Most of us consider our Golden Retrievers (and any other pet we may have) as members of the family.  We are now taking a more active role in our dog’s health and one of our primary concerns is making sure they are kept healthy throughout their lives.  Simply put, we want them to live longer than the “average” lifespan!

Some recent studies claim that dogs of all ages can benefit from health supplements and/or vitamins added to their diet. I have learned, from talking with friends and acquaintances, that many of us have started supplementing our dogs’ diets with some sort of vitamin, mineral, or other type of nutritional supplement.  In my November article I discussed the “Omegas”.  This month I will touch upon a few more of the more widely “used” vitamins and supplements.

For the newcomer to this “supplement bandwagon”, there are so many different products on the market, it can makes your head swim!  How do you decide which one is needed and which one might be better than the other and which do our dogs really need?  This is where common sense should dictate!  Talk to your vet or pet health care provider before starting any supplement and/or vitamin regime!  DO NOT just indiscriminately toss “pills, powders or capsules” into your dog’s food bowl!  So, with that “warning” out of the way…let’s look at some of the more commonly used vitamins and/or supplements!

Vitamin C:  This vitamin maintains the immune system and helps fight off infections. It is needed by the adrenal glands to produce anti-stress hormones.  It produces muscle energy.  It increases resistance to bacterial and viral infections.  It helps the healing process due to the rate of collagen production, which in turn lubricates the joints.  It helps make tendons and ligaments stronger thereby holding bones and muscle mass in place.  There are some recent studies indicating that it is also a cancer preventative! While dogs are able to manufacture their own vitamin C (unlike humans), they may not produce enough to counter the effects of aging, stress, inherited dysfunctions, environmental irritants and poor quality or high fat pet foods.


Early studies in dogs suggest that daily Vitamin C supplementation might be beneficial in reducing chronic inflammation.  Several local vets are recommending, as a preventative, that Vitamin C be given to dogs starting at about the age 5, to help slow down the arthritic changes that take place as a dog ages.  Many Golden Retriever breeders have taken this one step farther and are now sending their puppies home with instructions to supplement with Vitamin C from 8 week on. 


Another benefit of Vitamin C is that it is water-soluble and leaves the body through the bladder.  It is not stored and thus, it is non-toxic.  Studies have shown that “bowel tolerance” helps determine each dog’s requirement (usually 50 – 100 mgs per kilogram).  Unfortunately, ordinary Vitamin C may cause gastrointestinal upsets in some dogs.  If your dog cannot tolerate regular Vitamin C, it is often recommended that Ester C be used.  It has been found that Ester C is easier on the stomach and increases absorption.



Vitamin B12:  When given correctly it is said this vitamin will improve a dog’s appetite, stamina and general overall well being.  However, B-12 can be overdosed, so be careful!  This vitamin is usually prescribed after an illness or when the dog is under extreme stress.

Glucosamine & Chondroitin Sulfate: These supplements have proven to be of value if given in combination.  Glucosamine is derived from shellfish, and it appears to increase the viscosity and volume of synovial (joint fluid). This, in turn, acts as a protective mechanism for the joint surfaces. The best use of this supplement is as a preventative medicine but studies have shown improvements in older, arthritic dogs after several weeks of supplementation. It is more beneficial however to start young dogs (2 years) on the supplement and keep them on it.  This allows the dog to stay active well into old age. These supplements also keep younger dogs healthier and minimize that chance of bone and joint discomfort during strenuous activities. The antioxidants help fend off free radicals that can cause harmful diseases. When a dog is given the correct amount of antioxidants, and supplements in general, their bodies stay healthier longer and they live healthier, happier lives.  However, a word of caution.  In various articles I have read, not all glucosamine is the same and careful administration of this supplement is also warranted.

Kelp (in power form):  Kelp is a form of seaweed and contains over 60 minerals and elements, 21 amino acids, along with simple and complex carbohydrates and several essential plant growth hormones. It is rich in amino acids, vitamins, minerals and trace elements.  Kelp is known as a great promoter of health.  It helps promote shiny coats and supple skin.  Newborns are healthier and stronger when their mothers are supplemented with kelp prior to whelp.  Kelp aids in tissue repair and helps with the utilization and absorption of food nutrients.  It is very rich in B-carotene, Vitamin E, niacin, thiamine and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).

We all know that the body requires vitamins for good bone growth and overall development, including good vision.  Minerals are essential for strong bones and teeth.  I have read over and over that if we feed our dogs a dry, processed food, that many of the vitamins and minerals are lost in the processing!  But even if this is true, it is still important to point out that supplements are just that, supplements! They are there to help minimize the stressful effects of the hard work of good training.  They are there to aid the dogs in reaching their personal best in health and fitness. They are “additions” to help get the most out of the food!

The first step you need to take prior to starting the vitamin supplement program is to evaluate your dog! Again, it goes without saying that this should be done with the help of a pet health professional.  You should consider his age, his level of condition (is he active or a couch potato), what is his current level of training, what are your plans for his future and you should even consider what time of the year it is! These are all key factors that should be examined. Their health and well-being is in our hands!

As always, the above information is based on my personal research and first hand experience with my Golden Retrievers.  I can be reached at

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Have a Very Happy, Safe & Prosperous New Year and remember….”Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden , where doing nothing is not boring--it is peace." - Milan Kundera

Mary Lou Gerace

GoodHeart Golden Retrievers

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