Should I Add Vitamins to My Dog's Diet?
Over one-half of all Americans report taking a multivitamin once a day. It is only natural, therefore, that caring pet owners would consider offering their dogs the same opportunity to consume added vitamins and minerals. As humans, we are taught that vitamins are beneficial to our health. However, not all dogs should be provided with a multivitamin.
Safe Vitamins for Dogs
A supplement plan should always be designed under the supervision of a vet or pet nutritionist. In some cases, adding supplements can actually upset the nutritional balance. For example, too much Vitamin D can actually cause a dog to stop eating and can lead to muscle atrophy. Too much of a single mineral can interfere with the body’s ability to utilize other minerals, and too many fat soluble vitamins can build up to toxic levels in the blood. On the other hand, water-soluble vitamins are quite safe for dogs. These include Vitamin C and members of the B vitamin family. When the body takes in more of these vitamins than it can use, it simply eliminates the excess through urination. Owners that wish to give their dogs Vitamin C to support the immune system, can do so without worry. Glucosamine can also be administered without fear. This supplement is given to active and aging dogs to help support joint health. As long as owners consult with their vet and follow proper dosing instructions, no harm will come from adding glucosamine to a dog’s diet.
How to Choose a Supplement
If you’ve been given the ok to provide supplements for your dog, use this checklist to help you make the right selection:
- Do advanced research on supplement brands. Select only from those that have commissioned independent clinical studies of their pet products.
- Learn the scientific names of the ingredients you’re looking for. Many complicated terms can sound alike or look the same on a label.
- Scan the packaging for a lot number. This will tell you that the company sets up its own internal quality control checks.
- Look for independent certifications of the product’s contents.
- Avoid any claims that sound too good to be true. Remember there are no cures for diseases like cancer.
When in doubt, purchase the supplements directly from your veterinarian. The markup may be high, but vets’ offices typically conduct this type of advanced research for you, so you can be assured you’re providing your dog with a quality, doctor-recommended product.
When Does a Dog Require Vitamin Supplements?
Some cases that may make a multivitamin or supplement regimen necessary include:
- A dog that has been diagnosed with a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
- A dog that suffers from a disease that has been proven to respond well to certain supplements.
- A dog that eats a homemade diet.
- A dog that eats little due to illness.
In each of these situations, a multivitamin or supplement regimen can be helpful to help maintain nutritional balance. However, owners should never supplement their dogs without first consulting a veterinarian or dog nutritionist.
The Potential Dangers of Multivitamins and Supplements
Dogs that consume a well-balanced diet made from quality ingredients will not need multivitamins. In fact, multivitamins can often cause harm in dogs that eat well-balanced food. Premium foods already contain the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals, and adding more can upset that balance.
Too much of a water-soluble vitamin such as Vitamin C will not cause any harm to the body. The dog will simply eliminate the extra vitamins when he urinates. This is what causes the bright yellow color often seen after consuming a multivitamin. However, too much of fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, K, and E can be dangerous, as the body cannot eliminate the excess. A toxic amount of these vitamins in the blood is just as dangerous to a dog as a vitamin deficiency. Mineral balance can also be upset by multivitamins. High levels of one mineral can interfere with the body’s ability to handle others, which means supplementation can actually lead to mineral deficiencies.
As long as a dog is healthy and eats a quality diet, a multivitamin is not necessary, and in fact, should be avoided. Owners that feed dogs a homemade diet, however, should consult with their veterinarian as supplements are often necessary to ensure a proper nutritional balance.