Dog Vitamin Supplements: When And How To Use Them

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We have an interesting topic today on dog vitamin supplements. We already discussed dog supplements some articles ago. So if you missed that, you might want to quickly check up on that. It will help you not to get lost in this new topic. (click here to read our article on dog supplements).

However, if you already did that, then come aboard and join the dog vitamin supplement train.

For the health fanatics among us, we know that vitamins are essential elements in our diets. For that reason, we make it a point to take our multivitamin pills religiously. Or, at the very least, we make sure to consume more foods that would give us those vitamins.

Now, many times, this fanaticism is transferred to our pets. Of course, we want our pups as healthy as we are because we care about them. However, we need to remember that even though dog and man are best friends, they are not the same. There are inherent differences in the way they look and how their bodies function.

So, yes, all living things require vitamins to survive but they do not all require the same kinds of vitamins. Some experts even argue that dogs do not need our supplements at all. Why is that? We asked the same question too and the answers we got were pretty enlightening.

In our article today, we are going to present to you, in detailed fashion as our manner is, the truth about dog vitamin supplements. It might make you change some habits, or it might make you improve on some habits.

One thing we are sure about though is that reading this guide would make you and your dog the better for it.


The Trend Of Dog Vitamin Supplements

The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (2006) reports that 1 in every 3 dogs and cats in the US receive supplements. Of the many different types of supplements for dogs, the most popular ones administered are multivitamins, fatty acids, and those that help with joint problems.

Probiotics are also becoming quite the rage with pet owners these days thanks to the various benefits they are acclaimed to possess.

Many vets testify to seeing many dog owners carry bags of vitamins around for their dogs, and to be quite frank, many vets today express concerns over this trend.

In the opinion of the Ohio State University veterinary clinical sciences professor, Tony Buffington (DVM, PhD), most people don’t even know why they give their dogs vitamin supplements.

From observation, it is reported that many people simply give their dogs vitamin supplements whimsically rather than out of necessity.

So, it begs the question: do dogs really need multivitamins? But before we get to that, let’s look at some other things about dog vitamin supplements, first.


What Are Vitamins?

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Vitamins are organic compounds required in minute quantities by the body for the regular, healthy functioning of the body. A dog’s body – as well as a human’s – cannot produce vitamins by itself. Thankfully, these vitamins are already naturally occurring in most of the foods that we eat.

The most important vitamins needed by dogs as listed by the American Kennel Club are listed below:

  • Vitamin A.
  • Vitamin B complex (biotin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12).
  • Vitamin C.
  • Vitamin D.
  • Vitamin E.
  • Vitamin K.

Now, let’s discuss each of these vitamins individually and get to find out what they actually do.


1. Vitamin A

Just like in humans, vitamin A also helps in improving vision for dogs. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin and is also needed for various other functions which include boosting the immune system and cell function. It also plays a vital role in the proper development of fetuses.


2. Vitamin B Complex

Vitamin B complex is called a complex because of the various kinds of other vitamin Bs there are. We will examine each very briefly.

  • Thiamine is the vitamin B responsible for regulating the metabolism of carbohydrate to produce energy. Aside from that, they are also responsible for activating ion channels in certain neural tissues.


  • Riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B12 help to facilitate the function of enzymes.


  • Vitamin B6 has several functions and is especially important of all the vitamin Bs. It is responsible for ensuring proper red blood cell and nervous system function. Also, it regulates hormones, immune responses, gene activation, glucose generation, and even the synthesis of niacin.
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  • Pantothenic acid is helpful in the facilitation of energy metabolism.


  • Folic acid helps with the proteins. All amino acids and nucleotides are metabolized under its watch, and same goes for the mitochondrial proteins as well.


3. Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays a major role as an antioxidant. So, what it does is that it goes round your dog’s body scavenging for free radicals. Some of these free radicals can be harmful, and if left alone, can cause premature aging and inflammation. Vitamin C ensures that doesn’t happen.

On their own, dogs can actually synthesize vitamin C. Their livers help with that. However, there are times when they might require some form of supplementation. Hence the reason there are dog vitamin supplements – to help with situations like that.


4. Vitamin D

Aka the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D helps your dog to develop strong, healthy bones. It does this by working together with certain minerals like calcium and phosphorus. If vitamin D is deficient in your dog, it would ultimately lead to weak, and improperly developed muscles and bones.


