If you’re a health-conscious adult, you probably take a multi-vitamin every day, or at least pay attention to which foods will give you more of certain vitamins (er, right?). But what about vitamin supplements for your dog? Do dogs need vitamins in addition to their food? And if so, what kind? We’ve gathered research, spoken with experts, and checked out product reviews. Read on to learn all about vitamin supplements for dogs.
Do dogs need vitamins?
All living organisms need vitamins, which are organic compounds essential for normal growth and nutrition. Vitamins aren’t naturally synthesized by the body, so animals (and people) have to consume foods that provide them. For example, consider vitamin C: humans need it to survive, but our bodies don’t make it themselves. So, we eat fruits and vegetables, or take supplements, to ensure we get the right amount.
Dogs also have specific vitamin requirements. According to a dog nutrition guide produced by the National Academy of Sciences, some of the vitamins your dog needs include:
- Vitamin K for activation of clotting factors, bone proteins, and other proteins
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) for carbohydrate metabolism and activation of ion channels in neural tissue
- Riboflavin and niacin for enzyme functions
- Vitamin B6 for glucose generation; red blood cell function; nervous system function; immune response; and hormone regulation
- Folic acid for metabolism and protein synthesis
According to Dr. Gary Richter, award-winning vet and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, “all dogs are of the species Canis familiaris and as such have very similar nutritional needs.” Commercial dog food is specifically formulated to meet those needs. If your dog’s food is labeled “complete and balanced,” it contains all the vitamins and minerals your dog needs.
When should you give your dog vitamin supplements?
If commercial dog food is formulated to provide vitamins, why would you need to give your dog a supplement?
For one thing, dogs eating homemade meals may need supplements to balance out their diets. Homemade, whole food diets are great (in fact, Dr. Richter highly recommends them). But if you’re making dog food at home, you may not have access to the specific vitamins your pet needs. That’s where vitamin supplements for dogs can come in handy.
Dr. Richter notes, “it is a good idea to consult with a veterinarian regarding any questions about nutrition.” This is especially important when feeding your dog a homemade diet. Your vet may even refer you to a veterinary nutritionist to determine the best course of vitamins for your dog.
Dogs with particular health and wellness concerns may benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements. In an article for WebMD, veterinary nutritionist Susan Wynn, DVM, notes: “Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E [can] reduce inflammation and help aging dogs with memory problems.” Supplements are extra-helpful for senior dogs.
This senior dog vitamin supplement ($13.49) contains Vitamins C, E, A, and D, plus magnesium, iron, and other minerals and nutrients chosen to boost your dog’s health.
How to choose vitamin supplements for dogs
As noted, you should always talk to your veterinarian about what, if any, dog vitamin supplements your pet needs. Ingredients in some herbal supplements can interact with medication, and it is possible for dogs to have too much of certain vitamins.
If your dog is eating a complete and balanced diet, and not exhibiting any health issues, they probably don’t need a supplement. You can always integrate fresh fruits and vegetables into their diet for a nutrition boost.
However, if your dog is demonstrating new health or behavioral issues, speak with your veterinarian. They can do tests to find out if your dog has any vitamin deficiencies, and may recommend dietary changes and/or vitamin supplements to help.
Here are some general tips for choosing vitamin supplements for dogs:
- Look for brands that have commissioned clinical studies of their products.
- Read labels carefully.
- Look for a lot number on the product. This is a sign that the company uses quality control checks.
- Choose brands with confirmed expertise.
- Be wary of claims that sound “too good to be true.” Vitamins supplements are just that—supplements. They are not cure-alls or medications.
- Do not give human supplements to dogs, as they may contain ingredients that are harmful to dogs.
- In general, the best options will be available through your veterinarian.
The bottom line about vitamin supplements for dogs: talk to your vet first. Vitamin supplements can be a beneficial addition to your dog’s diet, but it’s best to consult a vet. Read labels on your dog’s food and on any potential supplements. And always look to your dog for cues.