By: Kayla Kowalski, Certified Canine Nutritionist
In any pharmacy or grocery store, there are shelves full of vitamins for people, but did you know there are vitamins that can be given to our furry friends too? Vitamin C is a popular vitamin we use during times of stress & sickness, but it can also play a vital role in your pup's health.
Vitamin C contributes to our fur babies' growth and immune function and can be a powerful source of antioxidants. Unlike humans, dogs can produce their own vitamin C from the glucose in their liver. Pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, dogs aren't invincible — sometimes, they need some help.
Benefits of Vitamin C for Dogs
When your pup is healthy, its liver will pump out all the vitamin C its body needs for optimal health. However, liver disease or increased demands on the body can create a deficit in what the liver can produce.
Vitamin C for Sick and Stressed Pups
If your poor pup is under the weather, vitamin C can help its immune system fight bacterial and viral infections. It also acts as a potent antioxidant to protect against oxidative damage, helping to get your pup back on its feet.
When stressed, the body consumes more vitamin C, increasing the demand on the liver. This can stem from emotional stress, like a drastic environmental change, or physical stress, such as illness.
Vitamin C for Liver Disease
If your pup's liver is damaged or under significant stress, it may be unable to synthesize sufficient vitamin C for the entire body. Causes of liver disease include infections, toxicity, old age, and cancer. Supplementing vitamin C in times of need can assist the rest of the body, giving the liver a chance to heal.
Vitamin C for Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is a painful deformity caused by abnormal hip joint development. Since hip dysplasia develops at a young age, early prevention plays the most significant role in keeping your dog comfortable and pain-free as the bones grow.
Vitamin C is necessary for collagen production and tissue repair. It also plays a vital role in joint growth and development. Early vitamin C supplementation to at-risk pups can help stop or slow the progression of dysplasia.
Vitamin C for Dogs with a Deficiency
Because vitamin C requirements are met by the body, dietary deficiency is uncommon. Most healthy dogs won’t require a vitamin C supplement. However, advanced malnourishment or illness may result in vitamin C deficiency (also known as scurvy), and signs may include:
- Increase in sickness
- Delayed wound healing
- Excessive bleeding
- Bleeding from the gums or skin
- Joint pain
- Muscle or bone weakness
Getting to the bottom of the underlying causes of any changes to your dog's health is critical. Talk to your veterinarian if you suspect your pup has a vitamin C deficiency.
Types of Vitamin C Supplements to Give Your Dog
There are many forms of vitamin C, and choosing between them can be overwhelming. Here is a breakdown to help you. It is always best to choose a supplement marketed for dogs (that means no human vitamins!) and ensure it is free of unnecessary ingredients — including fillers, preservatives, and artificial colors or flavors.
Ascorbyl Palmitate: The Most Efficient
Ascorbyl palmitate is a fat-soluble form of vitamin C, making it highly available for the body. It contains potent antioxidant properties to protect against free radical damage. Its high bioavailability makes ascorbyl palmitate the most efficient form of vitamin C.
Calcium Ascorbate or Ester-C Calcium Ascorbate: A Decent Option
Calcium ascorbate is pH neutral and easily absorbed into your pup's system. It is a gentle form of vitamin C and causes the fewest side effects. In human research, the Ester-C form is thought to provide longer acting function as it is absorbed and stored within white blood cells.
Sodium Ascorbate: For Sensitive Stomachs
Like calcium ascorbate, sodium ascorbate is a pH-neutral form of vitamin C, which is more gentle on the gastrointestinal system. Sodium ascorbate is easily absorbed and has been shown to stay in your pup's system twice as long as traditional ascorbic acid.
How Much Vitamin C Should You Give Your Pup?
As with any new addition to your pup's diet, I recommend a slow introduction and gradual dose adjustments. In times of need, 250-750 mg of vitamin C can be added to your dog's diet daily. How much vitamin C your dog needs should be tailored based on your dog's body weight and divided among several daily meals.
- Small Dogs: 250 mg daily
- Medium-Sized Dogs: 500 mg daily
- Large Dogs: 750 mg daily
Potential Side Effects of Vitamin C in Dogs
Supplementing vitamin C can be difficult to gauge, and too much of a good thing isn't always better. The most common side effect is diarrhea. Monitor your pup's poops closely and use supplements cautiously if your dog is prone to diarrhea.
Overusing vitamin C supplements can also increase the risk of painful urinary tract stones. Consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about giving your dog vitamin C supplements.
What To Do If Your Dog Takes Too Much Vitamin C
If your dog has diarrhea, stop giving them vitamin C. Once all gastrointestinal upset has resolved, you can slowly reintroduce the vitamin at a lower dose. This may also be a sign that the supplement is no longer needed. Dogs will rarely require long-term vitamin C supplements. Often, it is safer to incorporate superfoods into your pup's diet for long-term support (and lots of other bonus vitamins, too!).
Dog-Friendly Superfoods that are High in Vitamin C
Getting our daily dose of vitamins through our diet provides some of the most easily-absorbed nutrients and helps to prevent overdosing. Orange juice isn't the only option, though. The best sources of vitamin C for dogs include:
Native Pet's Pumpkin Powder and Probiotic Powder are great options for conveniently incorporating vitamin C-rich foods into your dog’s pet food. Plus, probiotic powders also provide added benefits to the immune system!
The Bottom Line
Vitamin C is essential to keep your pup's body in tip-top shape. It is naturally produced by your dog's body, but underlying issues may result in a vitamin deficiency. To support your fur baby, feed them a high-quality diet with plenty of vitamin C-rich foods. Consider adding vitamin supplements during times of stress or illness.
Kayla is a Certified Canine Nutritionist (CertCN) who has helped over 3,500 pet parents optimize their pet’s diet. If you’re interested in finding out how a custom diet guide can help you and your dog, go to kaylakowalski.com.