Nutritional Needs of Cats and Dogs: Vitamins

Vitamins are a vital part of good health. As we learned in earlier modules, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins all play a role in pet health. An important addition to the dialogue on animal health is the topic of vitamins. We will go over some important facts on vitamins in this module. It must be stressed that protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins are all pieces of a puzzle that must work in conjunction for health and longevity. Vitamins are crucial as they help regulate different physiological and metabolic functions. They aid in cellular responses and tissue synthesis. They also are important for development of the nervous system and immune system.

When a pet is lacking the appropriate vitamins, it can alter their metabolism and can lead to vitamins deficiencies, also called avitaminosis. Some health issues that arise in cats and dogs are linked to a diet that lacks one or several vitamins. An adjustment of vitamins can benefit a pet in a stressful situation that might impact their health. Potential situations range from fear and anxiety to illnesses and sensitivities.

Just like with proteins and fats, different lifestages have different vitamins requirements. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the National Research Council (NRC) requires all pet food manufactures incorporate adequate levels of vitamins and minerals to meet basic health requirements, minimizing the risk of diet-induced deficiencies.

Pet food manufacturers oftentimes have to add vitamin supplements to food to ensure adequate levels. These supplements would be equivalent to vitamin supplements found in the human food industry.  Many ingredients in the food contain naturally occurring vitamins, but the vitamin supplement ensures quantities are always optimal.  For an extra dose of vitamins (and a fun treat!), pets can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables.

Vitamins are divided into two groups: Water-soluble vitamins, known as hydrosoluble vitamins, and fat-soluble vitamins, known as liposoluble. There are thirteen essential vitamins for your pet, and we will get into more detail on this in later modules.