Commercially available dog supplements contain active and inactive ingredients. An active ingredient is an ingredient in a drug or supplement that is active biologically. Active pharmaceutical ingredient and bulk active are also the terms used in medicine. Inactive ingredients of a supplement are those which do not either improve or influence the beneficial action of the active ingredient. Inactive ingredients are mixed with active ingredients during the manufacturing process of medicinal products such as tablets, capsules or many other forms. The manufacturer of the dog supplements usually provides a list of active and/or inactive ingredients. It is very convenient to the pet owners or veterinarians to find a comprehensive document detailing the common active ingredients in dog supplements. You can find this document here.In this article, we describe the most common active ingredients in dog supplements, and also briefly describe their functions. The most common active ingredients in dog supplements include MSM (methylsulphynolmethane), Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Safflower Oil, Flaxseed, Sunflower seed, Fish oil, Linoleic acid, Multivitamins, Minerals, Probiotics, Phytonutrients (e.g., Yucca Schidigera Extract, Curcumin), and Taurine.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll describe important information on each of the most common active ingredients, their source, chemical nature, and the reason why they’re added to the dog supplements.
Common Active Ingredients in Dog Supplements
MSM – One of The Most Common Active Ingredients
MSM (methylsulphynolmethane) is a natural sulphur containing compound which is believed to improve the flexibility of the joints. It also reduces inflammation and pain in human and animals.
Glucosamine – One of The Most Common Active Ingredients
Glucosamine is basically an amino sugar. It is similar if it is found either in human or dog supplements. Some ingredients in human supplements may be hazardous for the dog.
Glucosamine and chondroitin (described in the following paragraphs) are usually advised by veterinarians as alternatives of NSAIDs for the treatment of dogs suffering from osteoarthritis (inflammation of the joints). These compounds are advised because some dogs are unable to tolerate the side effects of NSAIDs.
Glucosamine and chondroitin also have slight adverse effects. However, the clinical benefit of using these compounds are dubious. The existing evidence is difficult to understand their clinical benefits due to the use of diverse manufacturers, compositions, salt forms, sources, strengths, therapy durations, regimens, and combinations of active ingredients. Future studies should be conducted to elucidate the uncertainty around the clinical benefits of using these agents and quantify any treatment effect that exists (Bhathal et al., 2017).
Chondroitin – One of The Most Common Active Ingredients
Chondroitin is a natural substance that is present in the dog’s cartilage, and when combined with glucosamine, it has an even more beneficial effect on dog’s joints.
Glucosamine and chondroitin, have been reported to improve joint function. Also reported to reduce the pain of manipulation and lameness. According to Beale (Beale, 2005), it was hard to recognize the precise nutraceutical treatment that leads to joint improvement. Studies have shown that the combination of chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and n-3 PUFA (Polyunsaturated fatty acids, for example, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) + docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), available in Fish oil) in the diet improves joint status. The possible effects of such improvement on dogs’ athletic performance as well as on their athletic life need further study (Vassalotti et al., 2017).
Chondroitin sulphate, glucosamine, undenatured type II collagen, avocado, soya bean unsaponifiables, curcumin (Component of turmeric, extracted as an orange powder) and polyunsaturated fatty acids have been studied in dog Osteoarthritis cases. Most of them showed anticatabolic and anti-inflammatory effects. Unfortunately, few data exist concerning their pharmacokinetics. Their bioavailability is low, but new formulations are developed to enhance their gastrointestinal absorption. Using clinical trials, new formulations compared to native forms should be investigated. Although investigations are required, dietary supplements should be considered in Osteoarthritis management (Comblain et al., 2016).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Linolenic acid, Safflower Oil, Fish oil, and Flaxseeds
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are classified as omega-3, omega-6 or omega-9 depending on the position of the last double bond along the fatty acid chain. The main dietary PUFAs are omega-3 [such as linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)] and omega-6 (such as linoleic acid and arachidonic acid). Omega-3 is mainly present in fish oils, flaxseeds, and walnuts, whereas omega-6 is found in safflower, corn, soya bean and sunflower oils as well as in meat fat.
Omega 3 fatty acids are also among the most common active ingredients of dog supplements. Several authors reported beneficial effects of some of the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fish oil, due to the reduction of inflammatory states (Goldberg and Katz, 2007).
Fish oil omega-3 fatty acids, mainly eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, are used in the management of several diseases in companion animal medicine, many of which are inflammatory in nature. Adverse effects associated with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation comprise changed platelet function, gastrointestinal adverse effects, impaired wound healing, lipid peroxidation, potential for nutrient excess and toxin exposure, weight gain, impaired immune function, effects on glycemic control and insulin sensitivity, and nutrient-drug interactions (Lenox and Bauer, 2013).
