- There are some vitamins that dogs cannot produce on their own. Your pup must get their necessary vitamins from a well-balanced diet. High-quality dog food will contain all the nutrition your pup needs.
- Some dogs suffer vitamin deficiencies. Symptoms like weight loss and coat problems could mean your dog has a vitamin deficiency — even if they eat a healthy diet.
- Vet-approved vitamins and supplements can help doggies with deficiencies. If your dog has a vitamin deficiency or a medical condition, there are many supplements on the market.
- Pet supplements are not well-regulated. You must be careful when purchasing over-the-counter products for your dog.
- Natural remedies are already in your kitchen. Certain fruits and vegetables can help with vitamin deficiencies, too.
At a glance: Our favorite dog vitamins and supplements
- Natural Dog Company Multivitamin — High-quality multivitamin
- Cosequin Maximum Strength Joint Supplement Plus MSM — Vet-preferred joint supplement
- Pet Parents Turmeric & Curcumin — Great for inflammation and arthritis
- Zesty Paws Multivitamin Treats for Dogs — Super popular on Amazon
- PetHonesty Probiotics for Dogs — Affordable and potent probiotic
- Pet Naturals of Vermont Daily Multivitamin — Most affordable multivitamin
How we chose our favorites
We only picked from brands who utilized vets or pet nutritionists — There are a lot of dog vitamin manufacturers, and it’s tough to ascertain quality. We focused our search on brands that employed vets or pet nutritionists to create the formula.
The importance of canine vitamins and supplements
Look at it like this. If you eat a well-balanced diet, you likely get all the vitamins and nutrients you need from your meals. This means you might not need to take a daily multivitamin. However, we all know how hard it is to always eat healthy. This is why a lot of people take daily vitamins — just to be sure. Dogs are similar. If dogs eat high-quality kibble or wet food, they should be getting all the proper nutrition they need. Keep in mind both dogs and people can actually overdose on certain vitamins.
However, also like people, some dogs are born with — or develop — vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. This means they might need to take vitamins or supplements, depending on your veterinarian’s recommendations. Dogs also have different nutritional requirements as they grow up. That’s why dog food companies differentiate puppy food, adult dog food, and senior dog kibble. Each is formulated specific to the age level’s nutritional needs.
If you’ve ever wondered if your dog is vitamin-deficient, we’re right there with you! Being informed about your dog’s health requirements is part of being a great dog owner. It’s helpful to define some terms and understand what vitamins and supplements are and what they do.
Terms to know
Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for an animal to grow and to fight off diseases. Vitamins help your dog’s body carry out certain chemical reactions. For instance, vitamins don’t provide energy like calories. However, some vitamins aid the enzymes that harness energy from the foods your dog eats.
Think of your fuzzy buddy’s body as an adorable, wagging machine. Vitamins are the things that grease the gears and help everything inside run smoothly. Your dog’s body is capable of amazing things — like stealing your sandwich off the table. However, it’s important to know what your dog’s body cannot do on its own, too.
Your dog’s body cannot create vitamins on its own without the right nutrients. This is why your pup has to eat well-balanced meals. In the case of deficiencies or other health problems, your dog might need to take a dose of a particular vitamin.
There are two types of vitamins — fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. Because fat-soluble vitamins are stored in fat cells, they requite fat in order to be absorbed by your dog’s body. Water-soluble vitamins, like vitamin C, are not stored in fat cells and do not require fat to be absorbed.
Our veterinarian advisor Erica Irish points out that it’s important to distinguish between fat-soluble vitables and water-soluble vitamins because your dog can overdose on fat-soluble vitamins. This is why it’s important to take supplements very seriously.
Now, about those supplements. The term ‘dietary supplements’ is less specific than the category of vitamins. Some supplements do have vitamins in them. Others can also include any of the following or a mixture of several of these compounds:
- Amino acids (arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine)
- Enzymes (lipase, amylase, protease, papain, bromelain, cellulase)
- Minerals (calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, iodine)
- Probiotics (lactobacillus acidophilus, enterococcus faecium, bifidobacterium lacti, lactobacillus casei, bifidobacterium breve)
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Coenzyme Q10
- Herbs/botanicals (milk thistle, ginger, valerian root, chamomile, California golden poppy, cranberries, CBD)
The term ‘antioxidant’ comes up a lot in conversation surrounding canine supplements. It’s also a category that includes any compound that fights against cellular damage. In dogs, antioxidants are often used to treat inflammation. A common antioxidant is ascorbic acid. You might know it better as vitamin C.
You will also come across phytochemicals a lot. They are antioxidants that are produced by plants. It’s good to know what words on labels really mean when you’re looking for the best supplement for your pup. Because these labels can be confusing, always talk to your vet before giving your pup any over-the-counter pet product.
Dietary fiber exists in two forms: insoluble and soluble. They each have different benefits. Insoluble fiber is not digested by your dog. It is passed through their system. Insoluble fiber can make your dog feel more full without the extra calories. It can help with constipation.
Soluble fiber, on the other hand, is able to be digested. Intestinal bacteria break down soluble fiber and turn it into energy that fuels the cells in the intestines. Soluble fiber can help treat some forms of diarrhea. Both types of fiber exist in the same foods, such as pumpkin.
Note that your dog should be getting enough of both kinds of fiber from their meals. However, if your pup is having digestive issues, your vet might suggest a small amount of pumpkin. Companies even make pumpkin treats for your dog. If your dog has anal gland issues, your vet might recommend some fiber-rich treats for that condition.