5. Vitamin E

Just like vitamin C, vitamin E, also helps to ward off damage from oxidation. So, it does help with the anti-aging process as well (many of these vitamins actually work hand in hand).

In addition to that, it also ensures normal, healthy cell function, as well as the proper metabolism of fat. If deficient, dogs can develop certain conditions such as muscle degeneration, eye problems, as well as issues with reproduction.


6. Vitamin K

For blood to clot in times of injuries, cuts or wounds, it needs the help of vitamin K. Sometimes, vitamin K is absent or deficient. Other times, its use is inhibited like when dogs swallow some rat (or mouse) poisons. In cases like this, hemorrhaging and even death are not farfetched when an injury occurs.


7. Choline

Choline forms a vital component of a dog’s cell membranes. Also, it assists in the healthy function of the liver and the brain. In fact, vets often administer it as part of the treatment procedure for epilepsy in pets.

So, here’s a quick table we found at We thought it might be helpful to share. It lists out the functions and deficiency symptoms of all these vitamins.

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Table Showing Function, And Deficiency Symptoms of Essential Dog Vitamins

Vitamin Function Deficiency Excess
A Promotes growth, vision, fetal development, and immune function. Weight loss, conjunctivitis, anorexia, corneal disorders, impaired immune function, skin lesions, respiratory issues. Dehydration, joint pains, problems with the central nervous system.
D Preserves mineral status, balances phosphorus levels, aids clotting of blood, strengthens bones and muscle, helps with conduction of nerves. Lethargy, flabby muscles, bending and swelling of the bones, rickets. Anorexia, diarrhea, muscle atrophy, weakness, brittle hair, vomiting, dehydration.
E Fights oxidative damage by scavenging free radicals around the body Skeletal muscles degenerate, failure of the reproductive system, eye degeneration.
K Activates blood clotting. Supports the synthesis of bone proteins as well as other types of proteins No reports of any deficiency symptoms in dogs. Although, some say it could lead to hemorrhaging.
B1 (thiamin) Assists in the metabolism of carbohydrates to produce energy Stunted growth, loss of body weight, puppies might have neurological dysfunction, heart and nervous system might suffer damage in mature dogs
Riboflavin Responsible for proper enzyme function Loss of body weight, muscles weaken, anorexia, lesions around the eyes, flaking dermatitis
B6 Facilitates glucose generation, facilitates proper function of the red blood cells, enhances function of the nervous system, as well as the immune system, and gene activation. Loss of body weight and anorexia in puppies, anemia and muscle twitching in mature dogs, convulsions Motor balance and control can be impaired. Loss of muscle strength.
Niacin Enhances enzyme function Weight loss, inflammation of the lips, throat, and cheeks, excessive drooling, bloody diarrhea, anorexia Convulsions, bloody stools
Pantothenic acid Helps in the metabolism of energy Erratic appetite, sudden prostration, could sometimes lead to a coma, convulsions, speeding up of heart and respiratory rates, drop in the production of antibodies, stomach upsets
B12 Helps enzyme function Loss of appetite, change in the normal structure of bone marrow, anemia, white blood cells reduce in number
Folic Acid Helps in the metabolism of nucleotides and amino acids. Also helps in the synthesis of mitochondrial protein Loss of body weight, hemoglobin concentration drops.



Before we leave this section, please note that this table is in no way supposed to replace advice from your vet. It is strictly meant for informational and educational purposes. If you notice any of the symptoms above, check with your vet first to discuss your fears before making any decision. Except, of course, you are a vet yourself.

So, up next, we will be looking at some frequently asked questions about dog vitamins. Keep reading…

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When Should I Give My Dog Vitamin Supplements?

There are few statistics showing how many dogs take dog vitamin supplements in the US. But it must be pretty high if what the vets are saying is anything to go by. Plus, if there’s a high supply of these products in the market, it follows that there also be a high demand for these products.

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So, if we do the simple math and economics, we find that lots of dogs are fed with dog vitamin supplements daily. But still, it isn’t reason enough to decide to get your dog some dog vitamin supplements.

This is not to say that dog vitamin supplements are totally unnecessary for dogs. They do have their uses especially in any of the following cases.

1. If your vet diagnoses your dog with a vitamin deficiency and that deficiency can be corrected by supplementation then, of course, your dog would need dog vitamin supplements. An example is when your vet recommends vitamin E supplementation for osteoarthritis.

