Can Dogs Take Human Vitamin Supplements?

You're probably familiar with the multivitamins doctors recommend you take every day (or should take every day)? You may have thought about skipping the hassle of having to research and purchase specialized pet supplements by sliding one of your supplements to your furry best friend sometimes. While this may seem like a huge time saver and comes from good intentions, it might not be the best idea for your pet's health. This article discusses whether or not you should give your pup human vitamin supplements and how some vitamin supplements meant for human consumption can hurt your dog. 

Related: Calcium for Dogs

Human Vitamins Are Not Dog Vitamins

Human vitamins are not designed for dogs, and you shouldn't give them to your dog unless your veterinarian has okayed a specific duration and quantity of supplementation. Commercial dog foods are supposed to contain all of the essential daily requirements (although frequently commercial dog foods can fall short), which is why most dog vitamins only have about 20% of the daily requirement to avoid overdosing your pooch. Human vitamins are formulated to provide 100 percent of the daily requirement. If your dog is eating regular dog food and taking a human vitamin, it will be taking in more than the daily recommended values of supplements and vitamins. Prenatal vitamins are particularly toxic for your dog due to the high levels of iron in prenatal vitamins, which may create iron toxicity- a dangerous condition for your dog. Some signs of iron toxicity to watch out for in your dog include:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Shock 

Some other potentially toxic vitamins are vitamins B and D, which can produce iron toxicity symptoms. The most common cause of vitamin toxicity is accidental ingestion. Still, prolonged over-supplementing is just as harmful to the unknowing pet owner and is unfortunately often overlooked by pet owners when consulting with their veterinarian regarding reasons for their pet's sickness. It's essential to store your human vitamins properly in your home since many human vitamins are gummy and chewy and smell good so a pet may be attracted to the bottle. As more and more vitamins and supplements are sold in a form that resembles candy, there's a greater chance that pets will be more attracted to their fun shape and texture. Always put away your vitamins in a place your pets can't reach and make sure to pick up any pills or gummies that fall on the floor. 

Related: How To Help Your Dog Gain Weight

Be Aware Of Toxicities

When selecting vitamin supplements for your dog, always talk to your vet first and only give your dog the supplements your vet approves. Only use the vitamins for a specific amount of time and for targeted reasons to avoid overdosing and causing further health issues. There are an array of problems with giving dogs human vitamin supplements. One of the biggest problems is vitamin D. Dogs need vitamin D or D3, cholecalciferol since they can't make their own in their skin like humans can. There isn't much research on vitamin D supplements for dogs, but we do know that not getting enough vitamin D is bad for your dog, and too much of it is even worse. 

Although dogs do need to ingest some vitamin D, too much vitamin D is extremely toxic for dogs. The majority of human multivitamins hold too much vitamin D for your dog. Currently, veterinarians recommend 500IU per kilo of food. The smallest amount of vitamin D in a multivitamin available on the market for humans is 400IU, and only in a select few children's vitamins. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning that it accumulates in the body, and an overdose is not easy to treat or readily excreted. Moreover, how much vitamin D a dog needs depends on its sex, age, activity level, and breed. For example, sick dogs in the arctic will require more vitamin D than a pug whose main activity is sunning himself. 

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You May Not Need To Supplement

Suppose you're already feeding your dog quality dog food. In that case, the dog is probably getting enough vitamin D. If you make your dog's food yourself, then the dog may not be getting enough vitamin D and may require supplementation. If you're making homemade food for your dog, they may also be deficient in the amino acid taurine. The biggest reason to supplement your dog's diet is if you don't buy good quality commercially prepared food. 

Of course, if you're preparing your dog's food on your own, then vitamin D isn't the only thing you need to worry about. It's essential to account for the ratio of calcium to phosphorus and a wide range of other vitamins and minerals which may not be in the correct proportions in your dog's diet. While you look for a better one with a licensed vet, a good temporary solution is a child's multivitamin with vitamin D not exceeding 400IU. If you're going to make homemade dog food, you will need to purchase a precise laboratory-grade scale to measure supplements. This kind of scale easily costs more than $200 and measuring and adding vitamins one by one is difficult to fill out the dog's nutritional requirements. You won't be able to buy all of the individual vitamins if you look for ones only marketed toward dogs, and it may be cheaper to buy the human versions in some cases. This is only the case for individual vitamins and minerals like magnesium, iron, vitamin E, etc., not for multivitamins. 

Dogs can process some human vitamin supplements, but others can be hazardous due to the dosing and physiological differences between humans and dogs. You need to consult with your veterinarian before giving your pet any new vitamin supplement. If your dog is healthy and eating nutritionally balanced dog food that meets AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards, you may not need to supplement. It's crucial to be aware of toxicities in the case of excess supplementation. If you feed your dog a home-prepared diet, you should work closely with your vet or a veterinary nutritionist to make sure they get all the right nutrients. 

Related: Dog Losing Weight But Eating

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