Is it safe to give human vitamins to dogs? The short answer is: “Ask your veterinarian.” There are a few things you should know about dogs and vitamins, though, which will help you ask your vet the right questions.*
Why Would A Dog Need A Vitamin Supplement Anyway?
Dogs, like humans, need essential vitamins and minerals, most of which they get from a balanced diet, especially if you feed your dog high quality commercial food. There are two main reasons where you need to supplement your dog’s diet – both of which should come at the recommendation of your trusted veterinarian.
Vitamin supplements for homemade dog food diets
If you feed your dog homemade food, your veterinarian might recommend that you supplement the dog’s diet with vitamins and mineral supplements. Or, they might advise you to add certain fruits and vegetables to your dog’s diet to get those same nutrients. Before you feed your dog “people food,” familiarize yourself with foods that dogs should avoid and foods that are safe to add to your dog’s diet.
Health-boosting vitamins for dogs
Ongoing medical ailments and symptoms, such as those associated with arthritis or age, can be suppressed with the help of certain vitamin supplements. Likewise, there are certain diseases that prevent dogs from fully absorbing nutrients, so a supplement can help them absorb or make up for nutrient malabsorption. Ask your veterinarian what supplement might be right for your dog.
What Vitamins Do Dogs Need?
Here is a list of vitamins that dogs need, as well as sources where these vitamins occur naturally. Most, if not all, of these vitamins can be found in high quality dog food:
- Vitamin A: Promotes good vision, a healthy immune system, and key organs. It’s found in beef liver, carrots, sweet potatoes, and some dairy products.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12: Help with metabolism, as well as healthy blood, skin, brain and tissue cells. They’re found in meats, dairy, nuts, fruits and vegetables, and legumes.
- Vitamin C: Acts as an antioxidant, promotes wound healing and absorption of iron, supports the immune system. Vitamin C is found in vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits.
- Vitamin D: Prompts healthy bones and muscles. Humans get vitamin D3 from the sun; however, dogs (and cats) cannot absorb it through their skin like we do. Ever wonder why your dog (or cat) likes to lay in the sun? It’s how they get D3. When they lay in the sun and groom themselves, they ingest vitamin D3! Never give your dog vitamin D supplement unless your veterinarian recommends it.
- Vitamin E: Promotes cell function, fat metabolism, healthy eyes and muscles. It occurs naturally in some vegetable oils, nuts, and green veggies.
- Vitamin K: Helps with blood clotting. Vitamin K is found naturally in leafy greens, vegetable oils, some fruits and meat and dairy products.
A dog’s vitamin requirements depend on their breed and mix, their activity level, their overall health, and their age. If your veterinarian suspects a vitamin deficiency in your dog, they’ll likely order a blood test to measure vitamin levels, and then treat it accordingly.
Don’t buy into the myth that your body or your dog’s body “uses the vitamins it needs and pees out what it doesn’t need.” If a vitamin isn’t water soluble, it can build up in your dog’s liver and cause vitamin toxicity. For example, if a dog ingests too much vitamin A in a single setting — say he gets hold of a bottle of vitamin A pills — that could lead to poisoning and you should take your dog to the vet immediately. On the other hand, if you give your dog too many human supplements over time, you can make your dog sick. Symptoms of vitamin overdose include diarrhea, lethargy, stomach upset.
What Human Vitamins Can You Give Your Dog?
Only give your dog vitamins and supplements that your veterinarian recommends. Most experts recommend against giving dogs human vitamins because your dog’s daily recommended intake can be found in their food, especially if it is a high-quality commercial dog food. Also, some human vitamins contain ingredients that are not safe for dogs, such as xylitol and some artificial sweeteners.
The problem with giving human vitamins to dogs is in the dosing, especially if you feed your dog commercial pet foods. If you serve your dog homemade dog food, then you should consult with your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist to understand what’s missing from your dog’s diet.
If you give your dog vitamins or supplements that are designed for humans, you risk overdosing, which can be harmful. Although this is a rare risk, it can happen especially if you give your dog fat-soluble supplement.
According to the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), the following are requirements for dogs:
- Calcium: .6% (less than 1%) of your dog’s total diet
- Choline: 1,200 mg per kilogram of food
- Folic acid: .18 mg per kilogram of food
- Vitamin A: 5,000 IU per kilogram of food
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin): 1 mg per kilogram of food
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 2.2 mg per kilogram of food
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 11.4 mg per kilogram of food
- Vitamin B5: 10 mg per kilogram of food
- Vitamin B6: 1 mg per kilogram of food
- Vitamin B12: .022 mg per kilogram of food
- Vitamin D: at least 500 IU but no more than 3,000 IU per kilogram of food
- Vitamin E: 50 IU per kilogram of food
Supplementing Your Dog’s Diet
If you are concerned that your dog’s diet does not meet the minimum requirements as established by AAFCO, you might want to consider a supplement that you add to your dog’s water.
One of the advantages of a dog water supplement is that your dog consumes the water enriched supplement in small doses, as he or she needs them. Also, because the vitamins and supplements are water soluble, they are not stored in your dog’s body. The excess is excreted, so there is less risk of buildup; hence, less risk of toxicity.
So, back to what we said earlier in this article: The adage, “your body uses what it needs and discards the rest via urine” holds true for water-soluble vitamins and minerals. According to VeryWellHealth (a human health website), these include the B vitamins and vitamin C. Fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K; do not supplement these vitamins unless your veterinarian recommends that you do so.
*Anything in this article should not be taken as medical advice. We’re presenting our findings from sources that include the National Institutes of Health, VCA Hospitals, and AKC. Always consult with a veterinarian when it comes to giving your dog supplements and medications.