This page provides information on vitamin C for dogs - Is it necessary to supplement our dogs with vitamin C? Which form of vitamin C is best? What are the benefits of vitamin C to dogs? How about dosage? Read on to find out.
You may wonder if it is necessary to supplement dogs with vitamin C, since dogs can produce the vitamin in their bodies. True - but if a dog is stressed or sick, their bodies' output of vitamin C can quickly be depleted. In fact, it has been found that stress, both physical (e.g. fever, infections, etc.) and emotional (e.g. stress caused by a change in the environment), is the best-known cause of vitamin C depletion in dogs.
In addition, it has been found that dogs supplemented with vitamin C have stronger immune systems and show greater resistance to disease, and a better ability to recover from illness or injuries.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant. It works with vitamin E and helps regenerate vitamin E, enhancing its antioxidant effect.
Vitamin C improves immune function by enhancing white blood cell function and activity. It also increases the blood levels of interferon (the body's natural antiviral and anti-cancer compound) and antibodies (proteins that destroy foreign material such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins).
In fact, many veterinarians (both conventional and holistic) now routinely include vitamin C in their treatment protocols for various illnesses, including cancer, infections such as bladder and urinary tract infections, respiratory infections (e.g. kennel cough), and others.
Some veterinarians also suggest giving dogs vitamin C as a preventative and immune booster. For example, vitamin C can be given to dogs before and after vaccination, to feeble and old dogs, to pregnant and lactating dogs, and to those that have been exposed to contagious diseases.
If you need to supplement your dog with vitamin C, the best form is the salt forms of vitamin C, known as mineral ascorbates (calcium ascorbate and sodium ascorbate).
Ascorbates are easily absorbed anywhere in the dog's intestinal tract. They are also considered to be the most gentle (buffered) forms of vitamin C and cause fewer side effects such as diarrhea or heartburn.
Calcium ascorbate is pH-neutral, and has a slightly bitter taste. It is widely considered to be able to give the best results in relieving symptoms of arthritis.
Sodium ascorbate is also pH-neutral. It has a slightly saline taste. According to Dr. Wendell Belfield (the leading advocate of using vitamin C supplements in dogs), sodium ascorbate is the most effective form of vitamin C for dogs.
Since vitamin C is water soluble, excessive amount is excreted through the kidney. However, too much vitamin C will cause diarrhea in dogs especially if given in one dose. How much vitamin C to supplement depends on the individual dog's lifestyle and health condition, as well as the dog's tolerance level of vitamin C (i.e. the upper limit of vitamin C before the dog develops diarrhea).
In her book "Four Paws, Five Directions: A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dogs", Cheryl Schwartz, DVM, suggests the following dosages for health maintenance:
For specific health problems, she suggests:
If your dog develops diarrhea, adjust down the dosage until the stools are firm again.