Supplements are added to food to increase its nutritional value. Whether you're making your own recipe or buying the best commercial brand, you may want to add a supplement to the ingredients you've selected.
No supplement is perfect for every dog, so you may have to try a few different ones to see what works best. Some dogs are reluctant to swallow pills or liquids or anything different in their bowls. If so, try powdered substances; they might be more to your dog's liking and can be disguised with food.
A few supplements include:
A good-quality, natural multivitamin/mineral. For maximum efficiency, the supplement should be made from whole foods rather than a synthetic product and only administered if your dog's diet is known to be vitamin or mineral deficient.
A fatty acid, such as chicken fat, or salmon, fish, or safflower oil. This helps produce a healthy coat and skin.
Calcium. Can be provided in the form of finely ground eggshells, or a calcium lactate supplement. It is important to maintain a 2:1 ratio between calcium and phosphorus for maximum utilization of these minerals. If either is too high or too low, the intestine will absorb from the other.
A green food supplement. Alfalfa, barley grass, blue-green algae, kelp, spirulina, and wheat grass contain phytonutrients and are powerful antioxidants.
Digestive enzymes. These help break down food and increase absorption of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.
Health blend formulas. A combination of several essential plant and animal nutrients in powder form provide nutrients that are lost in commercial food during processing. These can be found at natural food companies.
Some veterinarians believe that even high-quality commercial dog foods lose some vitamins through processing or storage. As a basic supplement, a multivitamin restores daily requirements of the essential nutrients your dog needs for good health. It also helps dogs with a poor appetite that are recuperating from illness and may be missing their daily requirements.
If you're going to give your dog a multivitamin, use one that's made especially for dogs (human-grade vitamins can cause side effects) and ask your veterinarian how much vitamin supplementation your dog needs.
Green Food Supplements
Dogs love to nibble on fresh green grass because it contains vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, which aren't a part of their regular food. Unfortunately, the blades of grass have tiny barbs that irritate your dog's stomach. Powdered green food supplements provide all the benefits of eating grass without the barbs that cause them to vomit.
Digestive enzymes are involved in every metabolic process and play a vital role in overall health. They help break down the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in food so the body can use them. A healthy dog may not show any physical changes from taking enzymes, but they will prevent diseases and ward off infections.
There are two types of fatty acids — omega-3 and omega-6. Some quality commercial foods include them. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and help ease allergies. They include fish (salmon) body oil. Good Omega-6 is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), and includes evening primrose oil and borage oil. Avoid foods that contain safflower oil, canola oil, and corn oil as they inflame allergies.
For maximum effectiveness, enzymes should be used with a high-quality food. Signs of enzyme deficiency are gas, diarrhea, and stool-eating. Senior dogs that are picky eaters and often miss getting all the nutrients they need will especially benefit from enzyme supplements.