We love our pets and we want the best for them. We take them to the vet, we watch what they eat, and we exercise them, but what about vitamins and supplements? The short answer to whether we should provide our pets with additional supplements is, “that depends.” According to the FDA (http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/Products/AnimalFoodFeeds/PetFood/UCM2006475), most pets receive an appropriate amount of vitamins and supplements in commercially produced pet food that is species specific. However, many pets can benefit from additional vitamins and supplements, particularly if they are senior animals, have a chronic disease, are health compromised, are a working animal (rescue, K9, disabled service) or are not fed a commercially produced food.

This article will cover the various types of vitamins and supplements available for your animals including fish oil (omega fatty acids), which aids in healthy skin and coats/feathers, vitamins C and E to reduce inflammation and help with memory, and calcium for strong bones and egg shells. Before starting your pet on any new product, consult your veterinarian to make sure the vitamin or supplement you’ve chosen is appropriate for your pet as well as the correct dosage for their breed and size.


The types of products offered for dogs include multivitamin and mineral supplements, joint health support (glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM), healthy skin and coat (omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil), healthy immune system, heart and kidney health, healthy digestion and regularity, calm behavior and weight maintenance. Vitamins and supplements come in a variety of forms including pill, powder, chewable and liquid. For some dog owners, they may elect to use human-grade supplement products instead of pet-grade, as they are usually less expensive. However, before giving Fido any vitamins or supplements check with your vet. Many human-grade products contain ingredients that can be harmful to our pets (such as alcohol, often found in liquid vitamin B complex). Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t give him that supplement, but you may have to find a different supplier that doesn’t use a particular ingredient.

In an article in the July 2007 edition of “The Veterinary Journal”, researchers found that dogs diagnosed with osteoarthritis and treated with glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate showed less pain and increased mobility after 70 days of treatment.

Working dogs such as police K9s, herding, hunting or assistance dogs have unique dietary and vitamin supplement needs depending on the exact type of work the dog performs and the environment in which it works. Before giving your working dog supplements, discuss your dog’s current diet with your vet or pet nutritionist to determine what might be best for his or her activity level and age.


The types of vitamins and supplements available for cats include multivitamin, products for healthy skin and coat, joint health support, urinary tract, healthy immune system, healthy digestion and regularity, and weight maintenance. If your cat has a chronic health condition like thyroid or heart disease, you may want to discuss appropriate supplements to alleviate side effects resulting from medication or ways you can augment her diet. It can be difficult to get a cat to take a pill or powder; some owners prefer to give their cat’s liquid supplements. Consult with your vet for the appropriate supplements to feed your cat based on breed, age and weight.


Vitamins and supplements for birds come in concentrated powder or liquid that can be mixed with food or water. Multivitamin formulas available from your local bird supply contain essential vitamins not found in basic seed diets. These multivitamins promote “normal feathering”, and helps fight off any sickness or stress. Omega-3 rich products aid in healthy skin by reducing excessive molting, scratching and dry skin. Vitamins A, D and E help prevent dull plumage. Calcium (crushed oyster shells) contributes to bone growth and strengthening (including eggshells for females). Try replacing the gravel in the cage with oyster shells.

Pocket pets (chinchillas, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats, rabbits and ferrets)

Vitamins and minerals for pocket pets include vitamins A, D, E, B, K, folic acid, biotin and choline. In addition, guinea pigs require vitamin C (in food or as supplement) as they can’t manufacture it on their own. Most of these vitamins can be provided in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Most vitamins and supplements for ferrets are packaged and sold as species-specific. Designed as moist chewy treats, the multivitamin formula comprises vitamins and minerals for overall health. The skin, coat and nail formulas have omega fatty acids and vitamin E and can be used to alleviate the symptoms associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).


There are fewer vitamins and supplements on the market for reptiles, amphibians and similar animals. The primary supplement available for reptiles, water turtles and amphibians are sulfa block products to control common bacterial and fungal diseases like salmonella.


Vitamins and supplements for fish include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin C (enhances immune system function) and garlic. Products can come already in the food or for those species that eat live brine shrimp; there are products that you can feed to them that will improve their nutritional quality.

Horses and other large hoof animals

Depending on the type of activities you have your horse engage in, vitamin and mineral supplements aid in joint health support; healthy skin, coat and hoof care; healthy immune system; healthy digestion and regularity; and weight maintenance. Available supplements tend to come in powder and are dosed based on the weight and activity of the animal. Other large animals have unique vitamin and mineral requirements. Consult with a veterinarian that specializes in your type of large animal before giving any supplements.

Check with your veterinarian before beginning any new vitamin/supplement regimen, when you change your pet’s diet, if your pet is on any medications for a chronic illness or as your pet shifts from one life stage to another (adult to senior). For additional resources on vitamins and supplements, visit the ASPCA (http://aspca.org/” target=”_self” title=”ASPCA – pet vitamins & supplements”>http://www.aspca.org/home/common/SearchResults.aspx?cx=009443921554899757786:1worw3u_szq&cof=FORID:10&ie=UTF-8&q=vitamins&sa=Search&;siteurl=http://aspca.org/).

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