Do I Have To Eat My Vegetables? Vitamins In Dog Nutrition

The good news for Fido is that not all vitamins he needs come just from vegetables. The bad news is that some, along with other goodies, do. (Though nowadays they usually come as supplements. But that's a whole other story.)

There is more to food than a full stomach.

Nature had it all running quite smoothly. But since we took control of our dogs' nutrition it is now up to us to understand these things if we want to do it right.

Long before vitamins were identified there was evidence that certain foods are important to maintaining health.

Even though he wasn't the first scientist to isolate them, the formulation of the concept of vitamins is attributed to Polish biochemist Casimir Funk. He named these micronutrients vital (from the Latin vita for life) amines.

So what makes vitamins so important?

Vitamins do not serve as building blocks of tissues and they don't provide energy and yet they are vital to your dog's health. So what do they do?

Each vitamin plays a unique and irreplaceable role in the dog's body.

Some of them have a function similar to hormones and regulate metabolism or tissue growth. For example, vitamin D helps regulate the balance of calcium and phosphorus in the body.

Some vitamins, such as vitamin E, function as antioxidants.

B vitamins are necessary for fat and protein metabolism, production of red blood cells and a healthy nervous system and more.

Each vitamin is unique but they are generally classified as either water-soluble or fat-soluble.

Fat-soluble vitamins need fat to be absorbed and can be stored in fat tissues. Water-soluble vitamins get absorbed through the intestines from which they enter the bloodstream. Any excess is excreted in urine.

The way vitamins are absorbed is tailored to fit their respective functions.

The important consideration is the relative risk of deficiency or toxicity.

Because fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the dog's body the risk of deficiency is relatively low, while the risk of toxicity is relatively high.  For a dog to develop a deficiency in a fat-soluble vitamin, he would have to eat a diet with low levels of that vitamin for a relatively long period of time.

With water-soluble vitamins, it's the other way around. Deficiency is much more likely and the appropriate amount should be provided regularly.  Toxicities can develop, but a dog would need to receive very large amounts of the vitamin to overwhelm his body’s ability to excrete it in the urine.

Water-soluble vitamins are also more likely to be lost during cooking process.

Three fat-soluble and eight water-soluble vitamins are essential for dogs.

An essential vitamin is one that cannot be manufactured by the body from other nutrients. It must be consumed in the diet.

Fat-soluble vitamins essential for dogs are vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E.

Water-soluble vitamins essential for dogs are Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pyridoxine (B6), Pantothenic acid (B5), Folic acid (B9), Vitamin B12 and Choline.

What about vitamin C? 

Vitamin C is not an essential nutrient for dogs, although it is for humans. Unlike us, a dog's liver can make vitamin C from glucose. There is an argument as to whether or not supplementing vitamin C could be beneficial for your dog. I think individual consideration is important.

Vitamins K and biotin are also not essential for dogs. These are manufactured by bacteria in the dog's intestines.

Bottom line about vitamins in your dog's nutrition?

Too much or too little can be equally harmful. Know what you're doing.

If you are feeding a high quality, nutritionally balanced food and your dog is a good eater, vitamin supplements are likely not necessary and in fact, could do some harm. If, however, you are feeding a home-cooked diet or your dog is a very picky eater, vitamin supplementation is a good idea.

Related articles:
Feeding Your Dog: Commercial or Home-cooked?
Dog Nutrition And Proteins: The Building Blocks of Life
Dog Nutrition and Carbohydrates: The Essential Non-Essentials 
I Want Some Bacon! Fat In Dog Nutrition
Nothing Fishy About Omega-3 Fatty Acids


  1. Hi Y'all,
    My Human Momma is a big fan of your blog.
    Stop by next week...we'll be experimenting with a "change" in my blog...not sure what yet, but hopefully to make it easier for the readers.
    Nothin' radical!
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  2. Yes Jasmine, you must eat your veggies :P Jersey gets Honest Kitchen Preference veggie mix in her food and she is very healthy. She also gets baby carrots and apples as snacks sometimes. The fiber content is good and they are sweet and crunchy, which Jersey likes.

  3. BOL Well, aren't you a buzz-kill BOL I used to get Urban Wolf, but it also has things I cannot have. I wish I could have Honest Kitchen, but also has ingredients I cannot have. So mom cooks for me. She puts some veggies but it's ok because there is plenty of meat too.

    I admit some vegetables are fun. Green tripe and horse poop! BOL

  4. Great information, Jana! I particularly appreciated the explanation of water-soluable and fat-soluable vitamins. Too many added fat soluable vitamins have led to recent pet food recalls. There are lots of places to get vitamins but Nature's Logic thinks the best place is from whole food ingredients, instead of chemically-synthesized added nutrients.

  5. Dear Barbara. I completely agree with you.


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