Can Dogs Be Given Multi Vitamins?

Photo by Ben Aston on Flickr

Dog multivitamins and human multivitamins both contain a spectrum of vitamins and minerals that both species need to live and thrive.

But the similarities probably end there.

It’s important to note that human multivitamins tend to contain 100% of a person’s daily requirement of vitamins and minerals.

Whereas dog multivitamins generally contain only 20%.

Why?

The difference is in the dog food. Dog food usually contains 100% of a dog’s daily requirement for vitamins and minerals. It’s made that way on purpose. In some cases, this nutritional requirement is even regulated, for example, by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). 

So if you’re feeding your dog real dog food – not homemade stuff – your dog is likely getting all the vitamins it needs.

Dog multivitamins will also contain less of the following:

  • Iron
    • Found in high quantities in prenatal vitamins, iron is particularly toxic to dogs.
  • Vitamin C
    • Dogs, incredibly, make their own and usually require no supplementation.
  • Vitamin D
    • Is acutely toxic to dogs in high doses.
  • Calcium
    • Dogs are susceptible to high calcium in the bloodstream.
  • Xylitol
    • Typically found in “gummy” multivitamins and chewable vitamins for humans, xylitol is quite toxic to dogs.

see (link) “Which vitamins can be harmful to my dog?”

What vitamins are in multivitamin tabs?

Multivitamin tablets, for both humans and dogs, contain a range of vitamins and minerals. At first glance the ingredients lists can appear quite similar.

But when you compare ingredients in human vitamins vs. dog vitamins it becomes clear there is no standard.

Here are the top seven ingredients in multivitamins:

Dog multivitamins

Zesty Paws Core Elements:

  1. Glucosamine HCL, MSM (OptiMSM), Cod Liver Oil, Enzyme Blend, Chondroitin Sulfate, Vitamin A, Vitamin D3. 

VetOne multivitamin for dogs (veterinary use):

  1. Liver Meal, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sucrose, Ascorbic Acid, Stearic Acid, Cellulose, Safflower Oil.

Human multivitamins

Centrum Adult Tablets:

  1. Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Dibasic Calcium Phosphate, Magnesium Oxide, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Ascorbic Acid (Vit. C), Ferrous Fumarate.

Jamieson Multivitamin 100% Complete:

  1.  Vitamin A (Acetate), Beta-carotene, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine mononitrate), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide), Vitamin B5 (Calcium d-pantothenate), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine HCl). 

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), vitamin A, and calcium phosphate seem to be the only things human multivitamins and dog multivitamins have in common – at least when it comes to the most prominent ingredients. 

And notably absent from the human multivitamin lists are ingredients such as chicken meal, chicken flavouring, and liver meal. Apparently, dogs need some extra incentive to take their vitamins. 

Otherwise, the lists look somewhat similar, and it is the quantities of vitamins that differ. And since it is precisely the quantity of a vitamin that can be toxic to a dog, it is important to:

  1. Consult a vet before giving your dog multivitamins and/or
  2. Be very aware of your dog’s total vitamin intake to avoid toxicity.

Which dogs need multivitamins added to their diets?

Healthy dogs eating a complete and balanced diet do not need extra vitamins. In fact, adding extra vitamins could be harmful. It’s always best to consult your vet before adding vitamins to your dog’s diet.

But there are some situations when multivitamins may be useful for your dog:

  1. If you feed your dog a homemade diet, raw meat diet, etc., it may require supplementation. That is, unless these homemade diets are created by a dog nutritionist to be complete and balanced.
  1. Dogs with arthritis are also known to benefit from multivitamin supplementation. But as always, check with your vet first.
  1. To reduce shedding and improve fur shine.
  1. Dogs with a low metabolism that are on a prescribed diet. Sometimes these dogs are overweight and obese, but just because they are being given less food doesn’t mean they don’t need their vitamins.

Which vitamins can be harmful to my dog?

It’s important to distinguish between water-soluble vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, and fat-soluble vitamins.

Water-soluble vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids are the safest.

Water soluble vitamins include B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, niacin, folic acid, and biotin, among others. Omega 3 fatty acids include fish oils and flax seed.

