Most of us are in the habit of daily taking a multivitamin. While we aim to eat a sensible, balanced diet with the everyday stresses and responsibilities it’s not something we achieve all of the time. So taking a multivitamin makes sure we are not missing out on any of the vital micronutrients we need to keep our bodies operating correctly. But have you ever stopped to consider that your pet may also need a multivitamin?
Reasons Why Your Pet Might Need Multivitamins
Just like humans, animals get their nutrients from their food. So whether your pet does or does not need multivitamins depends on what you are feeding him. Like so much else in life, you get what you pay for.
The high-end more expensive pet foods that are advertised as “complete and balanced” are usually specially formulated to contain all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your pet requires. However if you are using cheaper brands or making your pet food yourself you may need to double check that your pet’s diet contains all the micronutrients it needs to stay healthy.
There are other factors to consider as well. Obviously each variety of pet is different but let’s look at dogs as an example. However good the dog food you buy it will have to have been designed for a standardised “average” dog. Any variant from the ‘average’ would make a difference to how ideal the food is for your dog. The nutritional needs of a large dog such as an Alsatian are going to be different to the needs of a small dog like a Highland Terrier. While you maybe feeding them a dog food that is “balanced and complete” you would feed the smaller dog less and the bigger dog more, resulting in them getting different amounts of the vitamins and minerals. Also a mixed breed dog will have different nutritional needs to a pedigree dog.
The inbreeding needed to make a pedigree dog has resulted in certain breeds being susceptible to particular ailments. Chihuahuas, for example, can suffer from high metabolism, luxating patella, chronic valvular disease, tracheal collapse, hypoglycaemia and dental problems. Rottweilers, on the other hand, can tend to have ailments such as congenital cataracts, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, panosteitis, aortic stenosis, Von Willebrand’s disease and progressive retinal atrophy. Depending on the breed and it’s common illnesses, a multivitamin may be able to help.
Which Vitamins Does Your Pet Need?
As with humans, when an animal is growing and developing is when most care is needed to meet their particular nutritional needs. Vitamins are essential for the bodies systems to function. Rapid bone development needs adequate calcium supplies. Maturing body systems need the full range of micronutrients for correct development. Old age also brings specific nutritional needs. Stiffening joints and ligaments are a common problem with all species. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and D can help counteract some of the effects of ageing.
So let’s have a look at how a multivitamin can help your pet by examining the benefits of each particular vitamin. Again, to keep things simple we are mainly look at how the vitamins affect dogs. Vitamin A affects growth, foetal development, immune function, and cell function. There are a number of B vitamins which fulfil roles such as regulating energy and carbohydrate metabolism, helping facilitate enzyme function, hormone regulation, immune response, niacin synthesis, gene activation and mitochondrial protein synthesis. Vitamin C can help reduce inflammation and cognitive ageing. Vitamin D is needed for the development and maintenance of healthy muscles and bones. Vitamin E can help to protect against eye and muscle degeneration and reproductive problems. Vitamin K is vital in activating the blood’s ability to clot. The advantage of a multivitamin tailored to your pet is that the right dose of each vitamin has been carefully measured.
Can Multivitamins Harm Your Pet?
One of the concerns about giving your pet a multivitamin is can it cause any harm? Sadly the answer to this is yes. Due to the variety in size and the wide range of breeds in most pets, a generalised multivitamin can’t be made that will suit all of a type of animals.
There is always a danger of overdosing. Nor can you presume that the same principles that apply to humans also apply to pets. For example, dogs can synthesize vitamin C on their own in their livers whereas humans are dependent on their diet. Something simple, such as giving extra calcium to a growing puppy in large breed dogs can actually cause skeletal problems. So if you are considering giving your pet a multivitamin it would be good to do some research as to their exact nutritional needs and to consult a vet first.