11 Essential Vitamins for Dogs Recommended by Vets
Make no paws about it — your dog’s healthy diet includes vitamins.
(For those of us who’ve forgotten, vitamins are organic compounds that play a vital role in your body’s metabolic activities. And for those of us who are a little iffy on the definition of “metabolic,” that term refers to the various chemical reactions that help us stay alive and healthy.)
Some vitamins are water-soluble, which means the body excretes any excess. Others are fat-soluble, which means excess amounts get stored in the fat cells themselves. It’s important to know which is which, and to avoid over-supplementing to avoid vitamin toxicity — especially when it comes to fat-soluble vitamins.
The most important vitamins that your dog's body needs include:
These vitamins play specific — and vital — roles in supporting your dog's full-body health. To get a clear picture of how each works and where you can find it, we’ll look at each vitamin individually below.
#1: Vitamin A (Retinol)
Vitamin A, also known as retinol or retinoic acid, is a fat-soluble vitamin responsible for maintaining healthy eyesight, growth, cell function, fetal development, and immune function.
Over time, vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness and skin issues for your dog. On the other hand, over-supplementation can cause bleeding and abnormal bone growth and formation.
To ensure your dog gets the right amount of vitamin A in their diet, aim to feed balanced, nutritious meals. Some natural food sources with the highest amounts of vitamin A include:
- Fish oil
- Dairy products
#2: Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol)
Did you know dogs are naturally unable to produce vitamin D in their bodies? This means that supplementing with vitamin D is crucial to their health!
Vitamin D helps with nutrient absorption in the intestines. It also promotes the retention of calcium and phosphorus, supporting healthy bone and muscle growth.
Marine fish and fish oil are among the richest natural sources of vitamin D. Other sources include:
Including healthy amounts of Vitamin D in your dog's diet will help prevent rickets (soft or weak bones), osteoporosis, enlarged joints, and other bone issues.
However, be mindful of how much vitamin D you give your pup. Excess vitamin D can cause toxicity, which may induce hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood), loss of appetite, anorexia, and in extreme cases, lameness.
#3: Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Tocopherol functions as an antioxidant in your dog's body. It’s also the least toxic of the fat-soluble vitamins.
Toxicity from excessive consumption of vitamin E is rare, but when it does occur, it can interfere with blood clotting and bone mineralization.
Including healthy amounts of vitamin E in your dog’s diet will help improve your pet's neurological functions and boost their immunity.
The richest natural sources of this vitamin are:
- Vegetable oils
Fun fact: Only plants can synthesize naturally occurring vitamin E. (And while they actually make eight forms of it, only one, α-tocopherol, is useful in the human body!)
#4: Vitamin K (Menadione)
Vitamin K is primarily involved in your dog’s blood clotting and bone development processes. Including vitamin K in your pet's diet will help prevent hemorrhages and reduce clotting times.
Typically, vitamin K deficiency results from an underlying condition that impairs your dog’s ability to absorb the nutrient in the gut.
Note: Vitamin K toxicity from over-supplementation can cause anemia and jaundice in your dog. So be careful not to give too much.
Some of the richest sources of vitamin K include:
- Rapeseed, also known as oilseed
- Fish meal
#5: Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Thiamin (sometimes called thiamine) is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in many enzymatic reactions, including helping break nutrients down so the body can turn them into energy. It also helps support a healthy nervous system.
Thiamin-rich food sources include:
- Whole grains
With adequate amounts of vitamin B readily available in commercial and homemade dog food, it shouldn’t be hard to meet your dog’s requirements.
Ensuring that your pet takes in enough thiamin will help ward off heart and nervous system issues, and defend against a host of other problems — including loss of appetite, muscle weakness, and ataxia (loss of coordination) in cases of severe deficiency.
#6: Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Riboflavin plays a vital role in many of your dog’s systems and functions.
For instance, it helps maintain healthy eyes, weight, heart, and skin. It also promotes healthy neurological function.
Vitamin B2 is relatively safe for your dog, as over-supplementation cases are rare and cause minimal side effects.
#7: Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Niacin plays an important role in helping your dog metabolize nutrients, including sugars, proteins, and fats.
Proper amounts of niacin in your dog's diet will help prevent issues including stunted growth, dementia, diarrhea, dermatitis, soft tissue damage to the oral cavity, and excessive drooling.
Foods rich in niacin include:
- Animal/fish by-products
#8: Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Vitamin B5 plays a critical role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and various other body systems.
