We all need certain nutrients to stay happy and healthy.
But do dog vitamins need to come from a supplement?
Dog vitamins and supplements are a huge industry, but are they really necessary?
After all, a good-quality dog supplement can cost as much as $70 a month. (Think of how many tennis balls that would buy!) Yes, your dog needs Vitamin K and magnesium in their diet, but do those nutrients have to come from a supplement?
In this article, we’ll discuss the nutrients your dog needs, how to spot a nutrient deficiency, and how to decide if dog vitamins are the right choice.
Do Dogs Need Vitamins?
You already know your dog needs food, water, exercise, and love to thrive. You might even be aware of the important roles that protein, carbs, and fats (“macronutrients”) play in your dog’s health.
But what about vitamins and minerals?
Also known as “micronutrients,” vitamins and minerals are essential for your dog (and you) to stay healthy.
And yet, despite supplements being a multi-billion dollar industry, many people aren’t even aware of what certain vitamins and minerals do for your (and your dog’s) body.
Here’s a list of the essential nutrients and the role they play in your dog’s health:
- Vitamin A boosts the immune system and helps the heart and kidneys to function properly.
- Vitamin B Complex is comprised of 8 B vitamins that support multiple body systems, from your eyesight to digestive health.
- Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that protects cells from damage and can help reduce inflammation.
- Vitamin D assists in calcium absorption.
- Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect damaged cells and can improve cognitive function in aging dogs.
- Vitamin K regulates blood calcium levels.
- Calcium promotes strong teeth and bones.
- Magnesium supports nerve and muscle function.
- Phosphorus helps the body create protein.
- Sodium maintains the balance of water in and around your cells.
- Potassium regulates nerve signals and muscle contractions.
- Chloride balances the fluid within cells.
- Iron helps the blood to carry oxygen throughout the body.
- Copper helps create red blood cells.
- Zinc boosts the immune system.
- Manganese helps metabolize amino acids, cholesterol, glucose, and carbohydrates.
- Selenium supports the reproductive and immune systems.
- Iodine helps the body make thyroid hormones.
- Taurine supports cardiovascular and eye health.
- Choline is neither a vitamin nor a mineral, but it is an important nutrient that regulates memory, mood, and muscle control.
- Omega-3 fatty acids help support heart and joint health as well as contribute to healthy skin and coat.
These nutrients not only need to be present in your dog’s diet, but they also need to be in the right proportions. In some cases, too much can be as bad as too little.
For example, too much zinc can inhibit your dog’s ability to absorb other key nutrients and excess vitamin D can cause the body to store too much calcium in the heart. Even a supplement like fish oil can cause symptoms such as diarrhea or excessive bleeding if given in large enough quantities.
Dogs may also need to receive different amounts of vitamins and minerals at each life stage. A growing puppy will need more protein than an adult dog, for example. And dogs can become less efficient at digesting and absorbing nutrients from food as they age. A senior dog will likely need to change their diet or begin taking supplements to get all of the dog vitamins and minerals they need.
Whether they are small, medium, or large, different breeds have different nutrient requirements as well. Take the time to research your dog’s breed to find which ingredients are best for their genetic makeup.
Signs Of Nutrient Deficiency
Unlike your kids, your dog can’t tell you that her tummy hurts or that she’s been more tired lately. Luckily, your dog’s body will give you clues to his or her health.
Every dog has variations in their appetite based on a number of factors: activity level, weather, or mood.
But if your dog has a sudden and marked change in their appetite, that could be a cause for concern.
Monitor their water consumption as well. Diabetes can cause your dog to drink and urinate more than usual, which is the body’s way of removing excess sugar.
Just like humans, every dog’s appetite is different, so make sure you’re comparing sudden changes to their normal eating habits, not the guidelines listed on their bag of kibble or what the dog next door eats.
It’s not the most pleasant thing to think about, but paying close attention to your dog’s poop and urine output could give you vital information.
