Dog Nutrition

  1. Introduction to Dog Nutrition
  2. What to Feed Your Dog
  3. Delicious Homemade Treats
  4. Food Allergies
  5. Vitamin and Mineral Guide
  6. Choosing a Dog Food
  7. Treats are Better Than Table Scraps

Next Section>>

Vitamin and Mineral Guide

Pet supply stores are full of different types of vitamins and minerals for your dog. Each product claims to have the magic ingredient to ensure a shiny coat, healthy joints, stronger teeth, or sharper eyesight. There is so much variety that it makes it hard to know which if any of these products are appropriate for your dog especially because the food you are feeding your dog will also contain levels of vitamins and minerals. While you need to consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any supplementation because there are serious dangers associated with both vitamin and mineral over-supplementation as well as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, you also need to familiarize yourself with the diverse and essential roles vitamins and minerals play in keeping your dog healthy.


Vitamins are organic substances that your dog’s body needs in certain quantities to be able to function properly. Vitamins are classified as either fat soluble or water soluble. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in your dog’s fat cells called lipocytes. Water soluble vitamins are not stored in the body in large amounts. Thus, in general, vitamin over-supplementation is much more dangerous in fat soluble vitamins than in water soluble vitamins.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A, a fat soluble vitamin, is important for your dog’s bone and teeth formation, vision, coat, skin, eyesight and mucous membranes. Sources of vitamin A include dairy, liver and vegetables with yellow coloring. Vitamin A deficiencies have been known to cause eye problems, lack of coat and skin quality, poor growth and a reduced ability to ward off infections. Too much vitamin A can cause your dog to have muscle weakness and bone problems. Signs of vitamin A toxicity also include decreased appetite, weight loss, limping, stiffness and constipation.

The B Vitamins
There are several types of B vitamins including vitamin B-1 (thiamine), vitamin B-2 (riboflavin), vitamin B-3 (niacin), vitamin B-5 (pantothenic acid), Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B-9 (folic acid), vitamin B-12 (cobalamin) and biotin. These B vitamins are water soluble and, often, to be most effective, several B vitamins must work together. Stressful situations and very cold temperatures can deplete your dog’s supply of B vitamins. Too much B vitamin can also create problems for your dog. For example, too much vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) can cause nervous system damage and increased light sensitivity. Too much vitamin B-3 (niacin) can cause skin irritations, liver damage and stomach ulcers. In addition, too high quantities of one B vitamin can also cause other B vitamins to be depleted.

Vitamin B-1 (Thiamine)
Vitamin B-1, also known as thiamine, is an essential vitamin for your dog’s overall health. Thiamine has also been found to be a natural flea repellent. Thiamine is found in fruits, vegetables, milk and meat. Though more common in cats than in dogs, thiamine deficiency can cause your dog to be unsteady on his legs, have spastic hind legs, seizures, vomit and lose his appetite. In some cases, thiamine deficiency can be fatal. Thiamine deficiency can result if your dog eats a lot of raw fish or, like many vitamin deficiencies, it can be caused by feeding your dog a low-quality or nutritionally incomplete diet. If your dog is found to have a thiamine deficiency, this condition can most often be completely cured by an injection of thiamine administered by your vet.

Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)
Riboflavin is essential to your dog’s ability to grow and develop properly, and it is necessary for a healthy coat, eyes and heart. Riboflavin is found in organ meats and dairy products. A riboflavin deficiency will cause your dog to have poor growth, dandruff, eye conditions, limb weakness, fainting episodes and possible heart failure. Riboflavin deficiency in pregnant dogs has also been associated with birth defects in offspring.

Vitamin B-3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B-3, also called niacin, primarily helps your dog’s enzymes work properly. Enzymes are proteins produced by your dog’s cells to help trigger and regulate important chemical activities in your dog’s system. Niacin can be found in meat. A lack of niacin can cause your dog to have a condition referred to as “black tongue” in which he will have inflamed lips and gums, a lack of appetite and bloody diarrhea. If the condition is not treated, death can result. Niacin has appeared to be helpful in controlling seizures, reducing cholesterol and regulating central nervous system functions. Too much niacin can cause skin irritations, liver damage and stomach ulcers.

Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Vitamin B-5, also called pantothenic acid, is essential for supporting your dog’s immune system and adrenal functions. Pantothenic acid also helps your dog’s system convert proteins, carbohydrates and fats into usable energy. Adequate amounts of pantothenic acid are necessary to help your dog fight infections, inflammations, asthma and allergies. Panothenic acid is found in many raw foods, both meat and vegetables. However, processing food tends to reduce the amount of pantothentic acid available for your dog to use. Dogs with a lack of pantothenic acid can suffer from abnormal hair loss and stomach upset. Allergies, skin irritations and skin infections are also considered pantothenic acid deficiency symptoms.

Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B-6, also known as pyridoxine, is vital for protein metabolism. It is also essential in helping your dog use some minerals. Pyridoxine is found in many foods, but can be damaged by processing. Symptons of pyridoxine deficiency in your dog include growth problems, epilepsy, water retention and kidney damage. Pyridoxine deficiency has also been implicated as a contributing cause of allergies, artery disease, arthritis, asthma and even some types of cancer. Too much pyridoxine can cause nervous system damage and increased light sensitivity

Vitamin B-9 (Folic Acid)
Vitamin B-9, also known as folic acid, is necessary for DNA and RNA synthesis, reproductive processes, proper protein metabolism and red blood cell formation. Folic acid is found in organ meats. Folic acid deficiencies can result in reproductive problems, birth defects if the mother is folic acid deficient, weight loss, anemia, weakness, seizures, eye discharge, and immune system suppression.

Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin)
Vitamin B-12, also known as cobalamin, is essential for DNA synthesis, proper food digestion and nutrient absorption. Cobalamin is also helpful for promoting proper growth, preventing nerve damage and strengthening reproduction. The best source of cobalamin is raw liver. Cobalamin deficiency can lead to anemia in your dog.

Vitamin B-8 (Biotin)
Vitamin B-8, also known as biotin, is important for thyroid, skin, bone marrow, adrenal and nervous system health. Biotin also is helpful to your dog’s reproductive process and for aiding your dog in processing fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Good sources of biotin are corn and beef liver. Interestingly, raw eggs have an enzyme that depletes biotin so, if you feed your dog eggs, you should make sure the eggs are properly cooked. Long-term antibiotic use has also been associated with biotin deficiency in dogs. Symptoms of biotin deficiencies include hair and skin conditions, eye discharge, small litter size and sometimes diarrhea. If not treated, a biotin deficiency can also cause limb paralysis.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C, a water soluble vitamin, aids your dog’s immune system and development. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is often used to supplement large-breed puppies and nursing mothers. It has also been used with some success in reducing the effects of some conditions such as hip dysplasia and bladder stones. Too high doses of vitamin C can cause diarrhea (vitamin C is a natural laxative) and a bloated abdomen. In addition, a link has been suspected between too high doses of vitamin C and the occurrence of kidney stones.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin, is essential for regulating the bloodstream’s calcium and phosphorous levels, bone formation and proper muscle and nerve function. Vitamin D sources include fish liver oil and sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a bone disorder with symptoms such as bowed legs, swollen joints and weakness. Too much vitamin D can create inappropriate amounts of calcium to be stored within your dog’s heart and other muscles. High doses of Vitamin D can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, hemorrhaging, excessive thirst, increased urination, lethargy, limping and bone pain.

Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin important for proper cell functioning and fat metabolism. Vitamin E is also an anti-oxidant. Vitamin E sources include meat such as liver, leafy green vegetables, vegetable oil and wheat germ. Vitamin E deficiencies can cause eye, heart, liver, muscle, nerve and reproductive disorders. Vitamin E deficiency can also impact your dog’s bowels causing damage, hemorrhaging and destruction. Too high does of vitamin E can interfere with your dog’s ability to absorb vitamin A and vitamin K. Significantly, the inability to absorb vitamin K can lead to blood clotting problems.

