplement of fatty acids can lower the effect that arthritis has on your senior dog, and can help stave off the impact that aging is having on them.2

Incontinence supplements to help with bladder control

As dogs get older, muscles atrophy and weaken. Unfortunately, that muscle deterioration doesn’t just stick to external, movement-based muscles. Some senior dogs will have trouble keeping up with their old bathroom schedule and may just not have the ability to hold it as long as they used to. Adding a supplement helps reinforce the bladder walls to help them hold it for longer than they naturally could. If you don’t have the ability to take your pet out for multiple, regular bathroom breaks then this may be a game-changer for your floors.3

Glucosamine with Chondroitin Sulfate for hip and joint health

One of the most common issues for senior dogs, especially larger dogs, is a hip issue. Be that issue hip dysplasia or arthritis, a dog’s hips are one of the most used parts of their body throughout their life. The wear and tear of a long, happy life of running, jumping, chasing, and falling leads to needing a bit of extra support to keep those well-worn joints in working order. Adding a hip and joint supplement may help your dog get a bit more pep in their step as some of their pain is managed.3,4

Cognitive supplement for dogs with dementia and preventing it

Supplements that are targeted towards the brain’s functions and include vitamin E can help a senior dog’s nerve cells communicate more efficiently and help keep the side effects of dementia from manifesting or becoming stronger.5

Heart supplement for healthy heart activity

Your dog’s heart is one of their most important parts, not only does it keep their blood moving but that’s where they keep all of their unconditional love. Protecting it by making sure they are receiving the right level of nutrients to keep their heart pumping as efficiently and worry-free as possible can be as simple as adding a treat to their food bowl.5

Probiotics and Prebiotics to help gut health

Probiotics and prebiotics work in tandem to help maintain and produce healthy bacteria while reducing unhealthy bacteria in your dog’s gut. Senior dogs have a harder time digesting and maintaining their digestive tract and gut health, by adding the supplement you take away the opportunity for more stomach issues to pop up as time goes on, and bathroom trips remain more consistent.6

Digestive enzymes to help digestion remain consistent

Similar to probiotics and prebiotics, digestive enzyme supplements help a senior dog’s digestive tract remain fully functional. While a younger dog’s body will naturally produce digestive enzymes, production slows in a senior dog’s body and they may need the additional boost.1,4

Supplements to give your Adult dog and why

Adult dogs have less—and often different—needs than senior dogs do; typically an adult dog is at the peak of their health, they aren’t developing the way a puppy is and they don’t run into as many changes as a senior dog would.

Fish oil or omega-3 fatty acid for coat quality and skin allergy relief

Adding fish oil supplements or other omega-3 supplements has been known to help dogs get shinier coats and reduce shedding in some breeds. And for dogs with constant itchiness on their skin, fish oil can help limit the effects of allergens that interact with the skin.7


Similar to our own choices as humans, we have the choice to add a multivitamin to our dog’s diets to boost their health. Not all dogs will need a multivitamin the way all humans are often encouraged to take one. Making the decision on what multivitamin, if any, your dog needs should be a discussion with your vet that includes factors like what food they are eating and how much exercise and activity they get. If your dog is eating a well-balanced diet for their age, breed, and size, then they probably won’t need a multivitamin. If a dog, or person, receives too much of one vitamin it can be detrimental to their health, which is what makes it incredibly important to talk with your vet before adding one.8,9

Supplements to give your Puppy and why

Supplements for puppies are one of the most debated options in vet spaces. Most recommended puppy foods already have the required nutrients for a growing puppy, so many vets don’t think it’s necessary to add more supplements. However, in some cases (like breed, or medical history) it may be beneficial to the individual pup, so be sure to discuss with your vet if you have reason to think a supplement may be helpful for your puppy.10

B-vitamins to promote general health and wellbeing

A puppy’s body is growing at a rapid pace and that can cause some stress on the body. The growth may increase the body’s needs for vitamins, especially B-vitamins, and increasing the amount you give to your puppy with a supplement may help alleviate some of that stress.

Digestive enzymes and/or probiotics to enhance absorption of nutrients

Puppies require more food to support their rapid growth than dogs at any other stage, so while they generally eat more, and therefore consume more nutrients, it can still be helpful to their system to provide the added support of a digestive enzyme or probiotics. Because these supplements help the digestive system work more efficiently, in terms of getting more nutrients out of their food, your puppy will be receiving more bang for their buck and getting all of the nutrients out of their food possible.11

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