Your dog’s poop should appear dark brown and have a soft consistency (similar to Play-Doh) with no mucus or blood present. Any deviations from the norm could be a symptom of a nutrient deficiency.
Skin And Coat
A dull or brittle coat, skin problems, and hair loss (that can’t be explained away as normal shedding) can indicate a nutrient imbalance. These can be caused by a lack of protein, fats, or vitamins.
If you’ve been feeding your dog cheap, low-quality, processed kibble from the grocery store, skin and coat problems might be the first symptoms of a nutrient deficiency that you notice.
Some dogs, such as Chow Chows, have a characteristically black tongue. But if your previously pink-tongued pooch starts showing dark-colored spots on their tongue or gums, it could be due to a lack of Vitamin B3, or niacin.
If you suspect that your dog has this condition, known as canine pellagra or “black tongue,” take it seriously. If left untreated, it can be fatal.
Scientists are starting to recognize the key role that the gut biome (the healthy bacteria in the intestines) plays in everything from the immune system to brain function. And perhaps the most surprising is its effect on mood.
An imbalance in the gut biome can cause dogs and humans alike to feel depressed and lethargic. Your dog might also appear to be sadder than usual as a result of chronic pain, nausea, or discomfort.
Some dogs need more activity than others, but if your normally peppy dog has lost their vim and vigor, a lack of carbohydrates could be to blame.
When the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates, it starts burning fat for energy, which leaves behind a waste product called “ketone bodies.” (Those on the Keto Diet will be familiar with this process!)
One of the main symptoms of a carbohydrate deficiency in dogs is breath that smells like acetone, so if your dog suddenly smells like nail polish remover, it might be time to add some carbs back into their diet.
Not all fat should be avoided. Fats play an important role in cell health and are needed to absorb certain vitamins and minerals.
Even if your dog could stand to lose a few pounds, take care to work closely with a veterinarian to make sure their reduced-calorie diet is still providing them with enough nutrients.
Many people are surprised to learn that what they thought were chronic health conditions are merely the result of nutritional deficiencies.
Allergies, frequent infections, organ disease, and even behavioral problems can sometimes be reduced or even alleviated with the addition of key vitamins or minerals.
Further, your dog’s particular health conditions may require special meal formulations. Feeding your dog commercial dog food or even a homemade diet makes it very easy to get the proportions wrong or even leave out key nutrients.
If you suspect your dog has a nutrient deficiency, don’t brush it off! Nutritional deficiencies can lead to serious medical conditions. As your dog’s caregiver, you are the best resource for determining the state of your dog’s health.
If your dog starts exhibiting any symptom or behavior that seems out of the ordinary, schedule a visit with their veterinarian to see if an underlying health condition or nutrient deficiency could be part of the problem.
Our Favorite Dog Multivitamin
There are a lot of dog vitamins on the market that claim to be good for your pet. Unfortunately, in our experience, there is a lot of shadiness among nutritional supplements.
After carefully reviewing all of the vitamins and supplements that we could, the only one that we recommend is Canine TNT from Dynamite.
TNT (Total Nutritional Top-Dress) comes in powder form and is very easy to give to your dog. Simply mix the powder with warm water to create a gravy or sprinkle the powder directly over your dog’s food. In our experience, this is the easiest way to get senior dogs and those with health issues to take a vitamin, as even soft chews can be difficult to manage for some dogs.
TNT is a great all-in-one nutritional dog supplement, and we recommend it when transitioning your dog from processed kibble to a whole food diet.
Should You Give Your Dog Vitamins?
Dog vitamins and minerals are important to your pet’s health. But if you’re already feeding your dog a nutrient-rich diet made from wholesome ingredients (and they’re otherwise happy, healthy, and full of energy), even the best dog vitamins on the market are likely a waste of money.
At Rick’s Dog Deli, we have a variety of meal formulations that work great for all breeds and a number of health conditions. They’re made from fresh, USDA-inspected ingredients, gently cooked in our kitchen, and flash-frozen to lock in the nutrients.
Still can’t find what you need? We can create a custom order just for you!