However, keep in mind here that the solution is not a multivitamin but a vitamin-specific supplement.

2. If you cook your dog’s meals yourself, then he will surely need dog vitamin supplements. Homemade meals are naturally nutritionally deficient so you need to include vitamins and minerals to them to make them balanced.

Nonetheless, it is still highly unadvised to attempt to include the missing vitamins without supervision from a veterinary nutritionist.

3. If your dog eats only very little or has vowed to only stick to a low-quality diet, you’d need to supplement. Sometimes, these situations are brought on because the dog is ill, other times, it’s because the dog is just finicky – and annoyingly so. A multivitamin would be advised here in order to keep your dog healthy.

But then, do not count heavily on dog vitamin supplements. In reality, they are actually a really poor substitution for a complete and balanced meal.

Other than these scenarios, your dog will hardly need to take in dog vitamin supplements.

When Should You Not Give Your Dog Vitamin Supplements?

A high-quality dog food made with quality ingredients by the best pet food brands would hardly need to be supplemented. In fact, supplementing such meals could spell trouble for your dog as Dr. Coates warns.

Dog food companies of repute already make their food in such a way that they contain all the vitamins and minerals needed. Keeping in mind that these elements are only needed in very little amounts, even just a little more can be too much.

Sometimes, the downside isn’t too alarming. Like when a dog takes in too much vitamin C which is a water-soluble vitamin. In this case, he will pass out the excess when he takes a pee. As a nutritionist once put it, that makes a very expensive pee.

And then there are other situations where you’d wish for a case of “very expensive pee”.  Unlike water-soluble vitamins, fat soluble vitamins are more difficult to eliminate. So, if there is an excess, it can linger in the body, buildup, and even reach really toxic levels.

In fact, Dr. Coates explains that, in many cases, the dangers of excess fat-soluble vitamins are as inimical as their deficiency.

So, if you ask Dr. Jenifer Coates, it is her most professional opinion that you do not give your dog any dog vitamin supplement if they are already on a balanced diet.

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Can I Give My Dog Human Vitamins?

Short answer, no. It is not safe. Dr. Susan Wynn a veterinary nutrition expert at BluePearl Georgia Veterinary Specialists explains why in this article on petmd.

Like we have mentioned time and again, most quality commercial dog foods already contain all the needed vitamins and minerals. So, on a good day, your dog does not need dog vitamin supplements, much more a human supplement.

Now, also because the standard quality kibble contains all the necessary vitamins needed, dog vitamin supplements usually don’t contain a high dose.

What we mean is that most times, brands make these supplements come with only about 20% or less of a dog’s daily need for the vitamin. (this is a good thing because they already have the needed vitamins in their food). It’s a far cry from the, oftentimes, 100% that we have with humans.

So, if you do give your dog a human vitamin, you run the risk of exposing your pooch to toxicity. An excess amount of anything is already bad as we know. And for vitamins, the line between just enough and too much is often way too thin and grey.


What If My Dog Accidentally Swallows My Vitamin Supplements?

We know dogs and their antics and that’s why we know that it’s not beyond them to sneak up behind you and “steal” some of your multivitamins.

However, if this happens once, it really isn’t a cause to speed dial 911 just yet. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider the situation with the utmost seriousness as Dr. Lisa Murphy an associate professor of toxicology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine warns.

She further explains that the reaction of a dog to a human vitamin will vary greatly depending on different factors. Some of those factors include: their age, weight, and medical history.

So, one dog might accidentally swallow a human vitamin and come down with a mild fever at best. Another dog, on the other hand, might try the same thing and get knocked straight into a coma. It’s that crazy.

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Regardless of the factors though, calling your vet is the surest way to increase the chances of things panning out positively.


Are There Human Vitamins That Are Toxic To Dogs?

Dr. Murphy who is also the director at the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System answers in the affirmative. One of the gravest of such situations is iron toxicity.

Normally, human prenatal supplements come packed with a lot of iron. If your dog accidentally consumes even a small quantity of pills before you can get to him, the results can be devastating. You need to report the matter to your vet as soon as possible.

Consuming vitamin D in excess can also lead to permanent damage of the kidneys, the heart, and some other organs. Usually, vitamin D toxicity isn’t as serious as iron toxicity but it could cause severe damage (as listed above) if not treated on time.

