There is little doubt that vitamins and supplements are wonderful for people. So what about vitamins and supplements for dogs and cats? Are they something that you, as a pet owner, should consider for your animals? Do they work for pets in the same way that they work for people?
Are Vitamins and Supplements Necessary?
These questions and many others probably come to mind when you read about vitamins and supplements for pets. Animals experience many of the same diseases and ailments that people experience, especially as they age. Vitamins like Vitamin C and Vitamin A are considered essential for helping to support a healthy immune system in a person. Are these vitamins requirements the same for an animal? Yes and no. Vitamins impact the growth and development of animals in much the same way that they do in people.
A healthy diet, including a good and nutritious pet food, will generally supply the vitamins necessary for a dog or cat as they grow. Though just like people, pets might require additional vitamins or supplements as they age or during pregnancy or periods of illness.
Vitamins and supplements for pets can help to maintain good health throughout each stage of life. Pets that are fed an entirely homemade diet can lack essential nutrients, which are more readily available in commercial pet foods. These animals should be given a multivitamin on a daily basis. Talk to you veterinarian about finding the right multivitamin. Many on the market today are made to supplement store-bought pet food, so your pet on a homemade diet will need different amounts of the essential vitamins.
Supplements for Working Dogs
Some veterinarians recommend that working animals like herding dogs be given vitamin supplements because of the amounts of energy expended during their job. Most dog multivitamins will have added antioxidants which are thought to help divert any muscle damage during work. A working dog can be placed under extreme stress, especially endurance sled dogs or guard dogs. These pets should be treated like a highly trained athlete and supplements designed to support muscle function may be helpful.
All-Around Useful Supplements
Vitamin B and fatty acids help to build a healthy skin and coat. A dog with a dull coat or flaky skin could benefit from a fish oil supplement or any supplement with polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Vitamin A, which is found in many protein sources like liver and dairy products, is the chief protector of your pet’s vision. While most pets foods will contain enough, a lack of vitamin A can lead to vision problems including night blindness. Skin and hair are also damaged by an insufficiency of this vitamin. If you're concerned about your pet's vitamin A intake, talk to your vet about adding a supplement. Be sure to seek the advice of your vet since too much vitamin A can lead to coat and bone issues. Supplementing a complete, high-quality dog food is not usually necessary unless your dog is getting most of their diet from table foods or treats.
Vitamins and Supplements for Senior Pets
Aging pets are the group that will receive the largest benefits from vitamins and supplements. Just like humans, dogs and cats and other pets can become arthritic with age. Glucosamine supplements may decrease the discomfort caused by arthritis in both people and animals. Many veterinarians recommend a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin to preserve and lubricate aging joints. Along with these targeted supplements, a multivitamin and mineral supplement can help to preserve health and increase comfort in an aging pet.
Choosing a vitamin and supplement routine for your pet might sound complicated. Talking to your veterinarian will help you to decide on the correct supplements for your pet. Especially as pets age, vitamins and supplements can be beneficial.
More on Pet Nutrition and Supplements
The Benefits of Fish Oil Supplements
What Do I Feed My Adult Dog?
Is Your Cat a Picky Eater?
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.