Exceptional Canine: Active Dog
Do Dogs Need Vitamin Supplements?
By the Editors of Exceptional Canine for Exceptional Canine
People are crazy about vitamins. Open up medicine cabinets around the world, and no matter the culture, you’ll often find an entire alphabet soup of products designed to round out our diets. So do dogs need vitamins as well?
You might think what is good for us will work for our dogs. But quality dog food is carefully balanced to fulfill all of your dog’s nutritional needs. Scientists have proven that additives often interfere with the balanced nutrition in dog food. In fact, they can stop the absorption of some important nutrients, leaving your dog with an upset stomach or even skeletal problems.
“As we all know from studying our own health, it’s not just the amount of vitamins that we take that matter; it’s the quality of the nutrients and the proper balance of vitamins and minerals that make the difference,” explains Dr. Katy Nelson, an emergency veterinarian in Alexandria, Va. “When a food has been deemed balanced, then that means that vitamins and supplements are already added to the food. Giving additional vitamins can greatly throw off the proper ratio.”
The Thinking Behind Vitamin Supplements
We humans take vitamins because our modern-day meals often don’t include all we need to stay healthy. We also eat a variety of foods instead of a single item. We’re therefore sometimes tempted to add a dollop of yogurt to a bowl of dog food because we think it will make for a shiny coat. Or we ladle on a bit of gravy to increase palatability or add variety.
Nelson cautions that you’ll be doing your dog a disservice if you supplement his meal with human foods. “People food and other things purported to give shiny coats often contain large amounts of fat and possibly sodium and other unhealthy ingredients,” she says. “Highly fatty foods not only can cause weight gain, but they can also lead to health problems as simple as vomiting and diarrhea, all the way to severe issues like pancreatitis.”
Don’t worry about variety, says Nelson. Simply feed your dog what is healthiest for him. “Dogs are scavengers,” she explains. “Their taste buds are not necessarily sophisticated. Think about it: If your dog will eat rotten meat from the trash, the nuggets out of the litter box, and chase it all down with a little muddy water from a puddle, do you really think their palates are all that discerning?”
Good Minerals Gone Bad
Certain foods given to dogs in excess can produce adverse results. For example, meat contains 20 to 40 times more phosphorus than calcium, but your dog’s body needs a specific ratio of phosphorus and calcium to keep him healthy. Therefore, your dog’s system will attempt to right that ratio by stealing calcium from his bones.
Dogs, like the rest of us, need a balanced diet to thrive. Lucky for you, you don’t need to do anything more than open your pooch’s bag of food and pour. If you want to play chef, cook for your mother-in-law. She’ll probably appreciate it more than your pup.