12 best supplements for a healthy dog

12 of the Best Supplements Proven to be Beneficial for your Dog

We’ve compiled a list of what we think are the 12 best supplements for your dog, including vitamins, minerals, prebiotics, probiotics and more.

Supplements are becoming increasingly popular in the companion animal industry, following the successes of the human supplement industry. So we’ve taken a look at just what those supplements are actually proven to do.

Take a look through the list and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below.

12. Vitamin C

Starting the list is the well-known and widely used Vitamin C. Vitamin C is frequently used by humans to support the immune system and help keep away diseases. In actual fact, there isn’t too much evidence supporting Vitamin C’s immune boosting ability, but in dogs, it has been shown to increase the bactericidal (bacteria-killing) activity of white blood cells 1.

11. Vitamin A

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is quite a distressing disease that causes rapid weight loss in dogs. It occurs when the pancreas secretes insufficient digestive enzymes, making it difficult for the dog to absorb the nutrients it needs from the diet. Normal treatment involves supplementing pancreatic enzymes. Supplementing vitamin A alongside may improve the benefits 2.

10. Selenium

Selenium deficiencies can cause a number of problems in dogs, which it why it is a good idea to supplement the diet with selenium if you dog is deficient (deficiency can be determined by a blood test performed by a veterinarian). It has also been shown that additional selenium can reduce DNA damage and cell death in the ageing canine prostate 3.

9. Taurine

Taurine is an organic acid found naturally in the diet. It is added to cat food due to its essential role in the feline diet, as they are unable to synthesise it themselves. Addition of taurine to dog food is not necessary, which is why it is regularly advised that you don’t feed your cat dog food. As a supplement, taurine has been shown to be beneficial for dogs diagnosed with cardiomyopathies 4. It is also an antioxidant, soaking up free radicals that can damage the body, it is particularly active in the kidney and recommended to prevent kidney toxicity as a result of certain immunosuppresants 5.

8. L-Carnitine

Carnitine is involved in the production of energy from fats and is widely believed to aid weight loss. Although solid data is yet to be found on carnitine’s role in weight loss, it is incorporated in to many ‘light’ dog foods 6. There is evidence to show that carnitine is beneficial for canine heart health, particularly those diagnosed with cardiomyopathies (heart disease) 7.

7. Green Tea

The claimed benefits of green tea are quite vast; antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral. Just how true these claims are still requires more research, but green tea has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity 8. Insulin resistance allows excess glucose to circulate in the blood stream allowing the liver to convert it in to fat, which can lead to weight gain and canine obesity – green tea can help prevent this.

6. L-Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid that has been shown to reduce canine aggresion 9. Tryptophan is a precursor of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is commonly associated with feelings of well-being. As such, tryptophan (and serotonin) are used to reduce anxiety, fear and aggression.

5. Silybin (Milk thistle)

Silybin is an extract from milk thistle, which has been shown to protect the liver from damage caused by free radicals and other toxins 10. Its hepatoprotective (liver protecting) effect is widely documented 11 12, as such silybin is a common component of canine liver health supplements. See which 9 dog breeds are at greater risk of developing liver disease.

4. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is probably best known for its antioxidant function, which protects the body from free radicals that can damage cells. It is the antioxidant activity of Vitamin E that is responsible for improving canine cognitive function 13 14, making it an ideal supplement for dogs suffering from canine cognitive dysfunction.

Vitamin E (like Vitamin C) has also been shown to increase the bactericidal activity of white blood cells 15. Studies have also shown the beneficial effect of Vitamin E on semen quality and fertility. Improvements in the volume of semen, the vigour of spermatozoa and a reduced in the number of abnormal spermatozoa have been documented 16 17.

3. Oligosaccharides

Oligosaccharides are short chains consisting of sugar molecules such as fructose (fructo-oligosaccharides) or mannose (mannan-oligosaccharides). They are widely used as a prebiotic, a non-living substance that has a beneficial effect on gut health by promoting the growth of ‘good’ bacteria in the digestive tract.
Oligosaccharides can provide puppies with protection against bacterial infection 18 and improve gastrointestinal microbial ecology of adult dogs, beneficially affecting gut health 19.

Oligosaccharides are also used beneficially, alongside treatment for gastroenteritis and can reduce the presence of E. Coli in the gastrointestinal tract 20.

Oligosaccharides have also been used to prevent the progression of diabetes mellitus 21.

