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Supplements for the IVDD dog

updated  2016

When To Start Supplementing?

It is best while a dog is on any prescription medications while recovering in crate rest, not to add any supplements that could cause any confusion about the culprit should gastro-intestinal problems develop such as vomiting, loose stools, diarrhea, or even gas. Supplements can cause those too and it would be important to be able to definitively identify the cause quickly in order to take actions to treat the problem. After all IVDD medications have been stopped, some supplements can maximize healing during this critical period in recovery.

There isn’t much scientific evidence of what is effective and what isn’t concerning intervertebral discs and Intervertebral Disc Disease. Supplements are something you’ll need to research in depth before making decisions. In this article we will be discussing those supplements you will likely have questions about.

The Joint Supplement Debate

Much of the debate is about whether conventional joint supplements (glucosamine/chondroitin) actually help with IVDD because the discs in the spine are not the same as the joints in the rest of the body. The blood supply to intervertebral discs is pretty poor, so the benefit of supplements is questionable because the likelihood of getting any substantial quantity to the intervertebral disk is low.  Other joints in the body have good blood flow; and therefore, supplements have more direct access to them therefore having a better chance at helping leg and shoulder joints. Another complicating factor is that intervertebral discs are different than other joints in the body. Although they share the same functions (shock absorbers and cushions between joint bones), they do not have the same composition nor are they constructed in the same way.

Here's some good info from Mar Vista Animal Medical Center on the difference between intervertebral discs and other joints in the body:

The vertebral column consists of numerous small bones called ‘vertebrae’ which are linked together by special joints called ‘intervertebral discs.’ The discs are similar to the joints that connect arm or leg bones together in many ways. They allow flexibility between vertebrae so that one can arch or twist one’s back voluntarily just as one can flex and extend a knee or elbow.

But the discs are unique as well. A joint of the appendicular skeleton, say a knee or elbow, has a capsule which secretes a lubricating fluid. The bones are capped with smooth cartilage to facilitate frictionless gliding as the surfaces move during flexion and extension. The disc is nothing like this.

It is more like a cushion between the end plates of the vertebrae. It is round (hence the name “disc”) and fibrous on the outside with a soft gelatinous inside to absorb the forces to which the bones are exposed

There is significant doubt and no scientific evidence that joint supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin can help heal or provide nutrition to the discs to help them maintain their moisture which would, in theory, help prevent IVDD ruptures.

There are some supplements that may reach the intervertebral discs and some can help the body heal and help maintain better overall health. A healthier dog is always better able to deal with any disease and that includes IVDD.

Be Aware

Should you decide to supplement, you also need to be aware that not all supplements are created equal. Quality varies greatly. Purity is also another big concern. There is no regulation of supplements so each one can vary in the amount of the herb in the product. Many people think because herbs are “natural” they have no possible bad side effects which is NOT true. Always fully research any drug or herb. Herbs and natural remedies can have just as many side effects as prescription drugs. Every substance in a high enough dose is dangerous, even something as common as water.

Pet supplementation has become a big, lucrative money draw for many companies. Don’t fall for the marketing hype surrounding so many pet supplements today. There is a lot to know, and you really have to be willing to do the research yourself and learn as much as you can if you want to use supplements. Look at the source of the information and try to get independent information rather than just from the company making the products or selling the products. They have an invested interest in making it sound good so you will buy it. Remember, nothing you give, whether prescription medications or nutritional supplements, is without possible side effects. Everything carries some risk. Being aware of all of your pet’s health problems is crucial to knowing if you should or should not supplement with a particular product. Doing your research with an eye to negative side effects will alert you to possible contraindications between your pet’s health conditions, other drugs your dog may be on, other herbs, and that supplement you are considering. One example of a supplement being contraindicated with prescription medications used in treating IVDD is the popular SAM-e supplement. SAM-e is contraindicated for use while on Tramadol which is an analgesic given for pain because of the risk of developing Serotonin Syndrome.

Be sure to discuss all supplements and dosages with your vet. Ultimately, the best scenario is to work with a holistic vet in concert with your regular vet.

The Key is Proper Balance

The key to vitamin/mineral supplementation is proper ratios and balance of each particular vitamin and mineral. For example, the proper ratio of zinc to copper is a ratio of 10 to 1. In other words 10 parts of zinc to 1 part of copper. The ideal balance of calcium to phosphorous is 1.3 parts of calcium to 1 part phosphorous. Supplements can provide too much of one and not enough of another which can, over time, create an imbalance which has the potential to cause serious health problems. Supplementing needs to be done at optimal levels. Do your research to know what those are.

The body does not need fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) everyday and stores them in the liver when not used. Eating a normal, well-balanced diet will not lead to toxicity in otherwise healthy dogs. However, taking a multivitamin which contains mega doses of vitamins A, D, E and K may lead to liver toxicity.


Ultimately, your dog will get the proper amount of vitamins and minerals by providing superior nutrition. Feeding your dog the best nutrition you can afford provides the building blocks to health and well being because the best quality vitamins and nutrients are those that come in unprocessed food. We believe the best option is to redirect money that would be spent on supplements to purchase a higher quality food. Here’s why: vitamins and minerals are best absorbed by the body through foods in their natural form which are more bioavailable rather than pills or synthetic supplements. For example, feeding one sardine (packed in water with no salt added) is preferable to a processed fish-oil pill. A sardine comes with nature’s packaging in the right proportions of calcium via bones, protein from meat, and Omega 3 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory action) in the skin and body itself. The hope is for the dog’s body to use the supply of nutrients in the fish to keep the intervertebral discs hydrated. To date, there is no proof that any supplements on the market do that.