Canine supplements and government regulation
The FDA does not consider supplements to be foods or drugs. Therefore, their regulation is much less comprehensive. This means that you have to be very careful when purchasing an over-the-counter supplement for your dog.
According to VCA Hospitals, the FDA does have some requirements, which is good news. All the ingredients must be listed on the label. None of the ingredients can be known to be harmful. The FDA also prohibits products from making concrete claims. This is why you will often see language such as, “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.” You must be very careful when picking a pet product. This is also why it is always best to get your veterinarian’s recommendation.
Vitamins dogs need to stay healthy
Now that we know what to avoid, let’s dive into what dogs require. If your dog is suffering from a vitamin deficiency, it could be because they aren’t eating enough food to get as many vitamins as they need. Your dog could also just be naturally deficient and need a little extra boost. It’s ok, pupper, we’ve gotcha covered. According to the AKC and NomNom, dogs need the following vitamins to maintain their health.
- Vitamin A. Similar to its effects on people, Vitamin A is good for skin and eye health. It also promotes weight loss.
- B vitamins. B Vitamins is a category that includes biotin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamine, B-6, B-12, and Choline. B vitamins are good for healthy cell growth and cell maintenance. One thing to note here is that choline is not technically a vitamin (or a mineral), it shares similar effects with B vitamins.
- Vitamin C. This one won’t surprise you. Vitamin C supports the immune system.
- Vitamin D. That good ol’ vitamin D is great for keeping those bones and teeth nice and strong.
- Vitamin E. For eyes and skin health, vitamin E is most important.
Common symptoms that vitamins and supplements can help
We compiled a list of the most common canine afflictions along with what vitamins and supplements can be effective in treating these doggie downers.
Joint issues and arthritis. Glucosamine help relieve joint pain. If your pup has arthritis, your vet has likely already prescribed a supplement to help with the aches and pains. The combination of glucosamine and chondroitin is common, too.
Urinary issues. It’s glucosamine to the rescue, again! Our betterpet expert Erica Irish, DVM, notes that glucosamine has protective effects inside the small intestines and urinary bladder. It is great for dogs (and kitties!) with recurring UTIs.
Itching and coat issues. Omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil or flaxseed oil can help improve skin and coat health.
Anxiety. Probiotics and even cannabinoid products like CBD can be used to help a stressed-out pupper relax.
Diarrhea & other digestive problems. Probiotics are often used to treat upset doggie tummies. Fiber-rich treats might also help.
Memory loss. Antioxidants including vitamin A and vitamin E might help doggie brain function in senior pooches.
Natural ways to include more vitamins and minerals in your doggo’s diet
Your dog doesn’t necessarily have to get extra vitamins in pill or powder form. Lots of ‘people foods’ are rich in vitamins and nutrients. Remember when your parents told you to eat your vegetables? Well, you can now tell your fuzzy BFF that, too. For a comprehensive list, check out this handy guide to help you determine what tasty treat to split with your pooch.
For a quick reference guide, here are some delicious ‘people foods’ that are healthy for your pup. Just remember to be moderate when feeding your dog these tasty snacks. We don’t want any upset tummies.
Carrots. Bite into a delicious carrot and split it with your dog for a crunch of Vitamin A.
Apples. An apple a day is full of Vitamin A (and Vitamin C).
Salmon. This fish is swimming with omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin B.
Blueberries. Don’t be blue and worry about vitamin C and antioxidants. Pop a couple of blueberries!
Sweet potatoes. This tuber roots for proper consumption of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and B6. Sweet potatoes should always be served soft/boiled.
Bananas. Your dog will go bananas for all the magnesium and potassium in this smooshy treat.
Watermelon. Along with a nice dose of hydration, this vine-grown treat is chock full of Vitamin A and B-6. Watermelons should be served without seeds and rinds to avoid the potential for choking.
Cucumbers. Sure ‘cucumber starts with a c’, but it’s full of vitamin K.
Green beans. This type of bean really is magical. Green beans are a great source of calcium, iron, and vitamin K.
👉 Here’s a complete list of all the household foods that dogs should and shouldn’t eat.
Can dogs take human vitamins and supplements?
No. Products formulated for humans often contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs.
What form do vitamins and supplements come in?
There’s a wide variety including pills, capsules, powders, chews, treats, and liquid forms.
How will my dog’s vet diagnose a vitamin deficiency?
Your vet might be able to tell just by your dog’s symptoms. When you take your dog into the vet’s office, be prepared to answer questions about your dog’s health, including their diet. Blood tests are not widely used in diagnosing vitamin deficiencies.
I keep hearing that CBD pet products are miracle drugs. Is that true?
Sadly, miracle drugs don’t really exist. Cannabinoid products like pet CBD oil and treats are popular. Until proper testing is done, we won’t really know just how well cannabis works in dogs. Marijuana products for humans are harmful to dogs. THC is toxic to dogs.
👉 Read our guide to CBD for dogs for more information about what’s safe and legal.
Are there any specific dog breeds who benefit more from supplements?
Even within the same breed, each dog is unique. You know this already about their personalities, of course. While some breeds have to deal with skin issues more so than others, it’s not usually nutrition-based.
For example, bulldogs and other breeds with lots of skin folds are more prone to skin infections. Using supplements to treat a topical infection won’t do much good. One thing to remember is that, in some cases, too much of a good thing can be bad. Large breed puppies sometimes get too much calcium which can lead to issues with bone growth. Therefore, calcium supplements for large-breed puppies are a bad idea. Long story short: Doggie biology is complicated — and best left to the experts.