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Essential Nutrients for Dogs and Cats: Vitamins

Essential Nutrients for Dogs and Cats: Vitamins

When it comes to fighting off diseases, pet owners turn to vitamins for preventive care. These are split into two categories: fat-soluble vitamins (A,D, E, and K) and water-soluble vitamins (B and C). While vitamins can be found in many food ingredients, many can be found in supplemental form, as well.

Why are vitamins important for dogs and cats?

Each individual vitamin plays a role in different bodily function for your dog or cat. They can contribute in several ways, from vision and skin improvement, to protecting your pet’s cells against oxidation.

14 Kinds of Vitamins

Below you’ll find more information on the various forms of vitamins, the unique roles they play in your pet’s health and the kinds of food that provide them.

Fat Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin A

Often found in the form of retinol in liver, meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, this fat-soluble vitamin helps your pets with both vision and skin regeneration. Specifically, it helps your cat or dog see in the dark. Pets suffering from vitamin A deficiency are susceptible to eye problems, skin problems, infections and pulmonary complications.

Vitamin D

Readily available in tuna, sardines, egg yolk, milk and other dairy products, Vitamin D helps your pet’s body regulate calcium in many ways. In addition to increasing the intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphorus, it optimizes calcium bonding and reduces the loss of calcium and phosphorus in the urine. Without it, your dog or cat could be more susceptible to rickets and joint issues, like osteomalacia.

Vitamin E

This vitamin works on the cellular level, fighting against oxidation and age-related conditions including heart disease, cataracts and neurological diseases. In short, vitamin E helps to improve your dog or cat’s immune system. Your pet’s food likely contains vitamin E in the form of oils, oleaginous grains and cereal germs. It can also be found in animal products like liver, eggs, and butter.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K acts as a co-factor of many enzymes, allowing for proper blood coagulation. Without it, pets can suffer from digestive, nasal, skin and cerebral hemorrhages, which can ultimately lead to anemia. In certain cases of deficiency, Vitamin K can be administered by injection, but appropriate amounts in your pet’s diet can prevent against these conditions. Ingredients that naturally provide vitamin K include meat and vegetables like cabbage, parsley and spinach.

Water Soluble Vitamins

B1 (Thiamine)

The thiamine vitamin is involved in several biochemical reactions. In addition to generating energy for your pet’s cells, thiamine is also essential for the nervous system, helping move sensory impulses between neurons. The best food sources to find thiamine is yeast and wheat, but it can also be found in meat, bran and cereals.

B2 (Riboflavin)

Pet foods featuring riboflavin are meant to help the health of your dog or cat’s skin. It also helps turn fat into energy for your dog or cat. On the ingredient list, B2 can be found in yeast, liver, cheese, eggs and all dairy products.

B5 (Pantothenic acid)

All pantothenic acids are included in the make-up of coenzyme A, which is involved in nearly every metabolic reaction. This means B5 plays a huge role in the creation of energy for pet’s cells. While the name pantothenic acid comes from the Greek pantos, meaning, “found everywhere,” the main foods to find B5 are meat, eggs and dairy products.

B6 (Pyridoxine)

Much like B5, pyridoxine plays a role in several different reactions in your dog or cat. B6 acts as a coenzyme, taking part in several processes, specifically amino acid metabolism. Very low levels of B6 can be found in dairy products and cereals. Better sources of pyridoxine include yeast, wheat germ and meat.

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Found exclusively in meats, Vitamin B12 is another vitamin that helps your dog or cat at a cellular level. It helps with protein synthesis, fights against anemia, and is part of the production of red blood cells.


This vitamin contributes to a hand-full of functions in your dog or cat’s body. On the surface level, Niacin helps with skin health and gives your pet a glossy coat. It is also necessary for the breaking down of sugars and fats into energy for your pet. Niacin can be found in most foods, but is especially present in meat, fish, cereal and mushrooms.

Biotin (B8)

Much like niacin, biotin is used in the body to increase skin and hair health. The vitamin is also part of breaking down glucose, fatty acids and some amino acids – making it directly involved in a functioning nervous system. The best foods to find biotin include yeasts, liver, kidneys, and cooked eggs.

Folic Acid (B9)

The B9 vitamin is especially important to pregnant cats and dogs. Folic acid is part of the cell multiplication process and helps to synthesize DNA. A fetus needs a great deal of folic acid, making it easy for a pregnant mother to develop a deficiency. The best food to find vitamin B9 in is yeast, but it can also be consumed through liver, spinach and watercress.

Choline & Inositol

This pair of vitamins works together to accomplish a lot in the dog and cat body. Choline and Inositol build cell membrane and take part in protecting your pet’s skin from dehydration. Inositol alone plays a role in nerve conduction. Many pet foods will use meat, eggs, and nuts for choline. Inositol can be found in certain animal organs, specifically cow liver and heart.

Vitamin C

While vitamin C is a must for humans, it’s not an essential vitamin for your dog or cat. It’s best to give this vitamin to your pet when his or her liver can’t produce enough. Vitamin C can help with illnesses stemming from age, cell stress, and joint issues like arthritis. All vegetables have vitamin C in them, but you can find large amounts in citrus fruits, berries, kiwis and strawberries.

Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s unique vitamin needs

For more information on your pet’s diet and important elements to look for in cat or dog food, contact your local Banfield Pet Hospital and speak with one of our pet experts.

Learn More
You can also learn more by reading in the Nutrition section of Banfield.com, including these articles below:
Source: 2012 Royal Canin Nutrient Guide