• Kelsey Hansen

Are Supplements Bad for Dogs and Cats?

Supplement: “noun


  1. something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.”

Supplements can come in the form of gel capsules, pills, powder, extracts, or liquids. The supplements I'm referring to are not to be confused with other weight loss, body building, or energy enhancing human supplements that fall under this category. We are only discussing vitamin and mineral supplements. There are a lot of raw feeders that seem to be against feeding dietary (vitamin and mineral) supplements, but we never hear the reason why people are so against it. Instead, the recommendation I see is to feed ____ whole foods, fermented seeds, fur, whole prey, and so on; thinking this is the only and best solution to meet certain nutrient requirements. That is a nice idea, however, taking into consideration the bio-availability and food source, your dogs nutritional needs are most likely still not being met. An overabundance of seeds, fur, and certain whole foods would be required to meet the nutrients the said raw feeder is aiming for. For example, I see fermented seeds being used as a source of Vitamin E and manganese. One cup of sunflower seeds would be needed to meet the minimum Vitamin E requirement for a 50 pound adult dog. This one cup is 818 calories for a dog that needs 963 calories a day- that's a lot!

“In large proportions of the population, micro-nutrient sufficiency is currently not being achieved through food solutions for several essential vitamins and minerals. Use of supplements may serve as a practical means to increase the micro-nutrient status in sub-populations of Americans while not increasing intakes above the Upper Limit (UL)" (1).

I have nutritional databases that use USDA nutritional information to formulate my meals, my dogs meals, and family relatives meals. Utilizing these tools allows me to know the exact amount of vitamin and minerals needed and bio-availability is taken into consideration. I personally cannot eat enough during the week to meet my nutritional needs, no matter how many times I change up the meals. For example, when I have low iron I get faint, dizzy, feel lethargic, and my other organs will suffer in the long run due to lack of iron intake. I can’t consume enough red meat for this to improve, unless I were to vastly over eat. I take a low-dose iron supplement and this helps alleviate my symptoms.

Supplementation for optimal heath is needed as the research on the next couple of slides and studies show. I would much rather myself and my dogs eat the correct amount of supplements than have our nutritional needs lacking. Using dogs as an example, husky’s tend to have zinc deficiencies and it shows in their coat and skin. Certain breeds have trouble with taurine absorption. This can lead to heart issues such as Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). Cats need taurine as well. To fix this issue, it helps to have a zinc or taurine supplement even if they are already eating raw food. “Very low dietary intake of a vitamin or nutritionally essential mineral can result in deficiency disease, termed micro-nutrient deficiency. Micro-nutrient deficiencies, especially iron, vitamin A, zinc, iodine, and folate, are prevalent in the developing world, affecting an estimated 2 billion people worldwide. They are a major contributor to infections and associated with severe illness and death” (3). The health of dogs and cats suffer in similar ways due to lack of essential nutrients.

This is a quote from 1936 Senate Document 264, 74th Congress, 2nd Session, June 5, 1936. Our food is now depleted in nutrients.

"This is not to say vegetables are bad for us. I eat vegetables, but the nutrients in our food are vanishing including nutrients in animal foods as well. The below is approximately how much vitamins/minerals have been lost from vegetables/wheat over the past 50-100 years

1. Copper -76%

2. Vitamin B2 -38%

3. Zinc -38%

4. Iron -37%

5. Boron -20 to -40%

6. Calcium -30%

7. Manganese -27%

8. Vitamin C -20%

9. Magnesium -20% to -35%

10. Selenium -16%

11. Potassium -15%

The nutrient losses in animal foods for magnesium, calcium, iron, copper have been approximately

Meat: -15%, -29%, -50%, -55%

Cheese: -26%, -15%, -53%, -91%

Dairy: -1%, -4%, -83%, -97%

Basically, we need to eat around 30% more food today to get the same nutrients we got 50 years ago and the losses, if we look back prior to 1940, are probably even greater than this. However, if we use more traditional farming methods and stop using chemical fertilizers we can turn some of this around. The key point however is that eating the food of today may no longer be enough to provide us with optimal nutrition. This is partly why supplementation can provide benefits especially nowadays” (Dr. James Diniclantonio).

I share the same supplements that I feed my dogs. I use Vitamin E, D, manganese, magnesium, kelp, and a few others. It’s important to research the best brands because the supplement industry can be unregulated. Some multivitamin brands have been tested and found zero nutrients that it claimed to have in the bottles. That being said, I’m generally against feeding multivitamins. It’s easy to over-dose and under-dose using multivitamins. I’d rather feed an exact amount, especially for fat-soluble vitamins where the nutrients are stored in the body for a longer period of time. I formulate to NRC guidelines because there are over 20 years worth of research and studies that have determined the nutrient requirements for dogs and cats. I prefer to use scientific research to meet nutritional requirements.

Let’s move away from the idea that all supplements are bad and feed ourselves and our pets the best for optimal health.

Disclaimer: Please consult a professional before giving your pets any dietary supplements mentioned. This information is more so meant for home-made raw feeders than it is for those that feed kibble. However, kibble fed dogs can benefit from certain supplements and meal additions.


  1. Wallace TC, McBurney M, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Multivitamin/mineral supplement contribution to micronutrient intakes in the United States, 2007-2010. J Am Coll Nutr. 2014;33(2):94‐102. doi:10.1080/07315724.2013.846806

  2. Thomas D. The mineral depletion of foods available to us as a nation (1940-2002)--a review of the 6th Edition of McCance and Widdowson.Nutr Health. 2007;19(1-2):21‐55. doi:10.1177/026010600701900205

  3. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The state of food insecurity in the world 2004. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 2004.

  4. Dr. James Diniclantonio

  5. Wallace TC, McBurney M, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Multivitamin/mineral supplement contribution to micronutrient intakes in the United States, 2007-2010.J Am Coll Nutr. 2014;33(2):94‐102. doi:10.1080/07315724.2013.846806