For many people, a high-quality multivitamin is like a form of insurance. If you or your kids fall short on nutrients in your day-to-day diet, you at least know you’ve got the basics covered.
Like us, dogs also need a complete and balanced diet to meet all of their nutritional needs. But could they also benefit from a dog multivitamin each morning?
As it turns out, the answer to that question depends on a couple of different factors. Read on to learn what vitamins and minerals canines need to stay healthy, whether yours might need an extra boost, and how to find the best multivitamin for dogs.
Do Dogs Need Vitamins?
Yes! “Dogs, just like their human counterparts, need supplemental vitamins at different stages throughout their lives,” confirms Dr. Katalin Grant, a veterinarian specializing in general and emergency medicine.
Vitamins and minerals support puppies’ growth and development, keep mothers healthy, and help older dogs age with comfort and dignity. Your pet’s specific needs can vary and change over time depending on their age, breed, and health status.
As a good pet parent, it’s important to make sure your pup is taking in a proper balance of essential nutrients. Just as you may feel weak or fatigued due to a vitamin B12 deficiency, dogs too can suffer when they’re low on an essential nutrient. For example, a vitamin A deficiency causes impaired vision and motor skills, skin lesions, and breathing problems, among other issues (1). Too little vitamin B1 (thiamin), and your dog could develop neurological problems or heart damage over time (1).
On the other end of the spectrum, too much of a good thing could also be toxic to dogs, says Dr. Valerie J. Parker, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and associate professor of clinical small animal internal medicine and nutrition in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
“The biggest risk of toxicities comes from over-administration of fat-soluble vitamins,” she says. Case in point: Dogs only need a little vitamin D. Giving them too much could cause kidney failure (2)—a scenario you definitely want to avoid.
For these reasons, it’s important to always consult with your veterinarian before adding any dog vitamins or supplements to your pet’s diet.
Essential Dog Vitamins and Minerals
So what exactly do you need to ensure your pup’s covered nutrition-wise? The same vitamins and minerals we rely on—just in different amounts.
Here’s a quick overview of the vitamins and minerals dogs rely on for their overall health and well-being:
- Vitamin A for fetal development, growth, vision, and immune function
- B vitamins (biotin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12) for metabolism, healthy blood cells and nervous system
- Vitamin C for cognition and protection from harmful free radicals
- Vitamin D for healthy muscles and bones
- Vitamin E for healthy functioning and metabolism
- Vitamin K for blood-clotting ability
While it’s technically not a vitamin or a mineral, choline is an essential nutrient for healthy brain liver and function.
Considering the many benefits of vitamins and minerals for dogs, it’s no wonder pet parents want to ensure their pups are getting all the nutrients they need.
Should I Give My Dog Vitamins?
It depends. “Dogs eating commercially prepared complete and balanced diets generally do not need any additional supplements,” Dr. Parker says. As long as you’re serving your dog specially-formulated chow that’s appropriate for their age and breed, there’s usually no need to stock up on additional vitamins.
To check up on your dog food, look for a fine-print section on the package with the phrase “provides complete and balanced nutrition” or “formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile.” That’s your sign that your choice of chow covers all 37 daily nutritional needs for dogs, per the Association of American Feed Control Officials (essentially the gold standard for dog foods in the United States).
Otherwise? There are a handful of potential exceptions to the rule. If you serve your dog home-prepared meals, they could be missing out on some essential nutrients. So, supplemental dog vitamins could help ensure they’re getting everything they need, says Dr. Grant. Pups that are living with chronic health conditions like allergies, joint conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, or cancer, as well as young and aging dogs, may also need supplements.
If your dog checks off one of the boxes above or has been showing concerning symptoms such as pacing and discomfort despite their current treatment plan, ask your veterinarian if adding supplements to their diet could help.
Dog Vitamins: What to Look for and Choose
Dog vitamins are available in multiple forms including powders, tablets, capsules, liquids, chews, and treats. With so many options, trying to find the best one can quickly become overwhelming.
If you believe your dog could benefit from vitamins, the first step is to contact a trusted veterinarian for help. At the end of the day, the best dog vitamins are those that suit your dog’s specific needs, and a professional pet health care provider knows best what to recommend.
As you peruse your options, there are a few must-haves to look out for. One is simple: “If you see the ingredients clearly stated on the label and the mg or IU content of the vitamins provided that’s a good start,” says Dr. Grant. Vet-recommended dog vitamins or those formulated by a veterinary nutritionist are also preferable, she says.
Of course, you want vitamin supplements for dogs that address their health needs, such as glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support, omega-3 fatty acids for a healthy coat and skin, or probiotics for digestive support. Some supplements contain all three of these things. It’s also essential to ensure the product contains the correct dosage for your dog’s size and weight.
Lastly, look for a vitamin that’s been third-party tested for purity and quality, says Dr. Grant. While this isn’t a guarantee, it’s a big plus because it shows a company is covering their bases in an industry that’s low on regulations.
Dog Vitamins: What to Consider
Vitamins are the building blocks of life, but adding them to your dog’s diet could come with some risks.
Again, there’s the problem of a supplements industry with few regulations. Because of this, it helps to choose products from reputable companies to minimize the risk of contaminating your dog’s diet, says Dr. Parker.
Then, there’s the very real worry of giving your dog too much of a good thing. “You should not assume that all supplements can only help and cannot harm,” says Dr. Parker. In fact, pups are at a greater risk of poisoning due to excess vitamins than suffering from a vitamin deficiency, per the ASPCA. Adding vitamins to your dog’s diet without expert assistance could result in causing more harm than good.
Still, there are plenty of reasons why you may be considering adding dog vitamins to your pup’s diet, and they can be helpful in the right dosages after your veterinarian has confirmed a deficiency or special health need.
For loving pet parents, sometimes the simplest option is also the best one: Don’t take dog nutrition and dietary supplements into your own hands. Instead, lean on your veterinarian and trust them to recommend the vitamins your pup needs throughout their lifespan.