Fat-soluble vitamins are problematic because excessive amounts of these vitamins remain stored in fat cells rather than flushed out by the digestive system. This can cause a buildup of toxicity. Examples of fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin D, A, E, and K.

The most harmful vitamins and minerals found in multivitamins, however, are vitamin D, calcium, and iron.

Vitamin D

While vitamin D protects dogs from diseases, an excess can dangerously increase levels of calcium and phosphorous, resulting in heart and kidney problems.

Symptoms of vitamin D toxicity include:

  • Vomiting
  • Blood in feces
  • Weakness
  • Excessive drooling
  • Muscle tremors
  • Appetite loss
  • Increased thirst and urine production
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Abdominal pain
  • Seizures

Calcium

Like humans, dogs rely on calcium for optimum bone health. But puppies and dogs with kidney issues are particularly susceptible to calcium toxicity. Ingesting large amounts of vitamin D will also increase calcium in the bloodstream, making the vitamin D/calcium combo so much more dangerous.

Symptoms of calcium toxicity include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Twitching
  • Dehydration
  • Rapid breathing
  • Blood in urine
  • Tarry, smelly feces
  • Gastrointestinal irritation (bloating, flatulence, etc.)

Iron

Iron is the most common mineral found in our dogs’ bodies. Unfortunately, iron toxicity is also common. Our dogs just can’t rid it from their system in a short amount of time, resulting in damage to the heart, liver, gastrointestinal system, and metabolic system.

Symptoms of iron toxicity progress through many stages over time and may ultimately result in acute injury or death. After the presentation of some initial symptoms your dog may appear to get better, and then get way worse. If you suspect iron poisoning, call your vet! 

Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shock
  • Jaundice
  • Seizure
  • Weight loss
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Intestinal blockage

And while not a vitamin or mineral, there is another ingredient found in some multivitamins we should all be aware of:

Xylitol

This ingredient is a sweetener most likely found in gummy multivitamins and other chewable vitamins made for humans. If your dog has raided your gummy multivitamins or chewables, check the label for this nasty sugar substitute. Even small amounts can cause your dog’s blood sugar to plummet. Liver damage is likely in higher doses, although a range of health issues are possible. 

Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Collapse

Where should most healthy dogs be getting their vitamins from?

Most commercially processed dog foods provide dogs with all the vitamins they need. The nutritional content of these foods is often regulated. Check the labels on your food to see if it includes things like:

“Complete and balanced nutrition”

“Meets the requirements of dogs established by (insert name of regulating body)”

“Complete and balanced nutrition for dogs based on (insert name of regulating body) feeding trials”

What are complete diets and complete foods for dogs? 

Complete diets and foods for dogs include the following:

  • Protein
    • Our bodies are made of it! And your dog loves it. Your dog’s body makes only 13 of the 23 essential amino acids required to build protein. The rest must come from food.
  • Fats
    • Fats give your dog energy and keep its skin and hair healthy and shiny. Don’t be fooled  – your dog needs it.
  • Carbohydrates
    • Carbs come in the form of fibres, sugars, and starches. It’s plant stuff, essentially. They give your dog energy and keep the digestive system moving.
  • Vitamins and minerals
    • The chemical and electrical signals in your dog’s body rely on vitamins and minerals. Subtle, but so important.
  • Water
    • Dog’s bodies, like ours, are about 80% water. Always make sure it’s fresh, clean, and available.

Which dog friendly vegetables are packed full of vitamins?

Check these out:

  • Spinach
    • Popeye’s favourite contains vitamins B6, B9, E, K, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous.
  • Carrots
    • Not only are carrots great for cleaning a dog’s teeth, they’ve also got vitamin A, K, B6, and the minerals biotin and potassium.
  • Green beans
    • If you share green beans with your dog you can be assured, they’re getting some vitamin B6, A, C, K, as well as iron and calcium.
  • Peas
    • There’s a reason you’ll find peas included in some commercially packaged dog foods. They are packed with vitamins like A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, K, as well as minerals like thiamin, phosphorous, manganese, fibre, and folate.
  • Squash
    • Easily digestible, squash contain vitamins A, C, and B6.
  • Broccoli
    • If your dog loves crunching on broccoli, it’s getting a good amount of vitamin K, C, and a bit of A and B9.