You’ve probably heard that you should up your vitamin C intake when you’re sick, but do you know why that is? Vitamin C (or ascorbic acid as it’s also known) is crucial for normal immune function in mammals, dogs included. But what is the daily recommended intake of vitamin C for dogs? Should you be giving your pup a supplement? We’ll discuss this, as well as signs of a deficiency and overdose, to help make sure your pup is getting exactly what they need.
Vitamin C is essential for a healthy immune response since it promotes the activation of white blood cells, the body’s principal means of fighting infection. What’s more, it boosts the body’s natural antiviral and antibacterial mechanisms by stimulating the release of interferon. Vitamin C also has antioxidant properties, protecting the body from dangerous free radicals and premature aging. So what else does vitamin C do for dogs?
promotes the development of healthy skin and bones through the production of collagen
assists in vitamin E production
is an anticarcinogen
prevents the formation of bladder stones
Daily Recommended Intake
Unlike humans, who must get vitamin C from their diet, dogs can synthesize their own vitamin C. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) hasn't set a requirement for vitamin C in dog food.
In a normal, healthy state, dogs make about 18 mg for each pound of body weight. Exhaustion, emotional stress, and hard-working conditions can deplete vitamin C stores, causing dogs to need dietary supplementation.
Keep in mind that seniors, growing dogs, and pregnant or lactating bitches need additional vitamin C. Ask your vet the exact amount your dog should be receiving.
Most dog food manufacturers fortify their blends with vitamin C, not just because it’s good for dogs but also because it acts as a preservative. Not a fan of processed dog food diets? No worries; there are many dog-safe fruits and veggies that pack a lot of vitamin C. These include:
Apple cider vinegar
Signs of Vitamin C Deficiency in Dogs
Like humans, dogs can get scurvy from lack of vitamin C in the diet. Though rare, this condition is more likely in young dogs than adults. Scurvy can be deadly if left untreated, so it’s important you see a vet immediately if your dog has any of the symptoms below:
Swollen or bleeding gums
Slow wound repair
Frequent bone injuries
Signs of Vitamin C Overdose in Dogs
Since vitamin C is water-soluble, overdose is rarely an issue. A dog will ordinarily excrete any excess vitamin out in their urine. Occasionally, over-supplementation of vitamin C can lead to diarrhea in dogs.
Vitamin C Supplements for Dogs
Some dog parents turn to supplements when they feel like their pet isn’t getting enough vitamin C. It’s important to realize that healthy dogs receiving an adequate commercial kibble probably won’t respond any differently to supplements.
That being said, some dogs with underlying conditions respond quite well to supplements, and some vets prescribe them for certain illnesses. Which dogs benefit most from vitamin C supplements?
Pregnant dogs may need more vitamin C for developing fetuses since pregnancy can hinder vitamin C synthesis.
Supplementing with vitamin C is especially beneficial for older dogs with arthritis, and often, vets will recommend high doses of as much as 2,000 mg or more for this purpose. Some vets also recommend vitamin C for dogs with hip dysplasia.
Vitamin C can help with urinary tract problems as well. Vitamin C lowers the pH of urine, which can help prevent the formation of bladder stones in dogs. Due to its antihistamine-like properties, vitamin C may also help dogs with allergies.
As you can see, vitamin C has some pretty extensive effects on the canine body. While kibble usually has all the vitamin C dogs need, some pet parents choose to give their dogs vitamin C for an extra boost. While this probably won’t show any immediate difference, it may prevent certain conditions like bladder stones later on.
Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pup has a vitamin C deficiency. Are you concerned about your pet’s nutrition? Click here to live chat with a vet today.