Dogs synthesize their Vitamin C through the trace minerals they obtain from food. They are among the animals that can naturally produce this vitamin with the help of their kidneys or liver. This is the reason why most dog foods and canine treats are not required to be fortified with Vitamin C.
If that is the case, then why is there such a thing as “canine Vitamin C deficiency?” How to figure out if your own dog is having ascorbic acid depletion? And if your pet can’t produce enough vitamin C, does it mean that you have to give him supplements for him to reap its full benefits? Learn more about it in this post.
What You Need to Know About Vitamin C and Dogs
The use of Vitamin C for canines was not a common practice until Dr. Wendell Belfield, DVM, did something in 1965 that started orthomolecular medicine in the veterinary practice. Orthomolecular medicine refers to the concept of maintaining human health with the help of nutritional supplementation.
He injected 2,000 milligrams of sodium ascorbate to a dog suffering from the distemper virus. All of his subjects, including the weeks-old puppies, fully recovered. Dr. Belfield saved the lives of many dogs because of Vitamin C.
On average, a healthy dog can produce roughly 18 milligrams of Vitamin C for every pound of weight per day. Your pet does not need the extra nutrient unless it was recommended by a veterinarian. Dogs that require the supplement are usually those who suffer from certain conditions that affect the natural creation of Vitamin C in their liver.
Your pet’s environment can also affect the production of nutrients in his body. Both physical and emotional stress can interfere with the creation of Vitamin C. If your pet is now more prone to diseases and is taking a long time to heal, it’s possible that he can’t produce enough ascorbic acid.
A dog with skin problems, for instance, can have low levels of ascorbic acid in the blood. A 2013 study from the Shere-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu revealed that dogs with dermatophytosis had low levels of the nutrient in their bodies. The same is true for canines with fever or those who exercised more than they were allowed to.
Pregnant and nursing dogs also need more ascorbic acid that’s why vets usually recommend a Vitamin C supplement for them. If you have a puppy, your vet may also prescribe the supplement to help in your pet’s bone growth. The recommended ascorbic acid dosage for small dogs is only 250 milligrams per day.
Senior dogs can also gain from the added supplement because old age can affect their capability of producing ascorbic acid on their own. A senior dog can be given around 500 to 1,000 milligrams of ascorbic acid per day. For medium-sized and large dogs, it’s safe to administer 500 milligrams and 750 milligrams of Vitamin C a day, respectively.
Dogs with degenerative myelopathy may need more ascorbic acid than what they can produce. This spinal cord disease causes the dog’s rear legs to weaken. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can prevent the development of the condition.
Ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin meaning that it is excreted in the kidneys. The excess nutrients go to the urine. You can’t overdose a dog with ascorbic acid, but it’s still important to know that the overuse of this supplement over a long period can cause kidney problems.
What Are The Benefits of Vitamin C to Dogs?
- It can boost your pet’s immunity. Ascorbic acid can enhance the activities of white blood cells, which can help improve the pet’s immune system. With the nutrient’s ability to protect the body from immune system deficiencies, there is no doubt why it is called the “immunity vitamin.”
- It is a powerful antioxidant. It works hand in hand with other antioxidants, such as Vitamin E to stop the free radicals from causing more damage to the cells. Both vitamins are needed by the body to manage the oxidative levels.
- It can strengthen their bones. Aside from stimulating the bone-building cells, it also works with Vitamin D to increase the density of the bones. This vitamin is not just important for bone formation. It is also being used for bone healing.
- It can help dogs with hip dysplasia feel much better. Studies suggest that canines taking Vitamin C supplements during their treatment for hip dysplasia have shown improvements. This vitamin can reduce inflammation as it prevents free radicals from damaging the cells and tissues.
- It can prevent bladder stones. Vitamin C can produce more acidic urine. This, in turn, prevents the formation of phosphate stones. Canine bladder stones often occur in breeds such as dachshund and beagles, although all dogs can suffer from them when there is a complication in their infected bladder. This condition can be life-threatening for them if left untreated.
- It can be used as a natural remedy for tick and spider bites. Crush the ascorbic acid tablet and put it straight into your pet’s mouth. You can include a natural Vitamin C powder in your pet’s food or dissolve it in fluids.
What Are the Natural Sources of Vitamin C for Canines?
Foods rich in Vitamin C are best eaten raw. Due to the water-soluble nature of the nutrient, heat can easily destroy it and cause it to degrade when cooked. Certain veggies, though, should at least be steamed for a few minutes to make them easier to digest. Most of us rely on citrus for our Vitamin C needs. But because citrus fruits are not suitable for doggies due to their aromatic oils and psoralen compounds, you have to look into other options. Here are the best and safest sources of natural Vitamin C for our pets:
- Bell peppers – give your pet one to two slices of sweet peppers once in a while. He will appreciate them because of their sweet flavor. Go for the red ones as they are the sweetest and they also have more antioxidants than the other colors of bell peppers.
- Apple – a cup of sliced apples provides around 5 milligrams of Vitamin C. Make sure to peel and core the fruit before offering it to Fido. Apple is versatile so it can be used in a variety of recipes. Make applesauce from fresh apples and offer it as a treat.
- Blackberries – Half a cup of blackberries provide around 15 milligrams of Vitamin C. You can give a few pieces of these berries or incorporate them into doggie treats. You can also use other safe berries for fogs, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
- Broccoli – you may offer a few stalks of this vegetable every now and then. Like other crucifers, broccoli is not easily digestible when raw so it’s best to serve it cooked. A stalk already has as much as 134.7 milligrams of Vitamin C.
- Cabbage – you can chop the cooked cabbage and put it on top of your pet’s meal. Cabbage is nutrient-dense and can also help with digestion. A medium leaf has around 8.4 milligrams of Vitamin C.
- Spinach – if your pet is into leafy greens, you can add some spinach in his usual diet. This vegetable is rich in Vitamin C, as it provides around 28 milligrams per serving. Limit the portion and make sure to cook it without any salt or seasonings.
- Sweet potato – a serving of cooked potato has as much as 35 milligrams of Vitamin C. You can use it for a number of doggie treats. Mash it or make a chewy sweet potato treat. You can also use it for making dog biscuits.
- Honeydew – half a cup of diced honeydew melon provides around 16 milligrams of Vitamin C. Chop it in small, bite-sized pieces when serving to your pet. You can also incorporate it into frozen dog treats.
The Bottom Line
A healthy dog can produce its own Vitamin C. However, there are external factors that hinder its production. Your vet will eventually prescribe it in the form of a supplement. You can also add Vitamin C-rich foods to his diet. Just make sure to give the vitamin in reasonable amounts, because too much ascorbic acid can cause gastrointestinal upsets in dogs. Due to its laxative property, excessive consumption of it can also cause diarrhea and flatulence.
While Vitamin C is relatively safe for canines, it is only recommended for therapeutic use. It should not be administered on a regular basis. Otherwise, it could totally cease your pet’s ability to produce its own ascorbic acid. If your pet is currently injured or sick, better seek your vet’s consent before putting the dog on a Vitamin C supplement.