Since dogs can produce vitamin C in their bodies, many dog parents wonder if they need to give their dogs vitamin C tablets.
True, dogs can make vit C in their bodies, 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 has a lot of health benefits to dogs. For example:
In fact, many veterinarians (both conventional and holistic) now routinely include vitamin C in their treatment protocols for various illnesses. Some such illnesses include cancer, infections such as bladder and urinary tract infections (UTIs), 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 weak and old dogs, to pregnant and lactating dogs, and to those that have been exposed to contagious diseases.
If you want 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, you cannot actually overdose a dog with vitamin C because 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 give 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:
Update: A recent study has shown that high doses of vitamin C could actually speed up joint deterioration and pain in arthritic patients. So, I wouldn't use high doses of vitamin C as a dog arthritis treatment option.
If your dog develops diarrhea, adjust down the dosage until the stools are firm again.
Bioflavonoids are powerful phyto-compounds that, when taken together with vitamin C, can help with the uptake and absorption of the vitamin because they prevent the vitamin from being broken down in the body.
In other words, bioflavonoids increase the efficacy of vitamin C.
Even by themselves, bioflavonoids can help strengthen capillary walls. They are also beneficial to dogs with inflammatory conditions, such as IBD, and arthritis.
So, if you want to get the most out of a vitamin C supplement, get one that has bioflavonoids in it.
Here's one natural vitamin C supplement with bioflavonoids:
This vitamin C supplement contains rosehips and Indian gooseberry, both are rich sources of vitamin C as well as bioflavonoids.
In addition to supplementation, you may also want to provide natural foods that are rich in vitamin C (and bioflavonoids) to your dog for added fortification.
Foods that are high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids and palatable include such veggies as broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, sweet red bell pepper, and spinach.
Fruits such as pineapple, papaya, and strawberries can also provide your dog with good doses of vitamin C and bioflavonoids.
You can use some such veggies and fruits as vitamin C dog treats!