Vitamins are necessary for a pet's overall health, and most of them cannot be synthesized within an animal's body. They help many major body processes by breaking down nutrients and help to maintain an animal's skin and healthy hair coat. Unless a dietary vitamin deficiency is noted by a professional veterinarian, most cats or dogs can live well on a good-quality pet food diet without extra supplementation.
A Healthy Diet
Cats and dogs require different vitamins and minerals as a part of their daily nutrition, and only very small amounts of vitamins keep cats and dogs feeling their best. Most animals consuming a well-balanced commercial food have no need for extra supplements, according to the ASPCA. Animals that are fed home-cooked food will require some supplements, as will pets that consume a poor-quality pet food or have difficulty eating. Vitamins are not a substitute for a good quality pet diet and pet food companies strive to balance the right proportions of essential vitamins and minerals.
When to Give a Supplement
Some pets may require supplements due to their age or condition. Pets in their golden years have difficulty absorbing vitamins from their food and may suffer from joint pain or hip dysplasia. For these pets, the veterinarian may recommend a glucosamine supplement. Older pets may also benefit from omega-3 supplements which can heal inflammation. Antioxidant vitamins A, E and C may help to slow certain aging processes. According to the Drs. Foster and Smith website, pets that are sick or recovering from an illness should receive a supplement, as their appetites may be diminished. As always, seeking the advice of a veterinary professional is the best practice when considering a supplement for a pet.
When dog owners are searching for a high-quality supplement to bolster their best friend's diet, they should consider brands containing at least eight essential vitamins including A, B-complex, D and E, according to Drs. Foster and Smith. The vitamins and minerals should be derived from natural sources. Because cats are carnivores, many feline supplements contain the vitamins that can be found in meat sources, such as niacin, riboflavin and taurine. Cat lovers may opt for a liquid form of vitamins for fuss-free administration.
Over-consumption of vitamin supplements can cause serious health problems in both cats and dogs. Clinical signs of vitamin toxicity depend on the vitamin, the amount ingested and the length of time the ingestion occurs. Water-soluble vitamins such as biotin and B12 can be excreted through the urine, but the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K can build up in the liver. Symptoms of vitamin toxicity, called hypovitaminosis, include weight loss, refusal to eat, sensitivity to light, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal bloating, according to Dr. Bari Spellman for the website Pet Place. If a veterinary professional diagnoses a dog or cat with vitamin toxicity, concerned pet owners should stop supplementing the pet's diet immediately. The cat or dog may require intravenous fluids or electrolyte therapy, or the veterinarian may induce vomiting. If the pet's kidneys are failing or his blood calcium level is high, specific therapy may be recommended.