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Supplementation for Sporting, Working and Service Dogs

Supplementation for Sporting, Working and Service Dogs

Dog sports like agility, flyball and dock diving are growing in popularity and can be a great fun way to bond with your canine companion and meet their exercise and training needs. Although sports and work can be very valuable for both dog and dog parent, they can also pose some added stress and strain above and beyond what a typical companion dog experiences. For these dogs, there are some additional nutritional considerations that may benefit from targeted supplementation.


Joint Health

Sporting and working dogs work hard, and play hard! But this puts some additional wear and tear on their bodies, especially their muscles, bones and joints. Ultimately everything the dog experiences, ranging from day-to-day wear and tear as well as extreme forces and abnormal conformation, contributes to degradation of joint cartilage and ultimately contributes to arthritis. In some dogs, this just looks like “slowing down” as the dog ages. In other dogs it is more obvious, especially if one joint or limb is worse affected than others, leading to a limp. As well as reducing pain and improving joint function in the arthritic joint, dietary supplements can also help to maintain joint health for longer. They are indicated for dogs not only experiencing, but also at risk of joint pain.

Cartilage is notorious for being slow and challenging to heal after damage. In the joint, cartilage acts partially as a shock absorber, having a very high moisture content around 70-80% water. The dry matter is composed of predominantly of collagen, a protein, and proteoglycans, which are protein-sugar complexes. Glycosaminolgycan, one of these compounds specifically found in cartilage, contains chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine. Dietary supplementation with glucosamine has been reported to support regeneration of cartilage tissue after injury (Tamai et al., 2002). This is important for dogs with highly active lifestyles and participating in high impact activities as well as dogs recovering from injury and surgeries. Glucosamine and chondroitin can take weeks of daily dosing before a noticeable difference is detectable, so long-term supplementation for active, at risk and recovering dogs is required.

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have a plethora of activities in the body making them fantastic boosters to overall health and wellbeing. In dogs, research has demonstrated that DHA and EPA are effective in improving comfort and reducing inflammation in dogs with arthritis (Bauer, 2011). Of all the nutraceuticals available, EPA and DHA have the most consistent research demonstrating beneficial effect for joint health.


Mental Health

Although working and competing may be very rewarding for dogs, the demands placed on them from the environments to the activities themselves can be very stressful – both physically and psychologically. This can manifest as reduced focus, performance and even gastrointestinal effects such as stress colitis and gastric ulceration (Cannas et al., 2021; Davis et al., 2003). Supplementation with amino acids tryptophan and L-theanine, as well as natural herbal extracts such as ashwagandha, can be a safe way to help mitigate physiological signs of stress, ameliorate abnormal behaviour, reduce serum cortisol levels and improve fecal consistency (Anzola et al., 2013; Cannas et al., 2021; Kaur et al., 2022; Templeman et al., 2020) and may help dogs focus on enjoying the task at hand.


GI Health

The term probiotic is pretty familiar, many people and animals take probiotic supplements to bolster their gut health and metabolism. Probiotics are live microorganisms  (bacteria and/or yeasts) that may colonize the gut and confer health benefits to the host animal. The gut is so much more than just the site of nutrient absorption, it is also the body’s first line of defense against any virus, bacteria, toxin or other injurious substance ingested by the animal. As such, probiotics can play a role not only in promoting good fecal consistency and treating or preventing diarrhoea or constipation, but also in modulating the immune response, possible disease prevention or mitigation, reducing serum cholesterol, and preventing urinary tract infections (Kaur, Chopra, & Saini, 2002). In dogs, probiotics have been demonstrated to prevent and treat a number of gastrointestinal related disorders such as acute gastritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as well as improve health and immunity, reduce allergy symptoms, and improve markers of kidney disease (Grześkowiak, Endo, Beasley, & Salminen, 2015; Meineri et al., 2021; Xu et al., 2019). In particular, Bacillus coagulans has been shown to improve nutrient digestibility for dogs (Acuff & Aldrich, 2021). Furthermore, prebiotics, like inulin, can provide a substrate to promote proliferation of healthy, beneficial microorganisms. Dogs exerting a lot of energy, spending significant time exercising, competing and working, are at risk of weight loss and diarrhoea. Supporting a healthy gut environment can help to mitigate these negative impacts.


Antioxidants and anti-inflammatories

Every bodily process needs energy, but the use of that energy comes at a cost – the production of reactive oxygen species, also known as free radicals. The production of these highly-reactive compounds promotes oxidative injury to surrounding tissues, which, if uncorrected, can lead to inflammation. The more energy a dog is expending, the higher the potential for production of free radicals.

Turmeric is a mild yellow spice prepared from the rhizome of the Curcuma longa plant. It contains a potent antioxidant compound called curcumin which has been demonstrated in dogs to reduce reactive oxygen species and reduce markers of oxidative damage and inflammation (Campigotto et al., 2020; Sgorlon, Stefanon, Sandri, & Colitti, 2016). The bioavailability of curcumin from turmeric alone is low, leaving much of the ingested compound in the gut, however this provides excellent local anti-inflammatory activity for gastrointestinal health (Scazzocchio, Minghetti, & D’Archivio, 2020; Song et al., 2022). Bioavailability can be improved by combining turmeric with black pepper, which contains piperine, a compound that increases the absorption of curcumin (Anand, Kunnumakkara, Newman, & Aggarwal, 2007). Recent research also suggests that turmeric in combination with rosemary extract, a natural preservative, may act synergistically with chemotherapeutic agents to improve outcome of treatment against canine cancers (Levine, Bayle, Biourge, & Wakshlag, 2016).

Although vitamin C isn’t an essential nutrient for dogs, the way it is for humans, supplementation with vitamin C has powerful antioxidant effects, and in canine cancer cell lines it has even been demonstrated to have some anticancer effects (Shin et al., 2018). Lastly, Coenzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10) is a compound critical for energy metabolism as well as having antioxidant effects. In dogs, research has demonstrated CoQ10 to have benefit for heart health in dogs with valve disease (Tachampa, Lertwanakarn, & Buranakarl, 2018) and may be linked to cognition in senior dogs (Martin et al., 2011).

Vivus Pets plant-based dog supplements


Vivus Pets has the answers for your dog’s needs! We have supplements with each of the active ingredients discussed above. Our Calming Support Supplement (Magnolia officinalis bark extract, Phellodendron amurense bark extract, Ashwagandha, L-theanine, L-tryptophan, valerian, organic chamomile) can gently and naturally help with mental health and focus without slowing the dog down or making them groggy, our Joint and Mobility Support Supplement (glucosamine, chondroitin, turmeric, black pepper, algae oil [EPA+DHA]) is a completely plant-based and hypoallergenic joint supplement appropriate for every dog, and our Algae Omega 3 + Probiotics for Sustainable Health (organic inulin, Bacillus coagulans algae oil [EPA+DHA], turmeric, black pepper, vitamin C, CoQ10) is a mixture of pre- and probiotics with extra antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients.

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