As for other supplements, consuming an excess of them does not result in situations as serious as the ones mentioned above. Nevertheless, Dr. Murphy still advises that any human vitamin at all consumed in a large quantity can pose serious health problems for your pooch.

When going to your vet after your dog ingests some human vitamins, always remember to take the vitamin bottle with you. If your vet has precise information on what was ingested, they’ll be in a better position to give your doggie the best treatment possible.

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How Can I Tell If My Dog Ingested Human Vitamins When I Wasn’t Around?

Sometimes, you might not have been around when your dog swallowed up your pills. What then? Dr. Lisa Murphy says that the symptoms are often the same for when a dog takes in something that doesn’t agree with his stomach.

So, you can expect some drooling, vomiting, a drop in appetite, and some discomfort around his abdomen. If these symptoms don’t relieve themselves after 24 hours, then you might want to take Fido to the vet.


My dog Is Not Eating – Can I Give Him Dog Vitamin Supplements To Stimulate His Appetite?

Yes, it is okay to give your dog vitamin supplements if he doesn’t seem to be eating much anymore. Experts say you can start your dog on a vitamin B or multivitamin supplement if he begins to lose appetite.


What Dog Vitamin Supplements Should I Give My Pregnant Dog?

According to the experts, you do not need to give your dog any vitamin supplement during pregnancy. Naturally, her diet would have to undergo some changes. However, those diet changes should not lead to a vitamin deficiency, especially if you do it with your vet.


Does My Senior Dog Need Dog Vitamin Supplements?

Now, here’s something to keep in mind. As your dog gets older, he’s going to start displaying certain symptoms. Those symptoms could be decreased agility, slight changes in his coat, and constant fatigue. All these are normal and not necessarily indicative of a nutrient deficiency.

So, on the one hand, your senior dog might not need a dog vitamin supplement. On a good day, a good senior dog food should contain every vitamin he needs.

On the other hand, if your dog’s breed naturally predisposes him to certain illnesses, then, maybe yes. Maybe your senior dog might need a vitamin supplement. A vitamin supplement for older dogs might help to slow down the progression of such illnesses.


Here Are The Most Important Dog Vitamin Supplements Your Dog Might Need As He Begins To Age

Vitamin D: Vitamin D, as we already explained, has its primary function in the bones. So, you see why your senior dog might need vitamin D supplementation. As a pooch gets older, his bones and muscles deteriorate, often leading to osteoarthritis. Vitamin D can help to manage such a situation.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A is the sight vitamin and helps to guard against night blindness. As dogs age, their eyesight would begin to weaken. It surely won’t be as sharp as before. Vitamin A can help to prevent the onset of night blindness in your senior dog.


Does My Puppy Need Dog Vitamin Supplements?

According to David Dilmore (DVM), the answer is a no. Puppies do not need supplements as it might even affect them negatively. Sure, they need a good dose of vitamin A, vitamin D, and iodine, but if the levels are too high, it could cause problems.


How About Adding Dog Vitamin Supplements To Homemade Diets?

Well yes, that is absolutely necessary. However, it must be done under the supervision of a vet nutritionist.

Now, especially for dog parents that don’t feed their dogs vegetables or organ meats, your homemade diet is definitely highly nutritionally deficient. Giving your pooch dog vitamin supplements (as well as other supplements) becomes absolutely necessary.

Most homemade diets are short on vitamin E especially. So, that would need to be supplemented. Nevertheless, be careful not to overdose your pooch with vitamin E, though. A daily dose of 1 to 2 international units (IU) per pound of your dog’s body weight should do it.

Your dog will also need to keep up with his iodine needs. If he doesn’t have enough, it could lead to a suppressed thyroid. So, watch it.

As for multivitamins, they do help. However, the right dosage is key. Giving the right dosage can be a bit tricky. But thankfully, some guys have a few tricks up their sleeves to help you. They are called vet nutritionists. Make sure to check with them so they can help you decide on the appropriate dose for your furkid.



So, in the end, what is the verdict? To supplement or not? Well, if you ask us, it’s yes and no, and really, it’s up to you.

A complete and balanced diet might not need to be supplemented. But then again, if you have a special needs pooch on your hands, you might have to consider it.

And finally, before we run off, we must mention this.

Do not make any decision concerning your pet’s health and nutrition willy-nilly. Always ensure that you’ve consulted with your vet, first. Then and only then can you have the right to go ahead and administer dog vitamin supplements to your furry friend.