Supplement Timing: When to Give Your Dog Gut Health Supplements.

Nov 24, 2023

We dog owners always want the best for our dogs, and their health and happiness are our focus. Supplements can be vital in maintaining your dog’s well-being, particularly those that support their digestive system. But did you know that when you give those supplements is just as important as what you give them? Let’s unravel the science behind dog supplement timing.

Do Dogs Need Vitamins or Supplements?

Whether a dog needs additional vitamins or supplements often depends on their diet and health status. Commercial dog foods are formulated to be nutritionally complete, but the truth is that most dry kibble has a bit of a way to go when it comes to actually completing your dog’s nutrition and digestive needs. Many of the ingredients designed to be good for your dog end up being destroyed in an unhealthy gut, and many commercial dog foods have bare minimum ingredients to be ‘complete’. Dogs are like humans in many ways, and supplementation can help keep them in optimal shape.

What’s the Difference Between Vitamins and Supplements?

Vitamins are specific organic compounds that are crucial in small amounts for various bodily functions. Supplements are a broader category that can include vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other compounds that can either help correct deficiencies in your dog or support overall health and well-being.

Understanding the Symbiotic Relationship of Supplements

Supplements work in a complex, interrelated system within your dog’s digestive tract. Prebiotics serve as food for probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut. Fiber helps to regulate the speed at which food moves through the digestive system, and digestive enzymes are crucial for breaking down the food into nutrients that the body can absorb.

Dog Supplements: A Symphony of Interactions

Imagine your dog’s digestive system as an orchestra, with each supplement representing a different section—strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion. Each section has to enter the symphony at just the right moment to create harmony. If an instrument plays at the wrong time, the whole melody can be changed, and not often for the better. That’s why dog supplement timing is so important.

The Science Behind the Scenes of Supplements to a Dog’s Diet

The best time to administer vitamins is typically with meals, as this often mimics the natural body process of taking in and utilizing these nutrients. This is best for improving their absorption and application throughout your dog’s body. The scientific backing for supplement timing largely comes from understanding the biological processes of digestion and nutrient absorption. For example, a study published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Zoology highlights the increased survivability of probiotic bacteria when administered with a meal, leading to better gut colonization.

Additional research into lipids, like those in fish oil, has shown that dietary fats can enhance the absorption of omega-3 fatty acids. This supports the idea that giving omega-rich supplements with meals is advantageous.

Incorporating More Science Into Supplements for Dogs

The biological clock of your dog, known as the circadian rhythm, also plays a part in supplement timing. The gastrointestinal tract has its own clock, which regulates the movement and creation of digestive enzymes. This impacts how well your dog digests and absorbs nutrients throughout the day. Creating a schedule of supplement administration that goes along with this natural rhythm can optimize how they work.

Moreover, the microbiome—the community of bacteria in your dog’s gut—experiences changes in composition and function across the day. By timing prebiotics and probiotics with your dog’s meals, you’re providing these bacteria when they’re most likely to thrive and positively influence the microbiome, which is exactly what you want!

What Are the Best Supplements for Dogs?A mastiff dog looks at all the supplements his owner makes him take

When it comes to the best supplements for dogs, there are many on the market today. The important thing to know about dog supplements is that just like human supplements, they’re not all created equally. Many are greenwashed, and you’re basically spending good money on mediocre quality at best. Giving supplements to your dog at the wrong time only worsens things, and you waste even more money.

Here are several popular dog supplements that research supports as having benefits for dogs, and the best suggested time to give them.

