One of the most common questions pet owners have is, “Can I give my dog human vitamins?”
After all, our pets are a part of our family and we want them to be as healthy and happy as possible. We also want them with us for as long as possible.
While there isn’t enough research to conclusively say whether human vitamin supplements can help a dog thrive, there is evidence that different vitamins can benefit our beloved companions.
When to Give Supplements to a Dog
Most dog foods provide at least basic nutritional requirements. But if you give your dog raw food or homemade food, there’s a chance your pet might not be getting all of the nutrients he or she needs. This is a case where supplementation could help.1
Talk to your veterinarian about the food your dog is eating to get a good idea of how your pet could benefit from vitamin supplementation.
Vitamin C and Dogs
Unlike humans, dogs’ bodies produce vitamin C. However, if a dog becomes ill or is stressed for long periods of time, his or her supply of this essential vitamin can quickly become depleted. Physical stress (such as digestive problems, herding, hunting, injuries, or illnesses) and emotional stress (relocation, training, weaning, etc.) can both cause a shortage of vitamin C.2
Vitamin C is critical to the health of both humans and dogs.
That’s because it acts as an antioxidant, helping protect the body against the damaging effects of oxidation. While oxidation is important to the proper functioning of the body, it can also cause problems.
For example, oxidation creates harmful molecules known as free radicals. These molecules can do a great deal of damage to cells and can also weaken the immune system. Antioxidants such as vitamin C scavenge free radicals, saving the body from damage.3
In 1965, veterinarian Wendell Belfield injected vitamin C into a dog with distemper – which, at the time, was considered a disease that was always fatal. However, the dog responded extremely well to the injection and survived.
Belfield decided to try the injection after reading how doctors used vitamin C to help patients suffering from severe viral diseases. Belfield became convinced that the vitamin could help dogs suffering from a wide variety of conditions.4
How Other Vitamins May Benefit Dogs
Now, there are several other vitamins that could help support your dog’s good health. Here’s a quick look at some of them.
- Vitamin A – This vitamin helps support motor function, skin health, vision and immune system function.5
- B-complex vitamins – The B vitamins play a very important role in the health of a dog. For example, vitamin B6 helps a dog’s body generate the glucose needed for energy. It also helps to ensure that the digestive and nervous systems function properly and that the dog’s hormones are properly regulated.6
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is also critical because it helps to protect dogs from a wide variety of diseases. A recent study showed that many commercial dog foods don’t provide enough of this vitamin.7
- Vitamin K – This vitamin makes sure that your dog’s blood is able to clot.8
Risks of Vitamin Supplementation
As important as vitamins are to a dog’s health, it’s important to find the supplement that is right for your dog.
In some cases, giving too much of a vitamin can lead to health issues. For example, some experts believe that if a dog gets too much vitamin A, that could result in dehydration and weight loss.9
That’s why you should never give your dog anything before talking to your veterinarian first.
Tips on Selecting the Right Supplement
Once your veterinarian gives the OK to give your dog vitamin supplements, the next step will be to determine which one will be the best. See if your vet has recommendations and then do some research on your own.
You should, for instance, look for independent verification of any claims the manufacturer might be making about a particular product. If the manufacturer claims that a supplement can cure a certain condition or illness, look for something else.
And always remember the saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
The Bottom Line
So, if you’re asking the question, “Can I give my dog human vitamins?” the answer is “yes.” As long as you get the OK from your vet, it will be safe to do so.
While dogs on a balanced, nutritious diet might not need vitamins, there are some cases where your dog can benefit from supplements. If your dog has been diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency or is on a homemade diet, then supplementation may be necessary.
Again, you’ll need to talk to your veterinarian first before giving anything to your pet.