By: Dr. Juli, DVM @itsDrJuli
Many health-conscious humans take supplements, including multivitamins, to support their work at the gym and in the kitchen. In fact, according to a 2018 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 50% of adults over twenty took a daily supplement, and this percentage increased as people aged.
Like humans, more than one-third of US dogs may also receive a daily vitamin or supplement to support their well-being. Our pups are family, and pet parents naturally want to ensure their four-legged companion remains healthy through all life stages. It's common for pet owners to search for similar ways to support their dog's health and wellness. It can be overwhelming to search through countless dog supplements on the shelves, leaving pet parents with more questions than answers on supporting their furry best friend.
Here are answers to frequently asked questions about multivitamins for dogs, plus some tips and tricks to help you choose the right vitamin supplement for your pup.
What are Multivitamins for Dogs?
Dog multivitamins contain organic compounds not naturally synthesized by your dog's body. Multivitamins generally contain essential vitamins that support various body functions. Some dog supplements may contain non-essential vitamins or compounds but target specific health concerns.
Unlike prescription medications, multivitamins are not heavily regulated, and there is no one-size-fits-all dog multivitamin. Although similar to human multivitamins, never give your dog any human supplements or vitamins, as they often contain ingredients or amounts of vitamins and minerals that are harmful to pets.
What Essential Vitamins Do Dogs Need?
Vitamins and minerals are essential for various chemical reactions, body functions, and cellular activities in your dog's body. Essential dog vitamins include:
- Vitamin A. This fat-soluble vitamin aids in growth, fetal development, immune function, cell function, and eye health. Carrots are a great source of vitamin A.
- B Vitamins. These water-soluble vitamins include thiamine (Vitamin B1), riboflavin (Vitamin B2), niacin (Vitamin B3), pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), and folic acid (Vitamin B12). The B Vitamins are present in many foods and have a wide variety of functions, including energy regulation, metabolism, brain function, and immune response.
- Vitamin C. This powerful antioxidant helps to decrease inflammation and slow cognitive decline. Before serving your pup a glass of OJ, read more about the benefits of oranges and other vitamin C sources.
- Vitamin D. Also known as "the sunshine vitamin," vitamin D is essential for the growth and maintenance of healthy muscles and bones.
- Vitamin E. This fat-soluble vitamin defends against oxidative damage and also aids in cell function and fat metabolism.
- Vitamin K. This fat-soluble vitamin supports the blood's ability to clot.
Do All Dogs Need a Multivitamin?
Like humans, dogs require essential vitamins and minerals for proper growth and organ function. However, healthy dogs fed a complete and balanced diet that meets the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards for their age and species do not generally require a daily multivitamin. Feeding excess vitamins to your pup, especially fat-soluble vitamins, can cause a harmful nutritional imbalance, leading to severe skeletal problems, vitamin toxicity, illness, or death in some cases.
Numerous factors determine if your doggie could benefit from a multivitamin or another nutritional supplement, including age, diet, activity level, disease, and environmental factors. Always consult your veterinarian before giving your pup any vitamins or supplements. Dogs who may be good candidates for a multivitamin supplement include:
- Growing puppies
- Highly active or working dogs
- Senior dogs
- Dogs with underlying disease or illness (e.g., urinary tract or gastrointestinal disease)
- Dogs fed a home-cooked, vegetarian, or vegan diet
- Picky eaters
- Dogs who receive more than 10% of their calories from treats
- Dogs who have been diagnosed with vitamin or mineral deficiencies
Does Dog Food Contain Essential Vitamins and Nutrients?
Feeding your dog the recommended amount of an AAFCO-approved diet will ensure they receive the correct type and amount of essential vitamins and minerals. Because more than 50% of US dogs are overweight or obese, ensure your dog's daily treat allotment does not exceed 10% of their daily caloric intake. Fresh vegetables, like plain, raw, or steamed carrots, green beans, or cucumbers, are a great way to provide your pet with added nutrients that don't pack on the extra pounds.
Bringing your dog for regular veterinary checkups is the most effective way to ensure dogs of all ages receive the correct amount of nutrients for optimal health. Your veterinarian will discuss your pet's current diet and activity. Blood work may be recommended to check your pet's overall organ function. Deficiencies in your pet's nutrition may be reflected in their external health (like your dog’s skin) and internal health (including their kidney, liver, and gastrointestinal function).
What are the Benefits of Multivitamins for Dogs?
Dogs who need an extra nutritional boost can experience numerous benefits from a veterinary-approved multivitamin. A properly formulated dog supplement can provide the following nutritional benefits:
- Immune system support: Vitamins C, E, and A can help slow aging by providing antioxidant effects. Vitamin C also helps decrease inflammation in your pup.
- Promote healthy skin and coat: Multivitamins that contain vitamin E will help your pet maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat. Vitamin E functions to form collagen fibers involved in developing skin and fur. Omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon oil) provide added joint support and promote improved skin and coat health.
- Support joint health and mobility: Aging pets are at risk for arthritis and joint pain. Dog multivitamins with ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin, and green-lipped mussel will help support your dog's overall joint health.
- Boost energy levels: Senior pups or dogs receiving only some of the essential nutrients from their diet may appear slower or have low energy. Supplementing your dog with the proper amount of B vitamins can give them a needed energy boost while helping support their metabolism.
- Improved digestion: Dogs with gastrointestinal problems or picky eaters may need a nutritional boost for enhanced digestion. Pets with occasional loose stool may also benefit from a dog probiotic to support their natural gut flora.
How to Choose the Best Multivitamin for Dogs
If your veterinarian determines that a multivitamin supplement is safe for your pup, choose a product made in the USA at a good manufacturing practice (GMP) certified facility. GMP facilities will ensure that your dog's multivitamin is produced with quality standards. Dog multivitamins come in various forms, including powders, chewable tablets, soft chews, and more.
The best dog multivitamins should also be:
- Veterinarian-formulated for your dog's life stage. This will ensure no harmful or pet-toxic ingredients are present.
- Free of fillers and artificial colors or flavors.
- Easy to use with easy-to-understand dosing instructions.
- Palatable for easy ingestion.
- Clearly labeled with a lot number on the packaging. This is a sign the manufacturer used a quality control check.
Monitor your dog closely when adding a new daily supplement to their routine. Immediately seek veterinary care if you notice any adverse effects on your pet's health.
For more information and tips on your dog's overall health, check out the Native Pet blog.