Should A Dog’s Diet Be Supplemented With Vitamin C?

Most of us are familiar with vitamin C and its health benefits for people.  Vitamin C has been proven to have powerful immune system boosting properties to help to prevent infectious disease and cancer.  Vitamin C is also a biological sponge, that is, it has molecular properties capable of binding to free radicals that form in the body every moment of our existence and eliminating them from the body.

Free radicals are charged ions and compounds that damage tissues and organs via a chemical process called oxidation.  They form as the result of physical stress on the body, mental stress, and as the result of age.  When we take vitamin C and other vitamins known to be “antioxidants,” these compounds effectively bind, neutralize, and facilitate the removal of free radicals, thereby protecting the body from disease and slowing the aging process.

It should necessarily follow that we should administer vitamin C to dogs as well, right?  They are after all, physiologically built very similarly to us and suffer many of the same disease processes, as well as experience the gradual break down of their bodies from father time.  However, when it comes to vitamin C, they are quite different.

The major difference between people and dogs when it comes to vitamin C is that people necessarily depend on outside supplementation of vitamin C either through dietary sources (such as oranges and other fruits) or supplements.  This is because we possess a very poor ability to synthesize our own vitamin C.

Dogs, on the other hand, are physiologically quite capable of synthesizing their own endogenous vitamin C.  Having this ability, under normal circumstances, as long as they are fed as nutritionally well balanced diet, they do not require outside supplementation with vitamin C.

For some of you that are particularly well informed, you may know that vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin and, as such, it has little potential to cause toxicity (excesses in water soluble vitamins are easily eliminated by both dogs and people).  If this is what you are thinking, you are correct.  You may also be thinking that if this is the case, what harm would there be to offer your dog a little extra vitamin C?  The answer is that that for an adult dog, other than a mild, self limiting case of loose stools, there really is no harm.

For growing puppies, on the other hand, there is great potential for harm.  Vitamin C has the potential to cause spikes in serum calcium.  In response to this, the body activates a hormone called calcitonin that interferes with the proper development of bone density and proper remodeling of a puppy’s skeletal system as they grow.  This is especially true in large breed puppies.  As such, I generally advise against supplementing a puppy’s diet with vitamin C.

Still, although dogs do effectively synthesize their own vitamin C, there are certain conditions where it is beneficial to prescribe additional supplementation with vitamin C.  Female dogs that suffer from chronic recurring urinary tract infections is one case example that I would  recommend supplementation with vitamin C.  In this case, vitamin C not only directly boosts the immune system both locally and systemically to fight infection, as a water soluble vitamin eliminated primarily via the kidneys, vitamin C also acidifies the urine directly to create a less hospitable environment for bacteria to proliferate.

In the case of any pet under treatment for cancer, I also recommend supplementation with vitamin C.  Cancer in the body creates systemic free radicals that vitamin C helps to eliminate.  Boosting the immune system with vitamin C helps to prevent secondary infection dogs are predisposed to when under treatment with chemotherapy.  Boosting the immune system also aids the dog’s immune system to fight the cancer itself.

As a general rule, vitamin C is not necessary for healthy dogs fed a nutritionally balanced diet.  It is potentially harmful to supplement puppies with vitamin C.  However, there are specific health circumstances where supplementation with vitamin C is beneficial to dogs.  Be sure to discuss with your veterinarian before considering any nutrient supplementation regimen for your dog.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

What Is It About Thunderstorms That Causes So Much Fear And Anxiety In Some Dogs?

Countless dog owners deal with the often heartbreaking circumstance of their beloved dog experiencing sheer panic during thunderstorms that tend to occur in late summer.  Here in my home state of Florida, dogs prone to thunderstorm anxiety suffer on a near daily basis from July through October.  I have an 11 year old yellow Labrador who began experiencing thunderstorm anxiety as he neared 2 years of age so I deal with this issue not just as a veterinarian but also as a dog parent who loves his dog dearly.

So why do some dogs react so fearfully to thunderstorms?  The noise of the thunder probably plays a significant role, but some dogs like mine, may suffer thunderstorm anxiety, but may be okay with other loud noises like fireworks. My late Border Collie mix Lulu was the complete opposite, as she had zero fear of thunderstorms while fireworks set off panic.

