Should My Dog Be Taking Vitamins?

Introduction

With the pet supplements market valued at $2.4 billion in 2022, an increasing number of dog owners are considering daily vitamins and supplements to support their canine companions’ health and wellbeing. There are several reasons owners may look to vitamins for their dogs – including promoting skin, coat, joint, digestive or immune system health, or simply ensuring their dogs receive complete and balanced nutrition.

Key questions around dog vitamins include – do dogs really need supplements if they are getting high quality commercial dog food? What potential benefits and risks are there? How does an owner know if their dog needs vitamins? And if so, how do they select an appropriate vitamin supplement and administer it safely? This article will explore the ins and outs of dog vitamins, so owners can make informed decisions about whether daily supplements are right for their pets.

Do dogs need vitamins?

Dogs, like humans, require essential vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. However, unlike humans, dogs can synthesize some nutrients that we cannot. For example, dogs can produce vitamin C in their bodies so do not require supplementation (AKC). Dogs also produce some B vitamins internally.

That said, there are times when vitamin supplements can be beneficial for dogs. Puppies, senior dogs, pregnant/nursing dogs, and dogs with certain health conditions may need additional vitamins and minerals. Dogs on homemade or raw food diets also typically require supplementation to ensure complete nutrition. Owners should consult their veterinarian to determine if their dog requires any vitamin supplements (WebMD).

In general, though, healthy adult dogs eating complete and balanced commercial dog food likely do not need extra vitamins. As long as their dietary requirements are met through their regular diet, additional supplementation is unnecessary (CareFirst Animal Hospital).

Potential benefits of vitamins

Vitamins can provide dogs with beneficial nutrients that support various aspects of their health and wellbeing. Some potential benefits of giving dogs vitamins include:

Improved skin and coat health – Vitamins like A, E, B5, and omega fatty acids can promote skin and coat health, reducing dryness, flaking, shedding, and itchiness (1).

Joint support – Vitamins like glucosamine, chondroitin, and antioxidants may help maintain healthy joints and mobility, especially for senior dogs or dogs with arthritis (2).

Immune system support – Vitamins like A, C, E, B6, and folate support immune system health and can reduce susceptibility to infections (3).

Heart health – Omega fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin E, and antioxidants help maintain proper heart function and blood pressure (1).

Digestive regularity – Vitamins like thiamine, vitamin D, and probiotics can support healthy digestion and regular bowel movements (2).

Cognitive function – Antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C, and vitamin A help delay cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disease (1).

Overall wellbeing – A balanced vitamin supplement can help fill nutritional gaps, addressing deficiencies that may otherwise negatively impact health (3).

Risks and downsides

While vitamins can provide benefits for some dogs, there are also potential risks and downsides to consider before supplementing your dog. Some key risks include:

Vitamin toxicity and overdose – Giving your dog too much of certain vitamins can lead to toxicity and overdose. For example, too much vitamin A over time can cause bone deformities and liver damage. It’s important to follow dosage guidelines and not over-supplement.

Interactions with medications – Some vitamins and minerals can interact with certain medications your dog may be taking. For example, calcium can interfere with some antibiotics and heart medications. Always consult your vet before giving vitamins alongside any prescription medications.

Gastrointestinal upset – Vitamin supplements, especially if given in excess, may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in some dogs. Start with small doses and monitor your dog’s tolerance.

Unnecessary cost – Most dogs eating a complete and balanced diet do not require vitamin supplementation. Adding supplements can increase the cost of care without clear benefits.

a dog receiving vitamin supplements from an owner
Talk to your veterinarian about whether vitamin supplements make sense for your individual dog’s health needs and take care to avoid potential risks of over-supplementation.

Signs your dog may need vitamins

There are several signs that could indicate your dog may benefit from vitamin supplements. These include changes in appetite, energy levels, coat quality, skin and eye health, mobility, and more.1

Decreased appetite or picky eating may suggest a vitamin deficiency that’s affecting your dog’s taste and smell senses. Dogs who become less energetic or seem overly tired and lethargic may not be getting adequate B vitamins that are crucial for metabolism and energy.2

A dull, brittle coat or excessive shedding can indicate insufficient omega-3 fatty acids or other nutrients. Dry, flaky skin and eye discharge/tearing can also suggest a lack of vitamins. Older dogs who show stiffness, difficulty rising, or limping may be deficient in joint-supportive nutrients like glucosamine or chondroitin.

In addition, underlying health issues like allergies, arthritis, dental disease, cancer, or kidney/liver disease can make it harder for dogs to properly absorb nutrients, increasing their vitamin needs.

If your dog exhibits any of these signs, consider discussing vitamin supplements with your vet, especially if their diet is homemade, limited-ingredient, or lacking in quality.