2. Lactobacillus spp.

Various species of the ‘good’ bacteria Lactobacillus are used to promote gut health. Lactobacillus is a probiotic, a living organism that improves the health of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in a similar way to prebiotics. Probiotics survive well in the GI tract and out-compete species such as E. Coli that can cause GI upsets and diarrhoea. Probiotics, in particular Lactobacillus, have been shown to:

1. Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids (EFAs), such as omega-3 and omega-6 found in fish oil (in particular Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)) take the top spot on this list. EFAs are cheap, easy to find and have many great health benefits:

  • EFAs can improve skin and coat health and have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of canine atopic dermatitis 26
  • Like vitamin E they also improve fertility and semen quality (volume, vigour and reduced abnormalities) 27
  • EFAs have beneficial anti-inflammatory effects 28 29, making them highly suitable for chronic inflammatory diseases such as canine osteoarthritis
  • There is also evidence to suggest they may reduce the frequency of seizures in epileptic dogs 30

Your Thoughts

Are there any supplements we’re missing? Let us know what you use and why or even what you don’t use and why in the comments below. Have you found any additional positive (or negative) papers or articles concerning the supplements above? Leave a link in the comments below.

Disclaimer: Remember, it is always wise to consult your vet before supplementing your dog’s diet. Be sure to research what is best for your dog and stick to dosage guidelines. Overdosing on beneficial supplements isn’t always a good thing – in fact in some cases it can cause toxicity, so please be aware and seek advice if you are unsure.


  1. Influence of dietary antioxidants and fatty acids on neutrophil mediated bacterial killing and gene expression in healthy Beagles
  2. Serum vitamin A concentration in dogs with experimentally induced exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  3. Effects of dietary selenium supplementation on DNA damage and apoptosis in canine prostate
  4. Taurine and carnitine in canine cardiomyopathy
  5. Taurine reduces FK506-induced generation of ROS and activation of JNK and Bax in Madin Darby canine kidney cells
  6. Focus on L-carnitine
  7. Taurine and carnitine in canine cardiomyopathy
  8. Effects of green tea on insulin sensitivity, lipid profile and expression of PPARalpha and PPARgamma and their target genes in obese dogs
  9. Effect of dietary protein content and tryptophan supplementation on dominance aggression, territorial aggression, and hyperactivity in dogs
  10. Hepatoprotective effects of S-adenosylmethionine and silybin on canine hepatocytes in vitro
  11. Hepatoprotective efficacy of certain flavonoids against microcystin induced toxicity in mice
  12. Silibinin protects OTA-mediated TNF-α release from perfused rat livers and isolated rat Kupffer cells
  13. Improvement of short-term memory performance in aged beagles by a nutraceutical supplement containing phosphatidylserine, Ginkgo biloba, vitamin E, and pyridoxine
  14. Oxidative damage and cognitive dysfunction: antioxidant treatments to promote healthy brain ageing
  15. Influence of dietary antioxidants and fatty acids on neutrophil mediated bacterial killing and gene expression in healthy Beagles
  16. Effect of daily food supplementation with essential fatty acids on canine semen quality
  17. Effect of antioxidant supplementation in semen extenders on semen quality and reactive oxygen species of chilled canine spermatozoa
  18. Fructan supplementation and infection affect food intake, fever, and epithelial sloughing from Salmonella challenge in weanling puppies
  19. Effects of supplemental fructooligosaccharides plus mannanoligosaccharides on immune function and ileal and fecal microbial populations in adult dogs
  20. Use of mannanoligosacharides as an adjuvant treatment for gastrointestinal diseases and their effects on E.coli inactivated in dogs
  21. Supplementing transglucosidase with a high-fiber diet for prevention of postprandial hyperglycemia in streptozotocin-induced diabetic dogs
  22. Effectivity of freeze-dried form of Lactobacillus fermentum AD1-CCM7421 in dogs
  23. Effects of a probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus strain on feed tolerance in dogs with non-specific dietary sensitivity
  24. Effects of probiotic bacteria in dogs with food responsive diarrhoea treated with an elimination diet
  25. Effect of lactobacillus supplementation on growth and nutrient utilization in mongrel pups
  26. Analysis of epidermal lipids in normal and atopic dogs, before and after administration of an oral omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid feed supplement. A pilot study
  27. Effect of daily food supplementation with essential fatty acids on canine semen quality
  28. Effects of dietary supplementation with fish oil on in vivo production of inflammatory mediators in clinically normal dogs
  29. Responses of dogs to dietary omega-3 fatty acids
  30. Positive impact of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in a dog with drug-resistant epilepsy: a case study

About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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