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A guide to vitamin E for dogs

Essential information on vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant with life-changing benefits for pups.

Updated September 29, 2021

Created By

Victoria Lancaster,

Vitamin E Details

  • Medication type: Vitamin
  • Form: Capsules, oils, and naturally occurring sources, such as food
  • Availability: OTC
  • FDA approved? No
  • Life stage: Puppy to senior dogs, depending on their specific needs
  • Common names: Mixed-tocopherols, d-alpha tocopherol
  • Available dosages: 400 IU for puppies/ small dogs and up to 800 IU for dogs older than two
  • Expiration range: Dependent on the product, see bottle

👉Always consult your vet before introducing anything new into your dog’s diet.

What is vitamin E?

Vitamin E is an antioxidant and essential vitamin that protects the body against free radicals in the skin that damage fat in the body. Vitamin E is essential for cell function and fat metabolization. It’s fat-soluble and helps a dog’s body develop strong muscles.

To understand exactly what vitamin E is and how it interacts in a dog’s body, it is crucial to first define exactly what free radicals and antioxidants are.

Free radicals

Free radicals are a group of atoms filled with oxygen and electrons that can cause oxidative stress and damage to parts of a dog’s body, including cell membranes. It’s normal for free radicals to exist, but when dogs are sick or get older the free radicals in their bodies produce more rapidly. When too many free radicals are present in a dog’s body, it can contribute to things like oxidative damage, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer in dogs.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are molecules that prevent free radicals from becoming dangerous. Antioxidants can help prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals.

Vitamin E is the fix

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. It helps “switch off” free radicals so that they don’t damage the body.

The importance of vitamin E for dogs

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant which means it’s absolutely necessary in preventing damage that free radicals cause in a dog’s body. The good news is that vitamin E is naturally occurring in many foods.

😺 A note on vitamin E and cats

Vitamin E is just as important for cats. It provides a variety of benefits to a cat’s skin, especially those fighting mites or allergies. In fact, cats are more susceptible to vitamin E deficiency than dogs due to their diets, as cat food is typically high in fish oil or omega 3 and consequently low in vitamin E.

The benefits of vitamin E

Vitamin E has a variety of benefits for dogs that are healthy and dogs that are suffering from an ailment or illness. The benefits include:

  • Improved immune system. Vitamin E helps increase the number of circulating T cells which fight infection and improve immune function.
  • Improved/healthy fertility. Vitamin E increases the quality of a dog’s semen.
  • Better eyesight. In dogs with cataracts, vitamin E may help, although surgery is required to heal cataracts completely.
  • Shiny coat. Due to its contribution to cell health, vitamin E supports healthy skin and reduces flakiness or itchy skin.

👉You may notice that some dog shampoos contain vitamin E. Shampoos are a great way for dogs with skin problems to maintain a healthy coat. Do not use human shampoo on your pup.

  • Improved heart health. When dogs take vitamin E, it slows the effects of things like cardiovascular disease.

Side effects and risks of vitamin E for dogs

The fat of the liver stores vitamin E. That means overdose is possible, though unlikely.

🚨 In some cases excessive vitamin E causes blood clotting. This is typically only seen in dogs taking vitamin E supplements. It is especially important to give your dog a dosage that your vet prescribes to avoid any complications.

How to know when your dog needs vitamin E

Vitamin E deficiencies are rare in dogs. If your dog does need a vitamin E boost, however, they may display some of the following symptoms:

  • Poor vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Impaired immune system
  • Trouble reproducing

🚨 If you suspect your dog has a vitamin E deficiency, consult your vet.

Natural sources of vitamin E

Vitamin E is naturally occurring in many pet foods, kibbles, and other healthy herbs and oils. Feeding your pup a balanced diet is the easiest way to make sure they’re getting enough vitamin E.

Foods with vitamin E

Most commercial dog food contains the right amount of vitamin E. In fact, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards require foods to contain at least the minimum amount of vitamin E necessary for a healthy pup. Dietary changes may be worth considering for your pup if they are not getting enough vitamin E.

Cooked foods and homemade foods, mostly those that are high in protein, contain plenty of vitamin E. Foods high in vitamin E include:

  • Eggs 🥚
  • Salmon 🐟
  • Spinach 🥗
  • Sunflower oil 🌻and soybean oil

⚠️ Never let your dog have avocados 🥑 — they can cause vomiting and diarrhea in pups.

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Vitamin E supplements

If your dog is consuming a balanced and nutrient-rich diet, they probably have healthy levels of vitamin E. However, in some instances, like when a dog suffers from a particular illness, a supplement might be beneficial. Some multivitamins and fish oil supplements like salmon oil contain vitamin E.

Are they safe?

Vitamin E supplements are safe to use only when your vet prescribes them. Only your vet should decide if your dog needs a boost.

What about human supplements?

You may think it’s safe to feed your dog an over-the-counter supplement or other form of vitamin E. In most cases, there are too many ingredients in human supplements to say these are safe for your pup. Speak with your vet to discuss the right vitamin E supplement plan for your dog.

🚨 If a supplement is flavored with xylitol, an artificial sweetener, this is toxic for dogs.

How to administer vitamin E

Your dog can take vitamin E as a pill or in topical form. Vitamin E oils may be useful for dogs struggling with dry skin. Some pet owners may like adding oils containing vitamins to a dog’s bath.

Pet owners should always follow the dosage as outlined on the packaging and prescribed by your vet. In general, 400 IU of vitamin E for puppies and small dogs and 800 IU for dogs older than two is the rule. The bottom line is to follow your vet’s instructions on if, what kind, and how much vitamin E supplementation your pup needs.