Adequan is a water-based, semi-synthetic, injectable polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (similiar to a liquid glucosamine) prepared by extracting glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) from beef tracheal cartilage.Designed and marketed for arthritis, the theory is that it helps repair and keep the cartilage in the joints healthier which, in turn, protects the bone in the joint. It may help with IVDD. The loading dose is 2 shots per week for 4 weeks. Then, it is usually followed up with a monthly booster. Caution: AVOID use with dogs who are allergic to beef, diabetic, have kidney or liver problems, or any suspected bleeding/clotting disorders. An excess of glucosamine products might induce insulin resistance. Oral glucosamine may not be recommended while receiving Adequan injections due to the risk of developing blood-sugar problems.

Omega-3 derived from cold-water fish such as sardines and anchovies among others, is a wonderful source of two fatty acids crucial to health: DHA and EPA which are also anti-inflammatory. Using Flaxseeds/Flaxseed oil is not the best source of Omega 3 for dogs because the dog cannot directly use the ALA in flaxseed and must convert the ALA to DHA and EPA that the dog can use. Many dogs cannot make the conversion effectively. Supplementing with Salmon Oil can lead to too much Vitamin A and D which can cause liver and kidney problems. Instead of using fish oil supplements, simply feeding one water packed sardine a day will provide the dog not only with those beneficial anti-inflammatory Omega-3 oils, but will also provide good protein. If you decide to supplement with fish oil capsules rather than a sardine a day, If supplementing with Fish Oil Capsules, stop supplementing one week prior to surgery. Consuming high doses may lead to clotting problems and deficiencies of Vitamin E.

Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) is a family of supplements that include Glucosamine, chondroitin (Sulphate is preferred to HCL) and Oral Hyaluronic Acid (HA). They are part of the soft tissue of the body, including discs, and are forms of sugar. Free glucosamine is not detected in the serum after oral intake, and it is not presently known how much of an ingested dose is taken up in the joints in humans. Some uptake in the articular cartilage (such as knee joints, etc) is seen in animal studies. Due to the unique construction of intervetebral discs including very poor blood supply, there is significant doubt and no scientific evidence that joint supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin can help heal or provide nutrition to the discs to help them maintain their moisture to prevent IVDD episodes. Caution: Most glucosamine supplements are made from chitin, the hard outer shells of shrimp, lobsters, and crabs and should not be given if your dog has allergies to shellfish. Glucosamine can also cause stomach upset, gas, and diarrhea. It may impact blood sugar. Most chondroitin is sourced from chicken or beef, so supplementation is not appropriate if your dog has allergies to chicken and/or beef.

Oral Hyaluronic Acid (HA), or hyaluronan, is one GAG that may benefit intervertebral discs. Hyaluronic acid fastens onto collagen and elastin and creates cartilage. It’s found in every tissue of our body, and assists in the distribution of nutrients to cells that don’t possess a blood supply. Cartilage is one example of such cells. The presence of HA in those cells maintains the lubrication of joints and allows them to preserve water for other tissues. Caution: As a GAG, HA may impact blood sugar. Most HA products are made from chicken combs and not appropriate for dogs with allergies to chicken. There is a non-animal sourced version of HA called Trixsyn. Varied sources recommend dosage of 20 to 30MG divided into 2 doses a day. Do check with your holistic vet for the correct dose for your dog.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring sulfur compound found in fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, fish, and grains. Although MSM can be found naturally in foods, the amount is lessened by food processing procedures. Now, it is marketed as a dietary supplement and sold as a chemical compound derived from DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide). MSM maintains cell membrane flexibility and permeability, promoting exchange of nutrients. It also is important in connective tissue health and the formation of collagen while providing the body with raw materials needed to create new cells and repair and replace damaged tissues and organs. It may be beneficial in maintaining intervertebral disc health. Dosage recommendations vary widely but 50 to 100MG per 10 lbs of body weight daily is a conservative approach. Do check with your holistic vet for the correct dose for your dog.


Vitamin C/Ester C: Healthy dogs produce a small amount of their own vitamin C in their livers from trace minerals provided in the diet. There is some thought that supplementing with Vitamin C at high doses will inhibit the dog’s natural ability to create it. The other side of the debate is that approximately 80% of what is taken orally gets flushed out with the dog’s urine within approximately 3 hours after consumption and the more it is supplemented the more gets urinated out. Since the majority of it gets lost via urine, that brings up the question of whether the dog gets any benefit from it at all? That combined with the fact that Ester C and all vitamin C products are not bioflavanoids but are chemical compounds – nothing natural about them at all. Good bioavailability to the dog is dubious.  Additionally, when the body uses vitamin C, oxalate is produced. In dogs prone to oxalate kidney stone formation, additional vitamin C may not be advisable at all because it may increase the propensity for stone formation in an alkaline or neutral PH urine environment.

Homeopathic remedies/herbs are also a possibility, but should only be used under the treatment of a skilled homeopath. A very well-known homeopathic treatment is the use of Discus Compositum along with Vitamin B12 shots. In Germany DC is injected Sub Q as close as possible to the site of the herniation along with the Vitamin B12. Good results have been reported.

Again, please consult with your regular or holistic vet before beginning any type of supplement.


This information is presented for educational purposes and as a resource for the Dachshund community. The coordinators are not veterinarians or health care professionals. Nothing herein should be interpreted as medical advice and all should contact their pet care professionals for advice. The coordinators are not responsible for the substance and content contained herein and do not advocate any particular product, item or position contained herein.

c2016 dodgerslist.com, Linda Stowe