In this article:
Glucosamine & Chondroitin
Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Supplements for Dogs, Horses and other animals

  • Supplementation is not normally required if feeding a balanced diet.
  • Supplementing an already balanced diet will unbalance it.
  • Supplementation of Vitamins particularly the fat soluble vitamins A,D,E,K can be potentially toxic.
  • The calcium, phosphorous ratio must be correct in the growing animal.
  • Puppies from the large and giant breeds do not require additional calcium if fed a specially formulated puppy food.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that feeding a puppy food formulated for large/giant breeds is any better than any other specially formulated puppy food.
  • Over supplementation of Vitamin D during the summer months can be toxic.


  • Specifically designed to nutritionally support certain illnesses, improve metabolic processes, or correct biochemical imbalances.
  • To enhance performance (legally) in working animals.
  • Not manufactured as a pharmaceutical and not subjected to or controlled by the same constraints as drugs.
  • Naturally occurring substances in many food products and fall in same class as vitamins.
  • Nutraceuticals (widely used in horse industry) and now more commonly in use in dogs and cats include:
  • Chondroitin & Glucosamine
  • Fats & Oils – omega-3 fatty acids
  • Creatine
  • Antioxidants – free radical scavengers

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Click here for more information about Joint Supplements

  • Used to relieve symptoms and help in the healing of degenerative joint disease (DJD) – osteoarthritis.
  • Articular cartilage protects the bony surfaces of the joints.
  • Articular cartilage is one of the first tissues to age and die and has poor powers of regeneration.
  • Articular cartilage is made up of chondrocytes, collagen, proteoglycans and water.
  • Proteoglycans are complex biochemicals made of proteins connected to backbones of oligosaccharides on which hang many molecules of chondroitin sulphate.
  • Glucosamine is synthesised through a biochemical reaction utilising glucose.
  • In a normal healthy animal the body is able to synthesise enough glucosamine to keep cartilage healthy.
  • Through trauma, age or excessive wear and tear the chondrocytes cannot keep pace with repairing damaged cartilage.
  • Glucosamine provides the building blocks necessary for the chondrocytes to repair cartilage.
  • Chondroitin neutralises destructive enzymes in the joint.
  • Derived from the tracheal rings of cows, sharks and whales.
  • Virtually no side effects – vomiting and diarrhoea, (very rarely) reported in dogs.
  • Long term treatment – animal must stay on a maintenance dose for the rest of its life.
  • Injecting into joint or intramuscular is faster initially, but no significant difference in recovery between injected and orally supplemented within 30 days.
  • Glucosamine alone is not as efficient in the treatment of arthritis as when it is combined with chondroitin.

Click here for more information about Joint Supplements

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

  • Fatty acids are specific types of polyunsaturated fats
  • There are two main classes: –
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Omega 6 fatty acids
  • These occur naturally in foods but are easily destroyed due to overcooking, incorrect storage or going rancid
  • Sunflower oil and fish oils have a higher percentage of fatty acids than animal fats
  • The ratio of Omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids should be between 10:1 to 5:1 and not 15:1 as previously thought
  • Most pet foods contain far more omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3
  • Some pet food manufacturers add omega 3 fatty acids to lower the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6
  • When a cell is damaged  Arachidonic acid (which is an omega 6 fatty acid) is released from the cell membrane and is converted by enzymes into substances which cause itching and inflammation
  • Two of the omega 3 fatty acids are also released and help to ease the inflammation and itching but have to compete with the same enzymes as arachidonic acid to do so
  • Supplementing the omega 3 fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation and itching and can help a number of conditions where itching and inflammation are a problem, such as: –
    • Allergies – particularly skin problems
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Inflammation of the bowel
    • Cancer – in slowing the rate of metastases
      And many others


  • Energy is needed for all physical processes and for exercising.
  • All animal food contains energy which once digested is stored for future use.
  • The most basic form of storage energy is adenosine phosphate – ATP
  • The animal’s body traps energy as ATP to use for physiological processes including muscle contraction.
  • Excess energy – not used for ATP – is stored as fat or glycogen to be used later.
  • When the animal exercises, the need for ATP is great and all energy stores are mobilised to increase ATP production.

