There is an ongoing and lively debate over nutriceuticals and dietary supplements. Before adding them to your dog's diet, you should first speak with your veterinarian about the available evidence or recommendations concerning the use of these supplements. Be certain to avoid high levels of supplementation of any single nutrient unless you're certain that it's safe and won't interfere with any other medications your pet may be taking.
Supplements fall into two general and very large categories: vitamin and mineral supplements and nutriceuticals. Nutriceuticals are nutrient supplements given to obtain a pharmacologic (drug-like) effect or to prevent a specific disease. Vitamin and mineral supplements are given in the belief that they can help prevent a wide range of conditions and diseases.
The overall benefit of vitamin and mineral supplements is hotly debated. According to most feeding studies of healthy canines, dogs that eat an appropriate and balanced diet do not need supplements. Nevertheless, many of us take dietary supplements ourselves and wish to provide our pets with the same potential benefits.
Of course, dietary supplements can also be dangerous. Excessive supplementation with calcium salts, for example, can lead to significant bone diseases in growing dogs. Vitamin D supplementation can lead to harmful elevations of the blood calcium and damage to the kidneys.
Nutriceuticals fall into a different category since they are used to either prevent or treat specific diseases. Examples include: taurine (an amino acid essential to cats) and Cosequin (a protein complex of possible benefit in joint health). There are others, such as L-carnitine (sometimes used for heart conditions), rutin (used for a serious condition called chylothorax) and co-enzyme Q10. Be aware that the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements in the same way that drugs are regulated and controlled. The proof of effectiveness and safety demanded for pharmaceuticals is not required for nutriceuticals or vitamins.
As mentioned above, always speak with your veterinarian before giving your pet dietary supplements or nutriceuticals. Avoid high levels of supplementation of any single nutrient unless you're certain that it's safe and won't interfere with any other medications your pet may be taking.