2 min read

Choline for Dogs


By Mel Lee-Smith

Published: 09/13/2023, edited: 09/15/2023

Reviewed by a licensed veterinary professional: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

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Choline is an essential nutrient that plays a key role in an array of metabolic processes. How much choline does your dog need to stay healthy? What are the signs of choline deficiency and overdose in dogs? What foods are rich in choline? Read on to find out!

older black and white dog taking a pill - choline for dogs


Choline is a building block of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate heart rate, muscle contractions, blood vessel dilation, and other processes. Here are a few other ways choline keeps your canine healthy:

  • contributes to the structure of cell membranes
  • regulates fluid levels, as well as liver and gallbladder function
  • aids in the metabolism of fat and cholesterol
  • assists in hormone production
  • is part of the protective sheath surrounding the nerves

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends 1,360 mg of choline per kg of dry-matter diet for adult dogs. (Dry matter refers to the nutritional content of food after moisture is removed.)

foods containing choline

Food sources

Your dog's kibble contains all the choline they need. But you can also find choline in other food sources, including:

  • Meat
  • Liver
  • Salmon
  • Peanuts
  • Egg yolks
  • Whole grains
  • Cow and goat milk

Signs of choline deficiency in dogs

Choline deficiency is rare in dogs who eat kibble. Dogs fed a raw diet may not get all the choline they need. Signs of choline deficiency in dogs include:

  • vomiting
  • fatty liver*
  • high cholesterol
  • increase in liver enzymes

*Fatty liver is a potentially lethal condition.

Treatment of choline deficiency

A choline deficiency is generally treated by including more choline in the dog's diet, such as from supplementation or a switch to a more choline-rich dog food. Since a choline deficiency can affect several areas of the body, veterinarians will also use supplementary care based on the body systems affected.

Signs of choline overdose in dogs

Research on choline overdose in dogs is ongoing. Choline overdose in dogs is rare and typically associated with supplementation. Dogs receiving 3 times the daily recommended amount of choline may develop anemia.

Corgi dog getting a pill from veterinarian

Choline supplements for dogs

Choline supplements for dogs are available in tablet and powder form. You can give your dog choline supplements without food. However, if your dog experiences nausea or vomiting, give future doses with a meal.

Few studies have investigated the benefits, side effects, and drug interactions of choline supplements for dogs. Alongside more traditional treatments, some veterinarians may prescribe choline supplements for dogs with:

Anecdotal evidence supports choline supplementation in dogs with liver and kidney disease. However, VCA Animal Hospital advises using choline with caution in dogs with kidney and liver disease.

Do not give choline supplements to dogs diagnosed with brain disease as a result of severe liver disease (hepatic encephalopathy).

Side effects of choline supplements for dogs are rare, but may include:

Vets recommend a dosage of 20 to 40 mg — or 0.5 mg to 1 mg per pound of your dog's body weight — up to twice daily for dogs diagnosed with canine cognitive disorder.

Choline supplements may interact with medications that regulate blood pressure.

Talk to your veterinarian before administering any supplements to your dog. Dietary supplements typically have little to no effect on healthy dogs receiving adequate amounts of choline in their diet.

The symptoms of a choline deficiency can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today!

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