Part of my job as a vet, is not only help pets get better, but keep them healthy too. For this reason, I have always strived to provide a holistic veterinary service, which extends past the normal diagnostics and treatments. As a result, I often find myself giving advice on behaviour, para-veterinary therapies (such as massage, physiotherapy, and hydrotherapy), nutrition and exercise.
One thing that frequently comes up in conversation is the use of supplements to complement a healthy and balanced diet. Owners want to know are they necessary? And which ones are the best? The market is flooded with supplements and owners often find themselves overwhelmed at which ones to buy. Not only are there lots of different brands, but also a plethora of active ingredients, all claiming to be the best for certain ailments.
I’ve always said to clients, if your dog is being fed a balanced and healthy diet, and they don’t have any underlying ailments, supplements are a luxury extra. However, lifestyle can also play a role in determining if your dog may benefit from a supplement. For example, active or working dogs may benefit from extra joint support or show dogs may benefit from supplements to enhance the shine of their coat.
In this blog I’ve put together some information about my top five favourite active ingredients. I don’t believe there is such a thing as “best” supplements, because what is “best” differs from dog to dog. However, they are all tried and tested, with plenty of evidence behind them to ensure they are credible and make a difference.
Supplements for Digestion: Probiotics and Prebiotics
Inside your dog’s digestive system, there are billions of bacteria and yeasts, known as “gut flora”. These microorganisms help digest food, compete with bad bacteria, boost the immune system and aid in the provision of certain vitamins and nutrients. The gut flora plays an essential role in the wellbeing of your dog, but it can easily become damaged. Pathogenic (bad) bacteria can compete with these microorganisms, resulting in an overgrowth of them and gastrointestinal upsets. In addition to this, antibiotic treatments are not specific to pathogenic bacteria, so these can also cause the gut flora to become damaged and depleted when given. However, the gut flora can also become damaged due to more benign reasons; sudden dietary changes, stress and general ill health can also contribute to an imbalanced gut environment.This is where probiotic and prebiotic supplements come in handy. Probiotics are bacteria which are usually found in the canine guts. Some common strains are:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Enterococcus faecium
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Lactobacillus casei
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Bacillus coagulans
- Bacillus subtilis
- Bifidobacterium animalis
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Of these strains, Enterococcus faecium SF68 has a wealth of scientific research behind it, demonstrating incredible benefits towards stimulating immune health. However, many other strains are also excellent.
It’s a common misconception that the more strains in a probiotic supplement, the better. In fact, some probiotics actively work in contradicting ways, and therefore in some circumstances, less is more. The important thing to look out for when buying a probiotic supplement is how many colony forming units (cfu) are included (even better if the packaging says how many there are guaranteed to be left at the use-by date), and how well preserved the probiotics are. Probiotics are extremely sensitive to moisture, air, and temperature, and therefore the way the food/treat/powder/pill is developed will have an influence on how effective it is.
Most probiotics supplements also come with prebiotics included. I consider this to be an important addition to probiotic supplements, as prebiotics are the food required for healthy growth and nourishment of the gut flora. Beta-glucans, mannan-oligosaccharide (MOS) and fructo-oligosaccharides and common prebiotics, but there are many more which are beneficial.
At Buddy and Lola, the Super Tummy Daily supplement contains the probiotic Bacillus subtilis and is supported by several prebiotics to help improve digestive health as well as generally support skin and overall health. This supplement would be perfect for dogs with sensitive guts, skin allergies (which can result in yeast or bacterial overgrowth on the skin surface), or dogs which have recently had a stomach upset or taken antibiotics.
Supplements for Joints: Glucosamine
Out of all the supplements I recommend, joint supplements anecdotally seem to be the most common. Most joint supplements contain a range of active ingredients, which often include glucosamine, chondroitin, green lipped mussel, MSM, hyaluronic acid, curcumin, or turmeric. Of all of these, glucosamine is supported with the most scientific research.
- It stimulates the synthesis of the building blocks of joint cartilage, known as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs).
- It suppresses nitric oxide and prostaglandin E 2 which usually cause inflammation.
- It decreases joint pain.
- It stimulates cells called synoviocytes which produce joint fluid, resulting in better lubricated joints.
Buddy and Lola’s Bouncy Bones joint support supplement contains glucosamine hydrochloride as well as several other joint supplements mentioned earlier. Dogs with joint mobility problems, as well as dogs predisposed to developing joint issues, such as large dogs, active dogs, or certain dog breeds may benefit from giving this a try.
Supplements for Skin: Fish oil
Fish oil supplements are high in omega oils, specifically omega-3. I frequently recommend omega-3 for several different ailments, including improving skin and coat health, decreasing inflammation associated with allergies, supporting creaky joints, and improving senior brain and kidney health.
Omega-3 is predominantly found in fish, shellfish, plant oils and nut oils, and salmon oil is a popular, tasty option. However, not all fish oil supplements source their ingredients from companies which put welfare and sustainability at the forefront. So, it’s important to look out for this when you’re buying fish oil supplements.
At Buddy and Lola, the Jammin’ Salmon Salmon Oil is a great option for dogs who would benefit from more omega-3s in their diet. It is provided in a dark bottle to ensure the light does not cause it to turn rancid and conforms to IFFO – RS standards of responsible sourcing.
Supplements for Calmness: L-tryptophan
All dogs get anxious sometimes, and some dogs cope better than others. Sometimes this issue to genetics or breed predispositions, and sometimes this is due to events which have happened in their past. But there are plenty of ways you can deal with anxiety and stress, which includes behavioural training, dietary supplements, medications and pheromone or herbal scent therapy.
For dogs without severe behavioural issues, I often recommend starting with dietary supplements, such as l-tryptophan, casein, l-theanine or valerian root. L-tryptophan is one of the most popular dietary supplements to bring your pooch some peace, and quite effectively takes the edge off in minor stressful events or times of anxiety. L-tryptophan is an amino acid which helps with brain functions and the body can use it in the synthesis of serotonin which is known as the “happy hormone” which lifts your dog’s mood.
L-tryptophan supplements can be found in powder form, treat form, liquid form or baked into food already for your convenience. Buddy and Lola offer a supplement called Peaceful Pooch which not only has L-tryptophan in, but also several other stress-relieving ingredients. It is perfect for naturally anxious dogs to help them cope during stressful everyday situations.
Supplements for Stools: Psyllium Seed Husk
Being a vet is not all glamorous. While I like to spend my days cuddling puppies, in fact, I see my fair share of blocked anal glands and digestive issues instead. One way to treat digestive issues or blocked anal glands is to bulk up or firm up the stools. This can be done in a number of ways but adding fibre to the diet is usually very effective.
Psyllium husk is a dietary fibre which can be used to achieve this. When placed in a moist environment (such as the digestive system), it can swell up to 10 times its weight, resulting in much bulkier stools. This results in the anal glands being suitably expressed each time your dog has a bowel movement. It is also a prebiotic, which helps improve the health of the good bacteria in your dog’s intestines.
It's important to remember to ensure your dog has ad lib water when giving psyllium to prevent hard, uncomfortable, bulky stools. Buddy and Lola offer a popular supplement called Scoot Stopper which contains psyllium seed husk, as well as other digestive support ingredients. This supplement would best suite dogs with anal gland issues, or dogs who do not have regular bowel movements.If you have tried any supplements for your dogs, or have a particular favourite, we’d love to hear from you, so please pop us a message in the comments box below.