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Nutrition Nuggets
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Do Dogs Need Daily Multivitamin Supplements?

September 30, 2011 / (9) comments

Did you take a multivitamin or other nutritional supplement this morning? According to a 2009 Nielsen study, about half of us probably did. In the survey, 56 percent of U.S. consumers said they take vitamins or supplements, with 44 percent saying they take them daily.


I don’t have any statistics regarding the use of vitamin and mineral supplement in dogs, but I suspect it is pretty high based on the number of products that are available. But just because a product is readily available and widely used doesn’t necessarily mean that you should give it to your dog.



Like most things in life, vitamins and minerals are not wholly bad or wholly good. There are some instances when dogs should receive supplements. Here are a few:


  • Your dog has been diagnosed with a vitamin/mineral deficiency or a disease that responds to supplementation (e.g., zinc-responsive dermatosis or vitamin E supplementation for osteoarthritis). In most of these cases, you should be giving your dog specific vitamins and minerals, not a "multivitamin."
  • Your dog eats a home-prepared diet. To be nutritionally complete, you need to add a vitamin and mineral supplement to home-cooked foods. These recipes are best prepared under the advisement of a veterinary nutritionist.
  • Your dog is eating very little or will only eat a poor-quality diet. Whether this is because your dog is ill or just extremely finicky, a multivitamin can help ward off deficiencies in these situations. However, this is really a poor substitute for a better diet.


If your dog is eating a well-balanced and nutritionally complete dog food that is made from high-quality ingredients, a vitamin and mineral supplement is not necessary and could in fact do more harm than good. Why? Because reputable pet food manufacturers go to great lengths to make sure that your dog’s meals contain the right proportions of vitamins and minerals, and adding more can throw this delicate balance completely out of whack.


If you give your dog too much of a water soluble vitamin (e.g., vitamin C), he will just eliminate the excess in his urine. The biggest downside here is wasted money — "really expensive pee," is how I heard one nutritionist describe it.


But other situations aren’t so benign. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are not so easily eliminated from the body and can build up to toxic levels. Oftentimes, an excess of a fat soluble vitamin is just as detrimental to a dog’s health as a deficiency. Furthermore, high levels of one mineral in the diet often interfere with the uptake of another. This is the case for phosphorus and calcium, copper and iron, phosphorus and sodium, zinc and magnesium, and more.


So, if your dog is healthy and eats well — a high-quality, commercially prepared food — you should not give him a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. The information on the petMD Nutrition Center is a good way to see whether your dog’s food makes the grade.


Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: fantazista / via Shutterstock

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Comments  9

Leave Comment
  • Great Advice
    09/30/2011 07:26am

    That's great advice, not just for dogs, but for humans and kitties as well.

    Great post. Thank you.

  • Not anymore!
    10/03/2011 02:59pm

    I used to give my dogs a multivitamin until we went to a new vet. My dogs eat raw in the morning and kibble in the evening. In addition they get lots of fruits and veggies. The vet said that giving them a multivitamin on this diet was unnecessary and might actually do more harm than good.

    My one dog that is on a 100% raw diet and has always had health issues does get a multivitamin and some other supplements as recommended by the vet and my old man with a bad back and hips get supplements as recommended by the vet.

    Everybody is doing much better now that I followed the new vet's advice!

  • Great Dane Nutrition
    10/04/2011 10:31am

    Would a great dane puppy approximately 10 weeks old need any type of supplements and what would be the best nutrition for her? Puppy or adult food? 24% protein or more/less? What about Fat?

  • 10/04/2011 10:02pm

    A balanced large breed puppy food (with no additional multivitamin/mineral supplements) would be best for your Dane puppy.

  • 10/05/2011 02:01am

    i assume the same logic applies to kitties...

  • Winter vitamins for pets?
    10/20/2011 02:58pm

    I tend to believe that whatever I am doing to keep the human members of my family healthy, I should also do for my pets. My dogs eat good dog food, but during the times of the year when I ramp up the vitamins for myself and my kids (such as right now as winter approaches), I also do this for my dogs. They need the added protection too!

    Are there certain times of the year you find it more useful to supplement? Are there good supplements for certain seasons?

    Pet Supplements

  • 10/20/2011 04:25pm

    I haven't seen any studies that look into the seasonal use of vitamins in pets. Most canine infectious diseases are not as seasonal in nature as human colds, flus, etc., but it would certainly be interesting research. I have recommended the seasonal use of essential fatty acids for dogs that suffer from allergies to pollen and the like.

  • 10/20/2011 05:14pm

    Thanks Dr. Coates! I appreciate your response.

  • My views
    12/23/2014 02:09am

    Yes, Healthy dogs shouldn't need extra supplementation. But, I have my one dog with arthritis and joint problem, so I use a some drops of salmon oil supplement and it has helped my dog with his overall skin and most importantly it has dramatically eased his stiffness and arthritis problem




Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

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