Adverse effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation are mainly dose-dependent. It is imperative to envisage dosages of omega-3 fatty acids to better understand how much fish oil to supplement, or what dietary concentration to aim for when recommending omega-3 supplementation. Unfortunately, all drugs, dietary supplements, or nutraceuticals have the potential for adverse effects. Despite the benefits listed above, there are potential risks associated with usage of omega-3 fatty acids.
Potential risks associated with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation should be evaluated in conjunction with their potential benefits. The National Research Council publication on Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats indicates a safe upper limit of the combined amounts of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) + docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as 2,800 mg/1,000 kcal of diet, equivalent to 370 mg per (kg body weight) 0.75 for dogs. This is equivalent to 2,080 mg for a 10 kg dog (Lenox and Bauer, 2013).
Vitamins and Minerals
Multiple vitamins and minerals are added in dog supplement and are among the most common active ingredients of dog supplements. Examples of minerals include, but not limited to, Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Copper, Manganese, Zinc, and Iodine. Examples of vitamins include, but not limited to, Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Pantothenic Acid, Niacin, Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C).
According to US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dogs which are fed on commercially processed food, generally take a well-adjusted number of vitamins and minerals. Supplementation of vitamins and minerals might be necessary for dogs that are fed on a diet made at home. An experienced veterinarian or nutritionist should be consulted to get help in determining whether supplementation of vitamins or minerals is needed or not.
Often a question is asked if it is dangerous feeding dogs with vitamins. According to FDA and veterinarians, if a dog already consumes well-adjusted food, then taking excess portions of some of the vitamins and minerals might be harmful. Excess of calcium intake can cause skeletal problems, especially in large-breed puppies. Excess of vitamin A can damage blood vessels, cause dehydration, and also result in joint pain. Too much vitamin D consumption may lead a dog to stop eating, harm bones, and cause muscles atrophy.
Probiotics usually contain different types of bacteria which are normally found in the canine gut, for example, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Enterococcus faecium, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidobacterium breve.
Yogurts, containing live bacterial cultures, are also known as probiotics or good bacteria. They support dog’s digestive health. As compared to traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt is more concentrated and harbours excess number of beneficial probiotics.
Probiotic supplementation can provide various benefits to dogs, e.g. improved skin and coat appearance, a drop-in gas production, better breath, drop-in allergy symptoms, decrease in yeast-associated ailments, and regulation of bowel function.
All breeds of dogs can get benefit from probiotics. Probiotics aid in digestion and control the immune system. Probiotics yield short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which prevent the growth of bacterial pathogens, for example, Salmonella, E. coli, and Clostridium perfringens. Nusentia Probiotic Miracle, Nutramax Proviable DC, Nusentia Miracle Zyme, Purina Fortiflora, VetriScience and Vetri-Mega Probiotic, are among the top probiotics in the market.
Evidence in healthy dogs, as well as dogs with Gastrointestinal (GIT) and non-GIT illnesses, suggests some effect of probiotics on the GIT microbial population, metabolic status (e.g. fecal short-chain fatty acids concentrations), and immune system as well as systemic effects (e.g. changes in serum biochemical variables), but there are no clear clinical benefits. Similar but weaker evidence is available for cats, but with fewer controlled studies (Jugan et al., 2017).
Phytonutrients (e.g., Yucca Schidigera Extract, Curcumin)
Phytonutrients are the substances found in certain plants and believed to be advantageous to human and animal health, and help prevent numerous diseases.
It is an herbaceous plant. Previous studies have shown that addition of Yucca Schidigera to animal feed (including pet’s food) can improve joint health.
A large number of polyphenolics and saponins are found in Yucca which reduces joint inflammation. It is an all-natural ingredient that offers anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties. Yucca Schidigera is an important active ingredient and constitutes approximately 20% of dog foods on the market.
Yucca Schidigera can be included in pet food in different forms. It can be added as an extract, where parts of the plant are torn to shreds, dried, and finely grounded. Juice from the leaves can also be added. Yucca is mainly mixed with pet food to help minimize the smell of their waste. Studies have shown that pet food containing Yucca reduces the waste-odor as much as 26% (Cheeke et al., 2006).
It is one of the various compounds in Turmeric. It is, in fact, an active ingredient of turmeric. It is one of the most common active ingredients among herbal products. Curcumin has various properties including but, not limited to, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, wound healing, and anticancer activities. Evidence has been published for its potency to target multiple inflammatory diseases (Henrotin et al., 2013).