Like my Lab, some dogs are akin to being a living barometer where he may be pacing and anxious while it is sunny, quiet, with calm winds, and clear skies outside, but there is a storm on its way still 45 minute out.  Thus, the effects of the thunderstorm on dogs prone to thunderstorm anxiety are clearly multi-factorial and include:

  • Noise
  • Static electricity
  • Barometric pressure drop

Thunderstorm anxiety often worsens with time, especially if measures are not taken to reduce its severity.  From experience, there is rarely one single remedy an effective approach is typically multimodal.  Below are some common remedies, some natural, some not, listed with pros and cons:

  • Apply a snug garment – this is when a snug fitting shirt like the Thundershirt is placed on the dog that has an effect like swaddling a new born baby.  The shirt Storm Defender takes this concept a step further by integrating a metallic lining to the shirt that the product claims disperses static electricity.  Most of the benefits of these products are anecdotal by I see them work often enough to recommend giving them a shot.
    • Pros – Drug free approach that legitimately provides anxiety relief to some dogs.
    • Cons – They often do not work.
  • Pheromone therapy – A veterinary pharmaceutical was able to synthesize and bottle a calming pheromone that the lactating female dog emits to calm her puppies and encourage them to nurse.  The product, Adaptil, comes in plug in diffusers and sprays.  The diffusers provide 24/7 therapy in a 700 square foot space, while the sprays last for 6-8 hours.  Some dog owners spray down snug garments with Adaptil prior to fitting the dog in the shirt.
    • Pros – Drug free approach that legitimately provides anxiety relief to some dogs.
    • Cons – Costly for some dog owners, sometimes does not work.
  • Sedatives like Valium and Xanax
    • Pros – Often work well to relieve anxiety, not very costly.
    • Cons – Effectiveness usually lessens over time and doses need to be increased or drug changed frequently, if storms blow in quickly there is not adequate time to absorb the drug in the GI to provide relief, the drug often lingers longer than desired period, and they are drugs that need to be eliminated metabolically in most cases by the liver.  There is a relatively new product called Sileo that is a micro-dose of a commonly used veterinary tranquilizer that is very effective, quick acting (it absorbs by transmucosally after application on the gums), and relieves anxiety without obvious sedation or lingering side effects.  Its main con at this point is cost.

I have found herbal calming remedies so largely ineffective that they do not make my list as a legitimate strategy to manage thunderstorm anxiety in dogs.  I usually tell owners that they may be worth a try because they are generally safe and they have nothing to lose other than a few bucks in trying them.

Realistically, most people never find a cure, but the right mix of some or all of the above.  If it is affordable, Sileo has been the most effective treatment that I have used for my own dog, but even at wholesale pricing, I find it cost prohibitive with a daily thunderstorm occurring every day in Florida from early July through late October.  I also do not like the notion of drugging (albeit a micro-dose) my dog for 3 months out of the year.  Thus, I generally reserve Sileo for major tropical storms and hurricanes, rely on Thundershirt with occasional Valium and scratching Bernie’s head.  My presence per my wife’s observance, makes a huge difference in how Bernie responds to management strategies, which is why I often take him to work with me during the summer months.

My advice to you is to work with your vet to find the right approach for your dog and go with the right mix of approaches may require both natural and pharmaceutical management.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Do Full Moons Cause More Seizures In Epileptic Dogs And Cats?

Most of us have been told tales of lunar lunacy where bad or crazy things tend to happen in great frequency when the moon is in its full moon part of its cycle and animals and people tend to act weird.  This belief has some parents taking care to tell their kids to exercise extra caution because of a full moon and spawned the birth of legends like the werewolf.  The question is, however, is there some truth to the full moon exerting some kind of physical or psychological influence on animals?

As a past emergency and critical care veterinarianin New York, I saw wild and crazy things just about every night regardless of the lunar cycle.  Although I did not take the time study or even casually pay attention whether there was an increase in accidents or epileptic seizures during the full moon phase, I cannot say that I ever observed a disproportionate incidence of emergencies during the full moon phase.

That stated, the conversation about an increase in seizures specifically in dogs and cats that lived with conditions like epilepsy that predisposed them to seizures was taken seriously enough that veterinary neurologists decided to study the possibility of this potential phenomenon.  Veterinary neurologists Laura Stainbach and Leveque subsequently conducted a retroactive study of 211 epileptic dogs and cats from 2000-2008.

The results of their study proved conclusively that there is no correlation between the full moon phase of the lunar cycle and increased seizure activity in these dogs and cats.  As much as many believe that the full moon produces physiological and psychological changes that trigger illness and odd behavior, at least in the case of seizures, any link to an increase in seizure activity during a full moon is little more than medical urban legend.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.