Because Vitamin B5 occurs in all living cells, you’ll find it in most foods! The highest concentrations of pantothenic acid occur in:
- Meat (especially beef and organ meats)
- Grains (like buckwheat and wild rice)
Because vitamin B5 is nearly everywhere, deficiency is very rare. However, when it occurs, it can lead to weight loss, a weakened immune system, and heart issues.
On the flip side: in large doses, vitamin B5 can cause gastrointestinal upsets for your dog. So don’t rush to give too much. 😬
#9: Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6 plays a key role in a ton of your pooch’s bodily processes, including amino acid metabolism, the synthesis of neurotransmitters (AKA brain chemicals), hormone regulation, and nervous system function.
Vitamin B6 is found in many food sources. You’ll find the most in meats, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.
What happens when dogs don’t get enough B6? Pyridoxine deficiency causes loss in appetite, leading to anorexia, stunted growth, anemia, convulsions, and kidney issues.
Toxicity is rare, but signs include can ataxia (loss of coordination), weakness, and difficulty standing and walking.
#10: Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
Vitamin B9’s primary functions include the synthesis of mitochondrial proteins, DNA, and red blood cells, plus the metabolism of nucleotides and amino acids. (In English? Vitamin B9 helps your dog’s body create red blood cells and other cells, including DNA, and also helps regulate their energy.)
It’s found in many foods, including green vegetables, liver, and egg yolks. However, this vitamin is unstable and can be easily destroyed by heating, freezing, or storage in water.
B9 deficiency causes loss of appetite, making it hard for your dog to maintain or gain weight. Lack of adequate B9 also negatively impacts immunity functions, and can trigger blood issues like anemia.
#11: Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin or cobalamin)
Vitamin B12 is the most complex of the B vitamins. A water-soluble vitamin (AKA hard to overdose), it plays a key role in different metabolic systems in your dog's body and supports healthy cell function.
Though it’s present in small amounts in plants, organ meat and dairy products are the best sources of B12.
B12 deficiency is not common, but it can cause:
- Stunted growth
- Neurologic issues
Without enough B12 in their diet, your dog may show symptoms like lethargy, lack of appetite, muscle loss, and eventually weight loss and even seizures.
Bonus #12: Choline!
Choline (pronounced KO-leen) is a key nutrient for dogs. Some of this substance is produced naturally by your dog’s liver, but it must be supplemented by their diet. Choline reduces fat absorption in the liver and promotes a healthy brain, well-functioning nervous system, and stable mood.
Although it's technically not considered a vitamin, choline is an essential nutrient that’s similar to B vitamins. It’s a necessary addition to your dog's diet.
The richest sources of choline for your dog include egg yolks, fish, whole grains, and legumes.
Choline deficiency can cause:
- Fatty liver disease or liver damage
- Stunted growth
- Kidney issues
- Increased blood clotting times
Daily Recommended Vitamin Allowances for Your Dog
Now that you know your dog's essential vitamins, how much of each should you aim to include in their diet?
This is a super-important question — because as you now know, some vitamins can be toxic to dogs in excessive amounts.
Here’s a table showing the daily recommended vitamin allowances for your dog.
Handy tip: Measurements are shown below as milligrams (mg) or as micrograms (μg). A milligram equals one thousandth of a gram, while a microgram equals 1 millionth of a gram.
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Note: These daily recommendations are based on an adult dog weighing 33 pounds and consuming 1000 calories a day. Always check with your vet when it comes to choosing dosages for your dog.
Support Your Dog’s Health With the Best Supplements
Vitamins are essential to your dog’s health — and giving them in the right amounts is critical to prevent any toxicity. You want to ensure that your dog gets as much as they need of what they need, when they need it.
If selecting individual supplements and measuring them out sounds like a bit of a tough ask, look for a high-quality dog multivitamin instead. For example: Paramount Pet Health Liquid Vitamins for Dogs, which is one of the best vitamins for dogs to take.
At Paramount, we make pet supplements using only pure, potent, and proven ingredients supported by scientific and veterinary research.
And of course, any pet supplement is only as useful as is is dose-able. So we strive to formulate natural supplements for dogs that they will actually enjoy — and even look forward to taking.
“Paramount Dog Liquid vitamins are a great product with great results. I would highly recommend all their products.” Donald M., United States
“My dog loves the flavor and I’ve seen how much healthier he is since taking this…” D.O., United States
If you’re in the market for a balanced multivitamin supplement to support your furry friend's health, look no further than Paramount Pet Health Liquid Vitamins for Dogs.