Talking to your vet

Before starting your dog on any new vitamins or supplements, it’s important to discuss it with your veterinarian first. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “Supplements should be used to complement, not replace, balanced nutrition provided by a high-quality diet. Pet owners should discuss their animals’ nutrition, including supplement use, with their veterinarian and be guided by the advice of their veterinarian.”1

Your vet will be able to assess your dog’s specific nutritional needs and determine if supplements could be beneficial or not. They can take into account your dog’s age, breed, activity level, and any medical conditions to provide personalized recommendations. Your vet may suggest specific supplements or advise against using supplements altogether if they are unlikely to provide benefits.

Veterinarians can also help determine proper dosing for any supplements, monitor your dog for potential side effects, and perform exams or testing if needed to evaluate the effects of supplementation. Discussing supplements ahead of time allows your vet to best advise you on choosing safe, high-quality products from reputable companies as well.

Working together with your veterinarian ensures your dog receives supplements tailored to their needs in a safe, responsible manner. An open dialogue helps maximize benefits while reducing risks when adding supplements to your dog’s regimen.

Choosing a dog vitamin

When selecting a vitamin supplement for your dog, look for brands that have commissioned clinical studies of their products to ensure safety and efficacy. According to experts at the AKC, “The best way to choose a dog vitamin is to talk to your veterinarian about what, if any, vitamins and supplements your dog needs.”

Read labels carefully to check that the product contains the vitamins and minerals your dog needs in the proper dosages. Avoid supplements with unnecessary fillers. Look for seals from quality assurance organizations like NASC (National Animal Supplement Council) and NSF International.

Some top recommended dog vitamin brands include Zesty Paws, PetHonesty, Pethonesty, and Pawceuticals.

According to Rover, “Veterinary nutrition specialists suggest looking for supplements made in the United States to ensure quality control.” Consult with your vet before choosing a vitamin brand and follow their dosage recommendations.

Sources:
https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/vitamins-dogs-need-healthy-lifestyle/
https://www.rover.com/blog/best-vitamin-supplements-for-dogs/
a veterinarian discussing vitamin options for a dog

Dosage and administration

When giving your dog vitamins, it’s important to provide the proper dosage for their size and age. According to the AKC, dosage guidelines will depend on the specific vitamin formulation, but general guidelines are:

  • Small dogs under 20 lbs: 1/4 to 1/2 the normal dose
  • Medium dogs 20-50 lbs: 1/2 to 1 times the normal dose
  • Large dogs over 50 lbs: 1 to 2 times the normal dose

Check the product label or consult your veterinarian to determine the appropriate dosage for your individual dog based on their health profile. Providing the correct dosage helps ensure your dog gets the full benefits without any risk of toxicity.

Some tips for easier vitamin administration include:

  • Mix powdered vitamins into your dog’s food
  • Hide pills in a pill pocket treat
  • Crush tablets and mix into wet food
  • Use a pilling device to place the pill far back in their mouth
  • a dog eating food mixed with powdered vitamins

  • Give vitamins with a treat or meal so they associate it with something positive

Be consistent in how you give vitamins each day and monitor your dog afterwards to ensure they swallowed it. Breaking up the daily dose into smaller portions twice a day can also make it easier if your dog dislikes taking pills.

With the right dosage and some creativity, you can successfully give your dog daily vitamins for improved health. Check with your veterinarian if you have any questions.

Monitoring your dog on vitamins

Once you’ve started giving your dog vitamins, it’s important to monitor them for any potential side effects or reactions. According to the AVMA, some signs to look out for include:

– Digestive upset like vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation – this is one of the most common side effects of vitamins and supplements in dogs. It may indicate the dosage is too high or the product doesn’t agree with your dog’s stomach.

– Changes in appetite or thirst – either increased or decreased. Significant changes could signal an issue with the supplement.

– Lethargy or hyperactivity – some ingredients may cause sleepiness or hyper behavior in some dogs.

– Skin irritation, rashes, or hair loss – topical vitamins or oral supplements can occasionally trigger skin reactions in dogs.

Additionally, be attentive for any other behavioral or physical changes after starting vitamins. Inform your vet about any side effects. You may need to stop the supplement, adjust the dosage, or switch to a different brand or formulation. With proper monitoring, vitamins can be used safely in most dogs.

Sources:
an owner monitoring a dog after giving vitamins
https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2017-01-15/assessing-pet-supplements

Conclusion

In summary, there are potential benefits as well as risks to consider when deciding whether or not to give your dog vitamins or supplements. Some key takeaways are:

– Certain life stages like puppyhood, senior years, pregnancy, and lactation may warrant vitamin supplementation, but check with your vet first.

– Look for high-quality, veterinarian-recommended supplements made specifically for dogs if you do choose to supplement.

– Monitor your dog closely when starting vitamins to watch for any adverse effects.

– Never give your dog vitamins made for humans without veterinary approval, as toxicity is possible.

– Discuss your dog’s diet and any potential nutritional gaps with your veterinarian before starting supplements.

While supplements can be beneficial for some dogs, they may be completely unnecessary for others. Work closely with your trusted vet to determine if dog vitamins are advisable based on your pet’s unique health status and needs.

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