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Are there Benefits Of Vitamin C For Dogs?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Humans need vitamin C in their diet to stay healthy and survive. In early times, sailors who didn’t have access to fresh foods for extended periods often dealt with “scurvy,” an unpleasant condition resulting in bleeding gums, loose teeth, an overall weakened state, and sometimes death. Not until the late eighteenth century was this problem remedied. The first European to visit the Hawaiian Islands, Captain James Cook, taught the British Admiralty how to prevent scurvy with fresh fruit or lime juice to the sailors’ daily rum rations (which is how they earned the enduring nickname “Limeys”).

Related: The Best Sources Of Calcium For Your Dogs

Ascorbic acid was isolated and identified as the nutrient that prevented scurvy in the early 1900s. Scientists discovered that humans are among the few animals that cannot make vitamin C on their own and have to get it from an outside source like vegetables, fresh fruits, or vitamin C supplements regularly to avoid illness. Unlike humans, dogs can generate vitamin C on their own, and due to this fact, veterinarian nutritionists have long deemed it unnecessary to supplement vitamin C in a dog’s diet. Up until a couple of years ago, very few dog food makers added vitamin C to their products- or if they do, it was for the vitamin’s preservative nature and not for the nutrition

Vitamin C Helps Dogs That Are Sick And Stressed

While vitamin C supplementation may not be necessary when dealing with healthy, happy animals, recent studies report that if dogs are sick or stressed, their bodies’ output of vitamin C can be depleted rapidly. A 1942 study connected skin diseases in dogs with low levels of vitamin C. Other studies report that dogs with fevers and dogs who exercise to their limits, such as sled dogs after a hard race, or hunting dogs during hunting season, tend to have low blood levels of vitamin C. 

The most significant cause of vitamin C depletion in dogs is stress, both physical and emotional. Physical stress can be due to many reasons, such as lactation, gestation, growth, hard work (dogs used for tracking, herding, hunting, etc.), injuries, vaccinations, ear cropping, or illness. Emotional stress can be due to weaning, relocation, or demanding training. The correlation between stress and vitamin C levels in a dog is so consistent that researchers can measure a dog’s stress level through the degree of vitamin C depletion in the dog’s blood. On the other hand, many studies show that dogs (and humans) who supplement with vitamin C are more resistant to disease and can recover from injuries or illness better. 

Related: How To Help Your Dog Gain Weight

Vitamin C And Dogs

Author and expert Wendell O. Belfield, DVM, talks about how he first experimented with (and appreciated) the positive benefits of vitamin C in his veterinary practice. After a particularly heartbreaking episode, he started researching viral diseases, where he failed to save the life of a family dog with distemper. While studying, he stumbled across an article profiling a doctor who used high doses of vitamin C to successfully treat viral diseases like hepatitis and polio in the 1940s. Belfield started to think about doing the same thing to fight canine viral infections. In 1965, a client came to Belfield with a dog also suffering from distemper. Belfield injected the dog with vitamin C, and it was a success- recovering from a disease previously considered fatal. Belfield started to experiment with vitamin C treatments for many dogs’ conditions and believes that vitamin C can be a great boon to dogs. 

french bulldog lifting weights

Antioxidants and Bioflavonoids

Vitamin C works as an antioxidant in the body. Oxidation refers to the chemical reaction of oxygen mixing with another substance, and oxidation in animals is a natural process that generates the energy and heats your body needs to keep running. However, too much or too little oxygen in the system results in toxic by-products known as free radicals, damaging cell structure, and impair immunity. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and protects the cells from being destroyed or altered by oxidation, and helps return oxidized vitamin E to its original state. 

Several kinds of vitamin C also have bioflavonoids, naturally-occurring plant pigments that the body uses to make other nutrients. Supplementing your dog’s diet with the occasional bites of carrot or apple, or giving them some extra fresh fruit they enjoy, can help enhance their bioflavonoid intake.

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Giving Your Dog Vitamin C

Holistic veterinarians routinely prescribe vitamin C for a wide variety of illnesses, such as kennel cough, cancer, and other respiratory infections, bacterial infections, and abscesses. Vitamin C plays a crucial role in collagen production, making it especially good at slowing the degenerative joint disease, hip dysplasia, and spinal disorders. Vitamin C is also a preventative and immune booster. Some vets recommend giving the vitamin to dogs both before and after vaccination and to pregnant and lactating dogs or have been exposed to contagious diseases. 

Vitamin C Dosage

The average dog typically produces around 18 milligrams of vitamin C per pound of body weight every day. This means that for a dog without any clinically significant symptoms but is going through a lot of stress, supplementing with about that much C every day is a conservative maintenance dosage. Veterinarians suggest splitting the total daily dosage into multiple feedings during the day to optimize absorption. Many holistic veterinarians recommend maintenance doses that are three to four times that amount, but too much vitamin C, especially if given in a single dose, will result in diarrhea. When administering the maximum amount of C for a therapeutic dose, you should raise the dose in 100-500 milligram-per-day increments until the dog develops diarrhea, then lower to the previous day’s amount. This is known as “bowel tolerance.”

Different dogs have different tolerances to vitamin C supplements, and their tolerance may also vary with environmental conditions. For example, a dog experiencing a lot of stress may tolerate 4,000 milligrams without diarrhea but get diarrhea whenever the stress goes away. Another factor to consider is the kind of illness you are treating them for. Always check with your veterinarian to determine the proper dosage and supplementation procedures for your dog. 

Related: 6 Causes Of Sudden Weight Loss in Dogs, and How to Maintain a Healthy Weight

happy dog on beach

Rogue Pet Science offers pet products that are all-natural and sustainably produced. When you choose Origins Canine 5-in-1, your dog won’t need an additional fish oil supplement because it’s made out of wild fish protein and wild complete fish oil packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Order premium pet products from Rogue Pet Science for your furry friends!

Looking for premium pet products? Order from Rogue Pet Science today!

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