Vitamin and Supplement Safety for Dogs and Cats

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Vitamin and Supplement Safety for Dogs and Cats

If you take a daily vitamin or supplement, you might be wondering if your pet needs to take one too. Is it safe to give your pet the same vitamin that you take? Read more about the benefits, safety, and risks of supplements for dogs and cats below.

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Do pets need to take vitamins?

Good, quality nutrition is important for your pet’s health and quality of life. The best resource for identifying your pet’s dietary needs is your veterinarian. Your vet can recommend brands and formulas of food that contain your pet’s basic nutritional needs. Feeding your pet a diet that meets these nutritional requirements typically eliminates the need to add a vitamin or supplement.

Dogs and cats have individual dietary needs depending on age, level of activity, and health status. To meet your dog or cat’s needs for certain minerals, vitamins, essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids, well-balanced diets must be appropriate for your pet’s:

  • Breed
  • Stage of life (puppy/kitten, adolescent, adult, pregnancy, senior)
  • Lifestyle (active, sedentary, indoor/outdoor, working, neutered)

If our pets develop an infection or have unexpected surgery, they need additional nutritional support during recovery. Veterinarians will often recommend vitamins and/or supplements during this recovery period.

Our pets can benefit from adding veterinary recommended vitamins or supplements for many ongoing conditions such as arthritis, thyroid disease, heart disease, kidney disease, behavior issues, and much more. Sometimes these can decrease or eliminate the need for prescription medication. Always talk to your vet before giving your pet any vitamins or supplements or decreasing/stopping their medication.

Are vitamins and supplements safe for pets?

While prescription medications and over-the-counter (OTC) medications are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most vitamins and supplements are not. Before giving your pet any vitamins or supplements, contact a licensed vet.

Giving your pet a human vitamin or supplement can lead to an upset stomach, unwanted side effects, and adverse reactions with current medications your pet may be taking. We often think that because vitamins and supplements are OTC, they are also harmless. Some, however, can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney problems, and more severe illness requiring veterinary care. While dogs and cats are part of our family, they aren’t small versions of humans. Some vitamins and supplements really can make them sick or even be fatal. It’s important to always talk to your vet before giving your pet any vitamins or supplements.

Common Human Vitamins and Supplements That are Toxic to Pets

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D3 and its synthetic analogs: cholecalciferol, ergocalciferol, calcitriol,
  • 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol, calcipotriene, calcipotriol, tacalcitol
  • Human bodybuilding supplements
  • 5-HTP
  • Gummy flavored/sugar-free vitamins/supplements containing xylitol
  • Ephedra (also known as Ma Huang in Chinese Medicine)
  • Caffeine (often found in supplements)
  • Iron
  • Alpha-lipoic acid

There are many more vitamins/supplements that can be potentially toxic to pets than those listed above. If your pet has eaten any OTC human or pet vitamins/supplements, contact the Pet Poison Helpline or call your veterinarian.

Read more:

Melatonin Safety and Uses in Pets

Joint Supplements for Pets

Fish Oil Supplements for Dogs

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding pet supplements and vitamins or another condition?

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Published: 12/3/2020
Last updated: 11/29/2021
Dr. Denise Michanowicz, Veterinarian

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