  1. Milk Thistle: Milk thistle is known for its liver-supporting properties. The active ingredient, silymarin, acts as an antioxidant and may help to repair and protect liver cells. The best time to give milk thistle is without food; some studies suggest that this may enhance its absorption and effectiveness.
  2. Spirulina: This microalgae is a powerhouse of nutrients, offering proteins, vitamins, and minerals. It’s particularly rich in antioxidants. Spirulina should be given with meals to ensure that it’s well-tolerated and to maximize its nutritional benefits.
  3. Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is well-known for its medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can aid in digestion and improve coat health. It’s best given with meals to aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and to enhance its metabolic effects.
  4. Choline: Choline is an essential nutrient that supports brain health and liver function. It can be given with meals to enhance absorption and to provide the nutrient at a time when the liver is actively processing fats and other dietary components.
  5. Turmeric: Curcumin, the active component in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s fat-soluble, so giving it with a meal, especially one that contains fats, can greatly increase its bioavailability.
  6. B Vitamins: B vitamins, including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12), are crucial for a range of physiological functions. For optimal absorption, B vitamins should be given with a meal. This is because most B vitamins are involved in the process of metabolism and energy production, which is kick-started during digestion. Additionally, certain B vitamins, like B12, are better absorbed in the presence of intrinsic factor, a protein produced in the stomach.
  7. Antioxidants: Antioxidants such as vitamins E and C, selenium, and carotenoids help neutralize free radicals, which can damage cells and contribute to aging and disease. While dogs can produce vitamin C in their bodies, additional antioxidants can be beneficial, especially for aging dogs or those under stress. These supplements are best given with meals to allow for steady absorption and to minimize any potential gastrointestinal upset.
  8. Liver Supplements: Liver supplements often contain a mix of B vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients like milk thistle to support liver health. The liver is responsible for detoxification, metabolism, and nutrient storage, making it essential to support its function. The optimal time to give these supplements is with food, as this aligns with the liver’s natural cycle of processing nutrients during digestion.
  9. Vitamin C: As we already said, dogs can synthesize vitamin C, but a vet may recommend additional supplementation in certain cases, such as high levels of physical stress or disease. Since it is water-soluble and not stored in the body, it can be given with or without food, but giving it with meals can reduce the chance of gastrointestinal upset.
  10. Fish Oil Supplements: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil supplements promote a healthy coat, skin, and joints, and support cardiovascular health. To maximize absorption, fish oil should be given with a meal, which can also reduce the likelihood of unpleasant side effects, like fishy odor or aftertaste.
  11. Probiotics: Probiotics are most effective when they’re given to your dog with their meals. The food acts as a protective vehicle, buffering the probiotics as they pass through the harsh acidic environment of the stomach and into the intestines, where they do their work. The key is ensuring the probiotic supplements are spore-forming strains that are hardy enough to get through to the intestines.
  12. Prebiotics: Since prebiotics are food for probiotics, they should be given at the same time. This ensures that the probiotics have the necessary nutrients to thrive upon arrival in the gut. Without food for the probiotics, they start dying off in your dog’s gut, making them unhealthy and unhappy.
  13. Fiber: Fiber supplements are best given with meals, too. They can help ensure that your dog feels fuller for longer and can aid in steady movement through the digestive tract, preventing both constipation and diarrhea. It also is beneficial for nutrient absorption as food goes through the digestive tract.
  14. Digestive Enzymes: Enzymes should be given just before or with meals to help facilitate the immediate breakdown of food, ensuring that your dog can absorb all the available nutrients. They play a key role in nutrient optimization.

Bernie’s Perfect Poop: The Right Dog Supplement Always At The Right Time

When we created Bernie’s Perfect Poop, we wanted to help our dog Bernie’s gut be the healthiest it could be, and we consulted science to determine what supplements we’d give them. We chose things like prebiotics, probiotics, fiber, and digestive enzymes as their gut’s main ‘instruments’ of good health. Referring back to our orchestra of supplements example, think of prebiotics like the strings, setting the foundation for the music. Probiotics are the brass, strong and impactful, needing the right cue to come in. Fiber is like the woodwinds, providing the flow and pace; and digestive enzymes are the percussion, precise and necessary right at the critical moments. When these supplements are introduced at the right times during your dog’s meals, they create a harmonious symphony that results in a perfectly timed digestive process.

Knowing Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs

A spitz dog with blue eyes looks super happy in the grassUnderstanding your dog’s nutritional needs is essential. Factors like age, breed, activity level, and health conditions all play a role. Supplements should be timed to complement these needs, and that’s most often with meals for optimal absorption and benefit. Administering these supplements at the correct time can prevent the ‘songs’ of your dog’s digestive symphony from sounding out of tune. This harmony leads to a more substantial gut barrier against pathogens, better immune response, and improved bowel health.

Dog supplement timing matters because a healthy gut is a cornerstone of a healthy dog. By maintaining a good balance in the gut, you’re not just improving digestion. You’re also enhancing your dog’s immune system since a significant part of it is located in the gut. Furthermore, a well-timed supplement routine can improve your dog’s energy levels, skin health, and even mood.

Remember, a happy gut leads to a happy pup!

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