By Kim Rain
Published: 08/09/2023, edited: 08/10/2023
Reviewed by a licensed veterinary professional: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
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Vitamin E is an essential nutrient that promotes a strong immune system, a healthy gut, and supports the eyes and skin. This fat-soluble vitamin naturally occurs in four forms in groups called tocopherols and tocotrienols, of which alpha tocopherol is the most commonly used.
For dogs, vitamin E is usually supplied in the diet, but there are times when additional supplementation may be needed. Read on to find out how to spot a deficiency, when you may need to give your dog additional vitamin E, and how beneficial vitamin E is for dogs.
Vitamin E does a lot in a dog’s body, including help to build cell membranes, support healthy eyes and skin, metabolize fat, and help other nutrients get synthesized by the body, such as Vitamin C and ubiquinone. But perhaps its most important function is as an antioxidant.
When too much oxidative damage to cells and DNA occurs from free radicals, it can affect a dog’s vision, tissue integrity, and several essential systems including reproductive, immune, cardiovascular, and neurological system. At the same time, these free radicals support disease and cancer cell formation.
In dogs, antioxidants like vitamin E stop free radicals in their tracks, thereby protecting cells and reducing the risk of inflammation, cancer, and even the effects of aging like memory loss and cognitive dysfunction. Clinical studies have even shown vitamin E to be beneficial in treating arthritis and allergies, and it can also reduce the toxicity of some heavy metals.
Daily recommended intake
Most dogs receive vitamin E in their commercially bought dog food. However, a dog eating a homemade or specially formulated diet may be getting varying amounts.
According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, adult dogs should be consuming no less than 50 IU of vitamin E (33.5 mg d-alpha-tocopherol or 45 mg of dl-alpha-tocopherol) daily. However, this number does not take into consideration the size of that dog, or any medical condition or deficiency, so always consult with your veterinarian to find the correct amount for your dog’s needs.
For dogs, vitamin E is most readily available in commercially made dog foods, not only as an added nutrient along with several other vitamins, but also as a natural preservative. However, there are many whole foods that contain this essential nutrient and are safe for dogs to consume. Organ meats and seed oils tend to have the highest amount of vitamin E. Foods containing vitamin E include:
- Soybean oil
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
- Wheat germ oil
- Atlantic salmon
- Rainbow trout
- Red sweet pepper
- Butternut squash
- Turnip greens
- Cooked asparagus
Signs of vitamin E deficiency in dogs
A deficiency of vitamin E for dogs is rare, especially if they are eating a regulated diet formulated with vitamins, but it can occur. Eating a homemade or specialized diet may not include enough vitamin E. Diets high in fish, fish oils and fish meals quickly use up the available vitamin E, and require additional amounts of the vitamin to maintain a healthy system.
If your dog is experiencing a deficiency of vitamin E, you may notice:
- Muscle weakness and degeneration
- Decreased vision
- Skin problems
- Weight loss
- Decreased fertility
- Changes in behavior or other neurological problems
- Impaired immunity
- Brown bowel syndrome
Treatment of Vitamin E deficiency
If your dog is experiencing a deficiency of vitamin E, your veterinarian may suggest adding a vitamin E supplement. They may also discuss finding a dog food that's richer in vitamin E.
Signs of vitamin E overdose in dogs
An overdose from a vitamin most commonly occurs from over supplementation and can be avoided by feeding your dog regulated pet food. Much is known about overdoses from vitamin D, vitamin A and iron, but overdoses of vitamin E in dogs is rare. Vitamin E can interfere with vitamin K’s ability to clot blood and can cause your dog to more easily bleed. Overall, vitamin E is considered safe when used within determined limits, but always consult your veterinarian on what’s right for your dog.
Some signs of a possible vitamin E overdose are:
- Bleeding more easily
- Changes in behavior and habits
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in elimination
Vitamin E supplements for dogs
Since most commercial dog foods include the recommended daily intake of vitamin E, most dogs will not need any additional supplementation of this essential vitamin. There are exceptions, of course, such as dogs who eat a diet high in fish products that require additional vitamin E, as well as homemade diets that are lacking the recommended daily amount of vitamin E.
For many vitamins, synthetic sources are just as viable and beneficial as natural sources, but vitamin E is different. Natural vitamin E is absorbed and utilized 36% better than synthetic sources, and is the choice for any pet supplementation. When looking for a vitamin E supplement for your dog, always look for natural vitamin E sources rather than synthetic ones.
Aside from dietary recommendations, there are a few other cases where your veterinarian may recommend giving your dog a vitamin E supplement. One study has suggested that vitamin E may help to reduce the itching in a dog experiencing atopic dermatitis, while another study has shown that higher doses of the vitamin may contribute to a decrease in inflammation following knee surgery for osteoarthritis. Vitamin E may also help to reduce the toxic effects of heavy metal poisoning.
If you are considering supplementing vitamin E for your dog, first take a look at what they are already getting from their food, as well as the reasons why you feel your dog needs additional amounts of this vitamin. Most likely, your dog will not need any sources of vitamin E outside of their regular diet, but always talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s specific needs before you start adding additional vitamins and supplements.
The symptoms of a vitamin E deficiency can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today!
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