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can my pet have this

A guide to vitamin C for dogs

This vitamin is naturally produced by your dog’s body, but they may benefit from a little extra. Here are the signs that your dog might need a boost of vitamin C supplements.

Updated July 23, 2021

Created By

Madison Timmerman,

Vitamin C Details

  • Medication type: Vitamin C
  • Form: Powder, tablet, tincture
  • Availability: OTC
  • FDA approved? No
  • Life stage: All life stages (best for puppies and older dogs)
  • Common names: Ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, calcium ascorbate, ester C calcium ascorbate, sodium ascorbate
  • Available dosages: 18 milligrams of vitamin C per pound of your dog’s body weight
  • Expiration range: Check the package label for the expiration date. If stored properly, most expire in 1 year to 18 months.

👉 Always consult with your vet before adding vitamin C supplements into your dog’s diet.

What is vitamin C and why is it important?

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a natural nutrient in the body. The vitamin not only provides the necessary nutrients to help form muscles, cartilage, and collagen, but it also works as an antioxidant to protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals are molecules in the body that are potentially harmful and can damage things like cells or DNA codes, causing serious problems down the line.

Vitamin C is also a water-soluble vitamin. This means it doesn’t require fat cells for storage or absorption. Instead, it can dissolve in water and easily absorbs into the body.

This is a key vitamin in your dog’s body and provides your pup with a variety of benefits. But unlike pet parents, your dog doesn’t require a glass of orange juice every day to reach their daily dose of vitamin C. In fact, most healthy dogs naturally produce vitamin C on their own. With a well-balanced diet, your dog’s body uses the raw ingredients from their food to synthesize vitamin C in their liver. Dogs and cats can both synthesize the vitamin.

👉 Here’s an exhaustive list of the best vitamins and supplements for your dog.

The health benefits of vitamin C

Like human vitamins, dogs need vitamins too. In its natural state, vitamin C is extremely good for your dog and provides them with many health benefits. Not only does it help your dog as an antioxidant in their immune system, but the AKC notes it can improve cognitive aging and decrease inflammation.

But, when it comes to adding extra vitamin C into your dog’s diet, there isn’t a clear research consensus. However, most veterinarians do agree that in some cases a little extra vitamin C can go a long way and provide your dog with a wide range of benefits.

“If you are feeding your dog a complete diet, you likely won’t have to supplement extra vitamin C. In fact, there are very few situations where vets prescribe it for a specific illness. But overdosing on vitamin C can be problematic because it can increase chances of forming certain kinds of bladder stones.”

Erica Irish Doctor

Some vets find that dogs that are stressed or sick can benefit from a vitamin C boost. The vitamin helps the dog’s repair process and in turn, keeps the body’s reserves up. Also, in cases where your pup is running through their vitamin C reserves or if they have a high metabolism, an added dose of vitamin C can keep their levels up. In cases of liver disease, distemper, or hip dysplasia, extra vitamin C may also be beneficial.

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How to determine if your dog has a vitamin C deficiency

What happens when your dog isn’t producing the vitamin C they need? This is known as a vitamin C deficiency (or potentially scurvy, which is extremely rare). The cause of a vitamin C deficiency can be due to problems with the liver, metabolism, or stress.

👉 If you suspect your dog may have a vitamin C deficiency, make sure to consult with your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency

  • Bleeding
  • Immune problems (trouble healing wounds)
  • Weakness in muscles and bones
  • Joint pain
  • Bad breath

Your vet may recommend vitamin C supplementation to help manage your dog’s vitamin C deficiency.

Different forms of vitamin C for your dog

Vitamin C comes in multiple forms to give to your dog. From salts known as mineral ascorbates to oil-soluble forms, each form of vitamin C provides your dog with different benefits and absorption rates. Available in powders, tablets, and tinctures, most are administered orally. Some vitamin C forms are considered better than others, so here are the forms of vitamin C available to administer to your dog.

Ascorbic acid. Most similar to the naturally occurring vitamin C, ascorbic acid is known for its tart taste and crystalline form. Often used in vitamin C pills for humans, this form isn’t efficiently bioavailable to your dog, meaning it doesn’t absorb well into their system. If given to your dog in high concentrations, it can result in diarrhea. To prevent intestinal distress, consider administering in smaller doses, multiple times a day.

Ascorbyl palmitate. This form of vitamin C is the only oil-soluble form and is capable of working together with antioxidants. Ascorbyl palmitate works best when taken orally and is considered more efficient than the ascorbic acid form of vitamin C.

Calcium ascorbate. PH-neutral, this form of vitamin C is easily absorbed and gentle on your dog’s system. It helps provide relief from stress and arthritis. Plus, it has the fewest side effects.

Ester C calcium ascorbate. Like calcium ascorbate, Ester C calcium ascorbate is pH-neutral and is a form made up of calcium and vitamin C. This non-acidic form also has the benefit of not upsetting your pet’s stomach.

Sodium ascorbate. Sodium ascorbate is a pH-neutral powder that stays in your dog’s body two times longer than ascorbic acid. It easily absorbs into your dog’s system, making it one of the best forms of vitamin C to give your dog. It’s also shown to benefit pups with Addison’s disease.

What’s the proper dosage of vitamin C for your pup?

Since your dog naturally produces vitamin C in their body, the dosage administered should be equal to the amount your dog normally creates. This helps maintain the amount of vitamin C in your dog’s body, especially for conditions like stress.

It’s best to administer 18 mg of vitamin C per pound of your dog’s body weight. Split your dog’s dosage into several meals throughout the day like you would their dog food. In some cases, too high of a dose of vitamin C could result in a side effect like diarrhea.

👉 Always consult with your veterinarian on the proper dosage for your pet.

Superfoods that contain vitamin C

Chock full of super beneficial nutrients including vitamin C, these superfoods are the purest form of vitamin C ascorbic acid and are good for your pet’s dietary needs. Consider incorporating these whole foods into your dog’s diet along with their pet food for an added boost of vitamin C.

  • Carrots 🥕
  • Kale
  • Pumpkin 🎃
  • Sweet potatoes 🍠
  • Seaweed
  • Blueberries

👉 Make sure to consult with your vet before introducing these superfoods into your dog’s diet.

What happens if my dog is given too much vitamin C?

Extra vitamin C may seem like no big deal. After all, it’s water-soluble and the nutrients your dog doesn’t use is excreted into your dog’s urine. But, giving your dog too much vitamin C can result in calcium oxalate bladder stones. Male dogs are at a higher risk for this due to the length of their urethra. Unlike female dogs, male dogs’ urethras extend around their pelvis and downward making them more susceptible.

Why it happens: as your dog’s body excretes the unneeded vitamin C into their urine, it creates an oxalate. When a higher concentration of oxalate is found in the urine, it changes the pH balance of the urine from normal to acidic. Signs of this complication include bloody urine or a urinary blockage.

🚨 If you suspect your dog has consumed too much vitamin C and may have calcium oxalate bladder stones, contact your vet immediately.