Energy Systems

Dogs have 3 energy systems:-

  • Immediate – the first 3 seconds or so.
  • Non-oxidative – short term activities lasting 3 – 60 seconds.
  • Oxidative – exercise lasting more than 2 minutes.

Mostly, dogs use all 3 systems at the same time replenishing the immediate energy stores by using the non-oxidative and oxidative systems.

Muscle Power

  • Immediate muscle power needs two important chemicals
    • ATP – adenosine phosphate
    • CP – creatine phosphate
  • When the immediate stores are used up other energy stores plus oxygen are burned to provide ATP
  • As exercise increases the cardiovascular system cannot deliver oxygen to the muscles fast enough.
  • This has 2 consequences:-
    • Energy stores are used without oxygen and an oxygen debt builds up.
    • Lactic acid is not removed quickly enough and fatigue sets in.


  • Creatine phosphate depletes rapidly during intense exercise – (racehorses, greyhounds etc.) and is replenished using the other 2 energy systems.
  • Human athletes use a creatine monohydrate supplement to enhance recovery & increase the size and power output of the muscles.
  • Tests conducted on dogs suggest it is equally valuable to performance dogs.

The Benefits

  • Feeding creatine in the form of creatine monohydrate increased the CP content of the muscles by 20%
  • Creatine supplementation has been shown (in some studies) to improve performance in short-term, high intensity, repetitive exercises.
  • Believed to be a valuable supplement for performance dogs.
  • It may enhance the availability of CP & improve muscle growth.

The Supplement

The supplement used for dogs contains:-

  • Creatine Monohydrate
  • Betaine Glycocyamine – the precursor of creatine
  • D-Ribose – an important source of chemical energy


Supplementation of these 3 substances claims to:-

  • Increase ATP for muscle power
  • Increase ATP for energy for the heart – improves capacity to contract
  • More efficient delivery of blood to muscles to remove lactic acid & dissipate heat

Overall, it is claimed to make the dog stronger, fitter and faster, but the side effects are not known.


Free Radical Scavengerswhat are they?

  • Anti-oxidants or free radical scavengers are enzymes & nutrients that fight off highly unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals.

What are Free Radicals?

  • Free radicals are caused when an oxygen molecule loses an electron.
  • Free radicals attack healthy cells in search of a replacement electron.
  • These “hits” can cause a lot of damage to cells, tissues and membranes creating the foundation for disease.
  • Free radicals increase with age & environmental pollutants.

Free Radical Scavengers

  • Free radical scavengers or anti-oxidant enzymes are the body’s defence and give up an electron to the free radical in order to stabilise it.
  • Research shows that anti-oxidants may help fight the effects of free radicals.

The Effects of Free Radicals

  • In humans, free radicals are believed to contribute to cancer, cataracts, ageing, arthritis etc.
  • In pets, they lead to tissue damage and a number of metabolic and chronic diseases

The Free Radical Scavengers

Free radical scavengers (or anti-oxidants) include nutrients such as:-

  • Vitamin E – to enhance the immune system
  • Beta-carotene – boosts antibody protection
  • Lutein – helps the fighting ability of immune cells

Why Supplement?

  • At times of disease, stress, old age etc., supplementation helps top up the body’s own defence and offer more protection against free radicals.
  • Humans can increase their consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Dogs & other animals may need anti-oxidant supplements.

Specially Designed Foods

  • 10 years of nutritional research is producing new foods designed specifically for the senior dog.
  • These foods provide senior pets with the anti-oxidants vitamin E, beta-carotene and lutein to maintain a healthy immune system.
  • Anti-oxidant supplements are also available in powder and tablet form.

See also – Joint supplements for horses and dogs