By Mel Lee-Smith
Published: 08/18/2017, edited: 10/17/2021
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People who are vitamin C deficiency can develop a disease called scurvy. Scurvy is typically rare in humans because we can usually find vitamin C in our foods. Even many candies and children's gummy snacks are fortified with vitamin C. Scurvy is still found in some areas of the world, and leaves a person weak and fatigued. They may bruise easily and may even develop a rash. Scurvy can lead to anemia and excessive bleeding, especially in the gums. It's rare today for humans, but if you have a dog, you may wonder if Vitamin C is as essential to their diet as it is to yours.
Can dogs get scurvy?
Dogs who are malnourished are susceptible to many diseases. Vitamin C is imperative for the health and development of young canine bones. A dog's liver typically creates the amount of vitamin C his body will need each day. However, with a weak immune system or an illness or disease, your dog could potentially produce less vitamin C than they need.
Does my dog have scurvy?
If your dog's liver is not functioning to capacity or if your dog is diabetic, the amount of vitamin C your dog's body produces may not be enough for his needs. You may also notice your dog's gums bleeding or spots on their skin. If your dog has scurvy, they may have wounds that bleed excessively and are slow to heal. Dogs with scurvy tend to lose their teeth from their swollen and bloody gums.
Dogs with liver disease are susceptible to developing a vitamin C deficiency since their liver is the organ responsible for providing vitamin C for their entire body.
How do I treat my dog's scurvy?
If your dog is deficient in vitamin C, you will need to see your veterinarian for a complete diagnosis. There will typically be an underlying problem that your vet will want to treat rather than only treating the vitamin C deficiency. Because your dog's liver is responsible for producing vitamin C, your vet will want to rule out a decline in liver function. Once you have talked to your veterinarian and your dog has gone through necessary blood work and diagnosis, your veterinarian will probably have you treat the vitamin C deficiency with vitamin C supplements. Vitamin C supplements are available in chewables for your dog, given as treats or even put into their food.
You can also offer your dog vitamin C-rich foods such as fruits and berries. Be sure you are familiar with the foods that your dog cannot have, such as grapes and avocados. Grapefruits, green peppers, citrus fruits, berries, and potatoes are all rich in vitamin C and can be easily added to your dog's meals to increase their vitamin C levels.
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How is scurvy similar in dogs and humans?
Scurvy in humans is also caused by a vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy can also make humans extremely tired, weak, and listless. Because vitamin C is responsible for the musculoskeletal development, scurvy can also affect human bones if a person is deficient in vitamin C. The signs and symptoms of scurvy are very similar for dogs and humans, as well as for other mammals. There are some differences, however.
How is scurvy different in dogs and humans?
Unlike humans, a dog's liver is responsible for producing the amount of vitamin C they need each day. Humans have to find vitamin C from foods and supplements, should we need them. People in areas of the world with healthy diets and access to fresh foods typically have enough vitamin C for their daily intake. Many of us often supplement with vitamin C during childhood bone development as well as during seasons of common colds and flu to build our immunities.
Large breed dogs are especially susceptible to vitamin C deficiency as their bones develop quickly their bodies will need to be producing extra vitamin C. You can offer your large breed puppy vitamin C supplements or fresh fruits and vegetables to increase their vitamin C levels, which will help with that large bone development. Symptoms of scurvy in people can typically be seen on their skin with rashes or splotchy red spots. Dogs who are covered in fur sometimes don't display that, or they are difficult to spot under fur.
A four-month-old Great Dane named Maggie was diagnosed with scurvy. She was listless with very little energy to get to her food bowl each day. Her bones were growing at an excessive rate; almost too quickly for her body. The amount of vitamin C her liver was producing was not efficient for her rate of growth. At first, her veterinarian suggested putting Maggie down because her bones were weak and would not be able to sustain her weight as she grew.
After diagnosing Maggie, her veterinarian didn't believe she would even grow into adulthood. But in a last shot effort he did blood work and discovered her vitamin C levels were deficient, he decided to try supplementing her diet. Maggie ate several carrots a day and was given vitamin C supplements throughout the day as treats.
Her veterinarian checked her growth and her vitamin C levels every couple of weeks. Today Maggie is a 12-year-old Great Dane who is healthy and active. Her veterinarian said early on she only needed vitamin C supplements while she was young and growing, however, Maggie's favorite treats today are still carrots.