Every day, people take vitamins and supplements to improve their well-being, manage acute and chronic conditions, and optimize their health.
With so much health and wellness information out there about all the different vitamins and supplements people need to live a more balanced lifestyle, many pet owners find themselves wanting to share their supplemental wisdom with their dogs.
We’re diving into whether your dog needs added nutrition to their everyday diets and, if so, what vitamins are essential to maintaining their best health.
Do Dogs Need Vitamins?
The long and short of it is: Yes. But don’t get too carried away just yet! All living and breathing things need vitamins to live — typically relying on whole foods, fruits, vegetables and varied sources of protein for essential nutrients. However, depending on particular diets or accessibility to certain kinds of foods, people (and animals alike) can come up short on the daily vitamins they need to keep their gas tanks running on full.
Similar to humans, supplementation is based on your dog’s individual needs. While dogs should be able to get their daily intake of vitamins from a well-balanced kibble, age and other health conditions can lead to vitamin deficiencies. Your pup might need added nutrition in the form of fruits and vegetables or vitamins/supplements (to be determined by your vet).
Now, before you go reaching into your medicine cabinet to add your multivitamin to your dog’s dinner, it’s important to note that human vitamins are not the same as vitamins/supplements that are made specifically for pets. Human vitamins typically contain 100% of the daily requirement while pet vitamins contain only a portion of the daily requirement, usually around 20%.
The 7 Vitamins Your Dog Needs
One thing (among many, obviously) that you and your pet have in common is the vitamins that you require for a strong, resilient immune system. These include:
Vitamin A is critical in helping your dog’s skin, coat, muscles and nerves function properly. Typically found in foods like liver, fish liver oil, egg yolks, sweet potatoes, carrots and kale, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends giving your dog 5000 IU per kilo of food.
However, because Vitamin A is fat-soluble, your dog’s body might not be able to get rid of what it doesn’t need, which can result in toxicity. Reaching your dog’s necessary Vitamin A levels through whole foods or dog food vs. supplementation will leave you with less math to do and fewer worries to have.
B Complex — including biotin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 — is an essential part of protecting your dog’s skin barrier and encouraging proper cellular health. Specifically, B12 is necessary for the production of red blood cells and synthesis of proteins that promote healing and recovery. You can find B Complex in foods like milk, eggs, cheese, organ meat, chicken, fish, dark leafy greens and whole grains (just to name a few).
People love vitamin C as the ultimate immune booster, and the same is true for dogs. Vitamin C is an immune system superhero. Not only does it enhance white blood cell function, it also increases your dog’s antiviral and antibody properties that help them fight against viruses, bacteria and toxins. Vitamin C also doubles as an antioxidant, undoing cellular damage caused by oxidative stress and free radicals.
Dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are some foods high in vitamin C.
Unlike humans, who get a lot of vitamin D from being exposed to sunlight, dogs can only get vitamin D from their diets. Vitamin D can be partly responsible for managing inflammation, regulating genes, and maintaining cellular health. However, because vitamin D is fat soluble, your dog’s health can be easily compromised by too much.
Beef liver, cheese, and other dairy products can be great sources of vitamin D, but make sure to chat with your vet first so as not to over-richen your dog’s diet (and digestive system!).
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that —like vitamin C — fights free radicals and works against oxidative stress that can damage your pup’s cellular health. Vitamin E also has the power to form cell membranes throughout your dog’s body, helping them as they age, as well as combating the negative effects of sickness and stress.
In addition to most commercially-available pet foods, vitamin E can be found in dark leafy greens and plant oils like coconut, hemp, olive, and safflower.
For your dog to be able to heal properly, they need balanced amounts of vitamin K in their bodies. Vitamin K is an integral part of helping blood clot normally. In fact, if your dog ever ingests rat poison, which can inhibit the ability to clot, vitamin K therapy is suggested by vets to counteract the poison.
Fish, liver, meat, eggs, and dark leafy greens are great sources of vitamin K.
Choline is extremely helpful in supporting the central nervous system and your dog’s brain health. It is a supplement that has long been proven to improve the memory function in both humans and pets.
Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and whole grains are some great natural sources of choline.
What Vitamins Do Senior Dogs Need?
Just like with human beings, as dogs age, their bodies stop functioning at full capacity. So, if your younger dog was thriving on just kibble, but has started to develop conditions like arthritis, poor eyesight or memory issues, including fresh food or dog vitamins and supplements as a complementary source of nutrition could be helpful in assisting your senior dog’s aging process.
Some dog vitamins to consider adding to their diets or supplementing through high-quality dog food:
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Conditions like osteoarthritis result from a loss of cartilage, which can create pain and inflammation in your dog’s joints, limiting their favorite daily activities. Glucosamine and chondroitin join together to potentially rebuild/strengthen cartilage to alleviate chronic pain and help the prevention of further wear and tear.
Glucosamine shows up in foods and substances like shellfish and animal bones, while chondroitin is found in different forms of animal cartilage. You’ll want to opt for a specially-prepared dog food that already contains this combo, or look for a vet-recommended supplement.
Vitamins C and E
Both vitamin C and E are antioxidants, making them powerful anti-cancer, immune boosters. Antioxidants help protect cellular health by fighting free radicals and oxidative stress, assisting in overall memory improvement and cognitive function for dogs. Foods like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are very antioxidant-rich fruits that can be added to your pet’s food (with the guidance of a vet!).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
If your older pup is dealing with memory issues, inflammation or chronic kidney disease, omega-3 fatty acids — often found in fish oil — support better cognitive function (at any age) and help quell inflammation throughout your dog’s body. Fish oil, although helpful during the latter part of your dog’s life, they are a great addition to your dog’s diet throughout their lifetime.
What Vitamins Do Puppies Need?
When you adopt a puppy, the excitement can be just as great as the fear of somehow “getting it wrong.” Puppies require a high-quality and completely balanced diet to ensure they are getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals for healthy development and immune function.
Some vitamins to look for when getting your pup’s diet figured out:
Protein is necessary for dogs of any age, but is especially key when your dog is just a puppy. Responsible for building and repairing muscle and tissue, protein does it all from creating hormones and enzymes, providing energy, strengthening the immune system, and encouraging new skin and hair to grow. Proteins are made up of amino acids; 22 of which your dog requires. However, because your dog’s body is only able to produce half the amount of necessary amino acids, your pup’s diet must be responsible for the rest.
Calcium and Phosphorus
Calcium and phosphorus are essential minerals for your puppy’s bone development. 90% of calcium is found in dogs’ bones and teeth along with phosphorus, which helps solidify and strengthen these structures. Calcium and phosphorus also assist your puppy’s body on a cellular level, helping with nerve impulses and energy levels.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K
These fat-soluble vitamins are naturally stored in your pup’s body to be used later on. Vitamins A, D, E and K help immune function, fetal development, eyesight and growth. They also assist in the production and clotting of red blood cells for proper healing. Because these vitamins are fat-soluble, too much of a good thing can lead to health consequences.
What Vitamins Are Bad For Dogs?
While there aren’t any specific vitamins that are singularly bad for your dog, less is always more. If your dog is eating well-rounded dog food that has a balanced ratio of proteins, carbohydrates, calories, fat, fiber and vitamins and minerals, you shouldn’t need to add any additional supplementation to their diet.
Both human beings and dogs need vitamins and nutrients to function every day. But attempting to overcorrect your dog’s diet to give them “perfect” health could backfire royally if not given in proper doses. Remember to always consult your veterinarian.
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