Making sense of canine supplements in a rapidly growing market
By Seth Bynum, DVM
If making sense of canine supplements feels like an overwhelming and confusing endeavor, you’re certainly not alone. Over the past decade, the canine supplement market has seen exponential growth along with a sharp rise in popularity among hunting dog enthusiasts. There are myriad brands touting a sizeable menu of specialized ingredients, each promising a competitive advantage at home or in the field.
Are supplements necessary?
It’s worth mentioning that the vast majority of healthy hunting dogs obtain all the essential nutrients they need for intense exercise and recovery from their performance dog food already. For all but a select few of elite athletes, performance supplements offering a dog a competitive advantage in the field likely do little more for the average high-drive hunting dog than what they receive in their food bowl already. However, there are some supplements that, for a variety of reasons, don’t package well in traditional dry kibble or are best used for specific purposes like battling arthritis or restoring gut health.
Not all supplements are created equal
The supplement space can be confusing, and it’s important that you do your due diligence before falling for the hype. Quite often the amounts or percentages of ingredients on the label don’t match what’s in the container. The quality and purity of those ingredients also vary widely among manufacturers.
Many of the performance claims touted by supplement manufacturers are, at best, speculative. With a few notable exceptions, there is little to no research behind the efficacy of some supplements in the canine model. To make things even more challenging for the consumer, some supplement manufacturers will offer ingredients with good research behind their efficacy but supply them in doses that are far below therapeutic amounts.
Which supplements should I consider?
A quality supplement will contain researched ingredients at or above therapeutic doses. For joint health, particularly in hunting breeds susceptible to joint disease, reach for supplements that contain high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin as well as hyaluronic acid. EPA and DHA, compounds known as omega 3 fatty acids, have also been shown to assist in maintaining joint health.
For gut health, Purina’s Forti Flora is a probiotic that has a great deal of research behind its efficacy. In practice, I’ve observed its proprietary strain of beneficial bacteria speed up recovery time for patients with diarrhea. As an upland hunter, I reach for Forti Flora in my dogs to help prevent gastrointestinal issues that arise from travel stress on multi-day road trips.
What about CBD?
A discussion on this supplement probably warrants an article all on its own. CBD (or cannabidiol) has gained popularity among pet owners as a novel treatment for a variety of canine ailments from arthritis to anxiety. This compound is the non-psychoactive ingredient derived from the cannabis plant, and laxing regulations have allowed for it to be available in ever-increasing quantities in pet-specific tinctures and treats.
There is an established body of evidence behind CBD’s use for dogs with arthritis, with many owners reporting a perceived benefit in pain management over traditional medical therapy for the disease. For patients with epilepsy, there is some emerging research that CBD may reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in these dogs.
Other claims purported by advocates of CBD use in dogs are mostly anecdotal at this time. It’s prudent to point out that different dogs can have different levels of cannabinoid receptors in their bodies. An individual dog may respond well to CBD treatment for arthritis while another may see very little benefit at the same dose.
Proudly brought to you in collaboration with Purina Pro Plan, Ask A Vet is a twelve-part series featuring Dr. RuthAnn Lobos and Dr. Seth Bynum, answering YOUR questions about your four-legged friend. Come back next month for Episode #6, and check out Episode #1, Episode #2, Episode #3 and Episode #4!