Nutritional Supplements For Dogs And Cats

Calming Supplements

L-theanine, L-tryptophan and alpha-casozepine are some of the ingredients commonly found in calming supplements for dogs.  L-theanine and L-tryptophan are amino acids that act as precursors for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Alpha-casozepine is a compound obtained from milk, which has calming properties in dogs and other animals.

L-theanine is marketed as Suntheanine®, Anxitane® and Composure®. Studies have shown that L-theanine has antidepressant effects in mice. It is used as a calming agent in dogs and cats but there is very limited evidence documenting its efficacy and this supplement is not FDA approved.

Experiments have shown that L-tryptophan supplementation decreases aggression in humans, dogs, pigs, poultry, and fish. This supplement may reduce fearfulness and stress in calves, vixens and poultry. However, behavioral characteristics more closely linked to excitement, such as hyperactivity in dogs, are not modified by tryptophan supplementation.

Diets containing alpha-casozepine and L-tryptophan, such as Royal Canin “CALM”, improve the ability of an individual to cope with stress and may reduce anxiety-related behavior in anxious dogs. Alpha-casozepine has also showed anxiolytic activity in laboratory experiments but there are no clinical trials in dogs to confirm this effect.

Fish Oil Supplements For Dogs And Cats

Treatment for cancer, joint, heart, kidney, skin and intestinal problems, as well as geriatric dementia, often include generous amounts of fish oil, which contain abundant amounts of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, these oils have been shown to improve skin and coat quality. Overall, supplementing dogs and cats diets with fish oils is beneficial, however, there are some potential side effects when these supplements are used in excess.

Fish oils such as salmon oil, are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids include, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are found in fish oils and have beneficial effects on the health of humans and pets. ALA is found in plants (e.g. flax-seed and canola oil) and it can be converted to EPA and DHA in the body, however, this conversion is not efficient in dogs and cats. For this reason, it is best to supplement dogs and cats diets with fish oils instead of plant oils.

Currently, omega-3 fatty acids are used in managing many diseases including neoplasia, skin disease, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular disease, renal disease, gastrointestinal disease, and joint disease. In addition, these fatty acids are essential for brain function and development because there is a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in the brain.

Target ranges for EPA and DHA vary quite widely for different conditions, but typically fall between 50 and 220 mg/kg of body weight per day. The higher dosages are often used to lower serum triglyceride concentrations in patients with high levels of triglycerides in the blood, whereas lower dosages are more commonly used for inflammatory conditions, renal disease, and cardiac disease.

High doses of omega-3 fatty acids may interfere with coagulation, wound healing and immune system function. In addition, an excessive dose of omega-3 fatty acids can lead to gastric damage. The potential adverse effects of omega-3 fatty acids in dogs and include, altered platelet function, gastrointestinal adverse effects, detrimental effects on wound healing, potential for nutrient excess and toxin exposure, weight gain, altered immune function, effects on glycemic control and insulin sensitivity, and nutrient-drug interactions.

Joint Supplements for Dogs and Cats

The most commonly recommended supplements for the treatment of osteoarthritis are glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and omega-3 fatty acids. There are various research articles that support the idea that these supplements are effective in decreasing clinical signs of osteoarthritis in dogs, such as pain and lameness.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are safe and the only side effects to be aware of are occasional diarrhea and a remote possibility of blood clotting problems. If your pet is allergic to shellfish you should not give glucosamine. In addition, high doses of glucosamine have been associated with increased urination frequency and increased water intake in dogs.


McCarthy, G. et al. (2003). Clinical Trial Comparing Glucosamine with Chondroitin Sulfate to Carprofen for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis in Dogs – Preliminary Findings. ACVIM 2003.

McCoy, S.J. and Bryson, J.C. (2003). High-dose glucosamine associated with polyuria and polydipsia in a dog. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 222(4):431-2.

Calder, P.C. and Grimble, R.F. (2002). Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation and immunity. Eue J Clin Nutr. 3:S14-9.

Lenox, C.E. and Bauer, J.E. (2013). Potential Adverse Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Dogs and Cats. J Vet Intern Med 2013;27:217–226

Grimmett A. and Sillence, M.N. (2005). Calmatives for the excitable horse: a review of L-tryptophan. Vet J. 170(1): 24-32.

Kato, M., Miyaji, K., Ohtani, N. and Ohta, M. (2012). Effects of prescription diet on dealing with stressful situations and performance of anxiety-related behaviors in privately owned anxious dogs. J Vet Behav. 7(1):21-26.

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