Major limitation regarding the use of natural curcumin is the lack of evidence related to its bioavailability in dogs. Low bioavailability is the hurdle to predict its administration by oral route. For this purpose, curcumin has been dissolved in oil and then absorbed into chylomicrons, with no modification of its structure (Henrotin et al., 2013). In vivo, it was shown that, in white blood cells from 12 osteoarthritic dogs, gene expression involved in ‘inflammatory response’ and in ‘connective tissue development and function’ decreased more in dogs fed with curcumin than in dogs receiving Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Curcumin also inhibited macrophage proliferation (Colitti et al., 2012). In this study, curcumin was administered in phytosome, a complex of curcumin and phospholipids, to enhance its bioavailability.
Taurine or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid is one of the most common active ingredients which are used in dog and/or cat supplements to help support skin and coat health. It is an organic compound which is commonly found in tissues of animals. It is the main component of bile and can be traced in the large intestine. It is estimated that it accounts for up to 0.1% of total body weight of a human.
Taurine is naturally found in fish and meat. It is an indispensable dietary requirement for the health of cats as house cats, and various other members of the cat family, are unable to produce this compound naturally. Taurine deficiency causes degeneration of cat’s retina, leading to eye problems and ultimately result in permanent blindness. Such condition is known as central retinal degeneration (CRD). Taurine deficiency also leads to loss of hairs and tooth deterioration.
For dogs, taurine is not considered dietarily essential; however, its deficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) are reported in large-breed dogs (Backus et al., 2006). It has been found that feeding certain commercially available diets may result in low blood or plasma concentrations of taurine, and may also be linked to dog cardiomyopathies. Supplementation of feed with taurine has extended survival times in these dogs, and this finding is not considered typical for dogs with cardiomyopathy. Blood and plasma taurine concentrations in dogs, suffering from cardiomyopathies, should be submitted for measurement of taurine, and supplementation of taurine should be advised during blood/plasma analysis (Fascetti et al., 2003).
We have summarised important information on selected ingredients of dog supplements. Various new herbal ingredients are now being researched in the laboratories, and clinical studies are providing essential information on their beneficial role on pets’ health. If you’re interested to know more about herbal or natural components of dogs or cats supplements and want us to do more comprehensive research on selected ingredients, then you’re highly encouraged to contact us at Fiverr.
Backus, R.C., Ko, K.S., Fascetti, A.J., Kittleson, M.D., Macdonald, K.A., Maggs, D.J., Berg, J.R., Rogers, Q.R., 2006. Low plasma taurine concentration in Newfoundland dogs is associated with low plasma methionine and cyst(e)ine concentrations and low taurine synthesis. The Journal of Nutrition 136, 2525-2533.
Bhathal, A., Spryszak, M., Louizos, C., Frankel, G., 2017. Glucosamine and chondroitin use in canines for osteoarthritis: A review. Open veterinary journal 7, 36-49.
Beale, B. 2005 Nutraceutical treatment in dogs and cats. In Proceeding of the NAVC North American Veterinary Conference, 8–12 January 2005, (Orlando, FL.).
Cheeke, P.R., Piacente, S., Oleszek, W., 2006. Anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects of yucca schidigera: A review. Journal of Inflammation (London, England) 3, 6-6.
Colitti, M., Gaspardo, B., Della Pria, A., Scaini, C., Stefanon, B., 2012. Transcriptome modification of white blood cells after dietary administration of curcumin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in osteoarthritic affected dogs. Veterinary immunology and immunopathology 147, 136-146.
Comblain, F., Serisier, S., Barthelemy, N., Balligand, M., Henrotin, Y., 2016. Review of dietary supplements for the management of osteoarthritis in dogs in studies from 2004 to 2014. Journal of veterinary pharmacology and therapeutics 39, 1-15.
Fascetti, A.J., Reed, J.R., Rogers, Q.R., Backus, R.C., 2003. Taurine deficiency in dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy: 12 cases (1997-2001). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 223, 1137-1141.
Goldberg, R.J., Katz, J., 2007. A meta-analysis of the analgesic effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for inflammatory joint pain. Pain 129, 210-223.
Henrotin, Y., Priem, F., Mobasheri, A., 2013. Curcumin: a new paradigm and therapeutic opportunity for the treatment of osteoarthritis: curcumin for osteoarthritis management. SpringerPlus 2, 56.
Jugan, M.C., Rudinsky, A.J., Parker, V.J., Gilor, C., 2017. Use of probiotics in small animal veterinary medicine. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 250, 519-528.
Lenox, C.E., Bauer, J.E., 2013. Potential Adverse Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Dogs and Cats. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 27, 217-226.
Vassalotti, G., Musco, N., Lombardi, P., Calabrò, S., Tudisco, R., Mastellone, V., Grazioli, R., Bianchi, S., Cutrignelli, M.I., 2017. Nutritional management of search and rescue dogs. Journal of Nutritional Science 6, e44.