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by Amber Drake

The scientific benefits of vitamin C for dogs

The scientific benefits of vitamin C for dogs

Dogs, unlike humans, are not reliant on vitamin C from their meals. Instead, when given the raw components, our furry companions have a metabolism that produces vitamin C on their own. This means that dogs do not get human deficiency disorders like scurvy. It's also why, in most cases, pet food manufacturers don't add vitamin C to their formulas. 

Although your pup can produce vitamin C on their own, holistic veterinarians frequently advise pet parents to add vitamin C to their dog's diet. How can supplementing a nutrient that a dog's body produces on its own benefit your best friend? Let's look at the benefits, drawbacks, and potential hazards of utilizing a vitamin C supplement for dogs.

How vitamin C affects dogs

Vitamin C helps boost the dog immune system by increasing the function and activity of white blood cells in your dog's body. It also raises interferon (the body's natural antiviral and anticancer compound) and antibody levels in the blood (proteins that bind to and destroy bacteria, viruses, and toxins).

Antioxidants and bioflavonoids

Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant in your dog's (and your own) body. Oxidation is the chemical reaction of oxygen mixing with another substance, and oxidation of food by a mammal is a natural process that provides the body with both heat and energy. However, too much or too little oxygen in the body can produce hazardous byproducts known as free radicals, which can harm cell structure, decrease immunity, and change DNA coding resulting in higher risk of disease.

Bioflavonoids are naturally occurring plant pigments that the body can employ to generate other nutrients. Many varieties of vitamin C are supplied with bioflavonoids. The bioflavonoid beta-carotene, for example, is used by the body to make vitamin A. Bioflavonoids included in vitamin C products include hesperidin, rutin, acerola, rose hips, citrus bioflavonoids, and bioflavonoid complex.

Adding grated carrots or apples to your dog's feed on a regular basis, or any other fresh fruit he enjoys, is a terrific way to boost his bioflavonoid consumption. 

When do dogs need vitamin C?

Almost any event that puts the body under stress is a good reason to take a supplement. Even a healthy dog can benefit from a vitamin C boost before a vaccination appointment, for example.

Other scenarios that fall under the same veil include: 

  • Arthritis or other degenerative conditions. 
  • Vitamin C production is slowed by the aging process. 
  • When your dog is sick, such as with skin allergies, an infection, or organ failure.
  • Being in a stressful or demanding physiological state, such as when pregnant, feeding puppies, or working as a working dog. 
  • When your dog has been injured or has been exposed to a contagious disease.

Stressed dogs need more vitamin C

The most common cause of vitamin C deficiency in dogs is stress. Physical stress can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including pregnancy, breastfeeding, growth, hard work (herding, hunting, tracking, etc.), vaccines, injuries, tail-docking or ear cropping, or disease. This reserve can also be depleted by emotional stress, such as that produced by relocation, weaning, or rigorous training. 

If your dog is stressed, either physically or emotionally, their vitamin C stores can quickly deplete, necessitating supplementation.

Balance the dosage when it comes to vitamin C and dogs 

Vitamin C isn't all created equal. Some supplements are poorly absorbed from the intestines, so choose carefully. Consult your veterinarian for more information on the vitamin and how to utilize it effectively in your dog's case. Vitamin C is sometimes referred to as 'ascorbic acid.' However, the body has a hard time utilizing this form to its full potential. 'Sodium ascorbate' is the easiest to digest and lasts the longest in the body. You should look for sodium ascorbate that is labeled as 'USP Pure.' 

The USP stands for United States Pharmacopoeia, and it is a quality assurance system. When deciding how much to administer, keep in mind that large doses can result in diarrhea. If your dog experiences this, take a break from the supplement for a day or two, then resume at a lower dose. Although dosages vary, the following is usually considered to be suitable for normal dogs:

  • 125 - 500 mg per dog each day, divided into two doses for small dogs
  • 250 - 1,500 mg per dog each day, divided into two doses, for a medium dog
  • 500 - 1,500 mg per dog each day, divided into two doses for large dogs

  • Vitamin C in high doses may cause your dog's urine to become more acidic than normal. Some dogs may get calcium oxalate bladder stones as a result of this. This potentially dangerous consequence could result in bloody urine or a urinary blockage that necessitates immediate surgery to clear. If your dog has a history of bladder stones, you should see your veterinarian before beginning a vitamin C supplement. 

    What form of vitamin C is good for dogs?

    What choices do you have if you have a dog who would benefit from vitamin C supplementation? As noted above, ascorbic acid, the only naturally occurring form of vitamin C, is used in many vitamin C supplements but may not be the best option. 

    Unfortunately, ascorbic acid has the lowest absorption rate of all the vitamin C supplements on the market. Fortunately, dogs can easily absorb the salt forms of vitamin C, known as ascorbates.

    The sodium ascorbate type of vitamin C looks to be the ideal choice for dogs in terms of cost, bioavailability, and effectiveness. Before you go out and buy a vitamin C supplement, it's crucial to understand the distinctions between the different types.

    1) Ascorbic acid

    This is the type of vitamin C that is found in nature. This is the most common form of vitamin C in human vitamin C pills (pH 2.5-3.0). Although this is the type humans often ingest, when given in high amounts or in single big doses, ascorbic acid is poorly absorbed by dogs and humans, resulting in diarrhea. This condition can be relieved by taking lesser doses several times a day. Due to its acidity, most dogs find powdered forms of ascorbic acid distasteful and will refuse to go near it.

    2) Ascorbyl palmitate

    Although vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, it also comes in an oil-soluble form called ascorbyl palmitate, which is hypothesized to work in tandem with other antioxidants. Although it is three times more effective than ascorbic acid when taken orally, ascorbyl palmitate is about six times more expensive than ascorbic acid which makes it less appealing for many pet owners.

    3) Calcium and sodium ascorbate

    Vitamin C can also be found in the form of mineral ascorbates, which are salts containing vitamin C. Calcium ascorbate and sodium ascorbate are two forms of vitamin C that are efficiently absorbed anywhere in the human and mammalian digestive tracts. These are the mildest (buffered) forms of vitamin C, with the fewest side effects such as diarrhea or heartburn.


    One widely available mineral ascorbate is calcium ascorbate, a pH-neutral, mildly bitter powder.  Holistic veterinarians consider mineral ascorbates to be the most beneficial form of vitamin C for dogs.


    Choose the purest product at the best price

    When adding any supplement to your dog’s routine, it’s important to do your research and choose carefully. Be certain to choose a supplement that’s specifically designed for your canine companion. There are many misconceptions in society that if our body processes it, our dog’s body will process it the exact same way. Sometimes that’s true, but in many cases, their system will process supplements differently. 

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