Vitamin K
Vitamin K, a fat soluble vitamin, is vital for normal blood functions such as clotting. Vitamin K sources include eggs and leafy green vegetables. A lack of vitamin K can cause clotting problems and lead to hemorrhaging. Vitamin K is often used to treat dogs who have accidentally ingested rodent poison.


Minerals are natural substances that play essential roles in helping your dog’s system function properly. Your dog’s body does not make minerals on its own. Instead, your dog must obtain minerals from food and water which contain dissolved minerals. Some important minerals include calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, manganese and selenium.

Calcium and Phosphorus
Your dog needs a proper amount and balance of calcium and phosphorous in his body. Calcium and phosphorous are necessary for sound bones and teeth. Phosphorous is also needed for the body to produce its own energy, and calcium is required for blood clotting and for heart, nerve and muscle functions. Generally dogs do not suffer from phosphorous deficiencies, but calcium deficiency is seen in some dogs. Calcium deficiencies can cause lameness, spasms, anxiety, heart palpitations, eczema, decreased bone density, osteoporosis, gum erosion, seizures, hemorrhages, high blood pressure, arthritis, bone fractures and respiratory problems. In pregnant and nursing dogs, calcium deficiencies have been implicated in the development of eclampsia. Calcium deficiencies can be brought about by high-meat diets because meats contain an unbalanced amount of phosphorous. For calcium to be activated, vitamin D is required. Excess levels of calcium and phosphorous can lead to growth problems in your dog. In addition, inappropriately high levels of phosphorous and calcium can inhibit your dog’s ability to absorb manganese.

Iron plays an essential role in helping your dog’s system function properly. Iron is necessary for red blood creation, enzyme functioning and energy and immune system functioning. Iron deficiency symptoms include anemia, lack of energy, diarrhea, pale gums and hair loss. Excess levels of iron can damage your dog’s heart, liver, stomach and intestinal lining.

Magnesium is an essential component used for proper enzyme function and heart rate and healthy bones, muscles and nervous system. Magnesium also helps rid the body of lead and other heavy metals. Magnesium deficiency symptoms irregular heart rates, high blood pressure, seizures, bone pain, nervousness, irritability, depression and muscle spasms. Inappropriately high levels of magnesium can interfere with your dog’s ability to absorb calcium.

Manganese is necessary for enzyme utilization, normal reproduction, milk production in nursing dogs, fat and protein assimilation, blood sugar regulation, healthy nerves and immune systems, and normal functioning of the pituitary gland (the gland that regulates all of the other glands). It is also needed for proper bone and cartilage growth. Manganese is also needed for utilization of thiamine and vitamin E. Manganese deficiency can cause retarded growth and development as well as reproduction problems. Manganese deficiencies have also been reported to impact normal fat metabolism.

Potassium and Sodium
Potassium and sodium must be kept in balance for your dog to function properly. Potassium is needed for regulating body fluid and for metabolic, muscle and nerve functions. It also thought that potassium can help prevent strokes. Sodium is important for regulating body fluids. Symptoms of potassium deficiency include muscle weakness, paralysis, heart problems including irregular heart rate, kidney lesions, retarded growth and dehydration. Some diuretics and heart medications can diminish your dog’s potassium levels. Excess potassium levels in your dog tend not to be a problem as long as your dog has healthy functioning kidneys. However, for dogs with Addison’s disease, dangerous levels of potassium can build up in your dog. Symptoms of sodium deficiency include fatigue, dry skin, hair loss and slowed growth. Heat exhaustion can cause a sodium deficiency. Too much sodium will cause your dog to be excessively thirsty.

Small amounts of selenium are considered an antioxidant for dogs that helps slow aging and regulates your dog’s blood sugar. Selenium deficiency appears linked to heart disease, the development of tumors, immune deficiencies, weakness, skin problems, slow growth and reduced fertility. Excess amounts of selenium can cause cardiovascular collapse, anemia, hair loss, limping and liver disease.

Next Section>>

  1. Introduction to Dog Nutrition
  2. What to Feed Your Dog
  3. Delicious Homemade Treats
  4. Food Allergies
  5. Vitamin and Mineral Guide
  6. Choosing a Dog Food
  7. Treats are Better Than Table Scraps