September 14, 2020 4 min read

If you're a fitness junkie, you probably already know about the use of creatine monohydrate as a human supplement. This popular workout booster can increase your athletic performance and shorten your recovery time, making it an ideal choice for weightlifters, sprinters, and CrossFitters. Its status as the most widely researched and clinically proven form of creatine gives additional leverage to its claims. Creatine's use even extends to the medical field, where it is administered to relieve muscle cramps and even depression. 

Working dogs or those that compete in physical activities may see their results improve if carefully supplemented with creatine (under the direction of a veterinarian, of course). In this article, we'll discuss what creatine is and how it can be used to safely and effectively supplement your dog's diet.

What is creatine?

Creatine is an amino acid, produced naturally in the bodies of both humans and dogs, and found in protein-rich foods. It is stored predominantly within the skeletal muscles, where it helps fuel muscle energy, performance, size, and strength. Once the body has enough creatine in reserve, it is no longer able to store any more and will dump any extra creatine into the body's waste system to be eliminated. As a result, creatine supplementation is done in small, controlled doses and only as necessary.

Because creatine is found in red meat and seafood, most humans consume a small amount of creatine daily. Dogs who eat a whole diet instead of dry food may be consuming enough of the chemical naturally, although processed dog foods do not supplement creatine and don't include it in their formula. Take a look at the food's nutritional label to find out what it's made with, and be sure to have the information ready when you talk to your vet about the supplements your dog may need.

What does creatine do for dogs?

Working dogs who engage in high-intensity activities, and dogs who participate in physical competitions are more likely to benefit from vet-guided creatine supplementation. This could provide them with more muscle power and better endurance during rigorous activities, allowing them to increase their performance. 

Every dog breed is different, and each individual dog also has its own special needs. Supplements affect some dog breeds differently than others, which is why it's so important to talk to a vet before changing your dog's diet. Your vet can tell you how much to give them and how to administer it, recommend or prescribe a product, and inform you of what supplements you should (and should not) combine.

Additionally, they can advise you on whether your dog needs any supplements at all, which may not be the case. Some breeds are naturally leaner and smaller than others, making them seem skinny when they are, in fact, well-proportioned. Medications that your dog needs for other conditions may react negatively with certain supplements. Likewise, any allergies or intolerances your dog may have will play a large role in deciding which supplements are best for them. 

What are the side effects of creatine?

Creatine helps process protein within the body. Dogs can only absorb so much protein from their food at a time, however, excreting the excess protein through their kidneys and into the waste system. For this reason, too much protein can put an unhealthy strain on their kidneys. Excessive protein in your dog's diet can also cause them to gain an unhealthy amount of weight, which may lead to other health issues if left untreated.

Dogs are true omnivores, meaning they naturally consume both vegetables and meat. They need protein, but also require a balanced diet that includes fiber to live a healthy life. Most dog foods include proteins like pork, chicken, and beef and a wide range of vegetables, like pumpkin, carrots, and peas. Grains are not an essential part of their diet, and can actually contribute to canine obesity and kidney disease. Low-grade commercial dog foods will use grains as a filler ingredient to cut back on their production costs.

Ingesting too much creatine has been known to affect humans in some adverse ways, causing symptoms including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle cramping
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea

Though sold as a dietary supplement and included in many nutrition products, creatine is naturally ingested in small amounts. As a result, taking too much supplemental creatine can be problematic for both humans and dogs, alike. It's advised that humans with kidney disease or diabetes should avoid taking creatine supplements, therefore, their canine counterparts should do the same. There aren't many studies available on creatine supplementation for dogs, so be sure to check with your vet and do plenty of your own, independent research.

If your dog begins to exhibit any negative symptoms, consult your veterinarian immediately. Be sure to stay alert for subtle signs that might indicate that your dog isn't feeling well (e.g. not eating well or at all, having accidents in the house), as they aren't always likely to vocalize their discomfort. 

Conclusion

A creatine supplement might help your active working or competitive dog to build and define muscle and improve their athletic performance. As a responsible and caring dog owner, your top priority when deciding which supplements to give your dog is keeping them healthy. With the help of your veterinarian, you can find a way to make a meaningful impact on your dog's quality of life through proper nutrition and supplementation. 

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