Vitamin C Deficiency in Dogs

Vitamin C deficiency in dogs is a potentially serious medical condition with long-term side effects. Under normal conditions, a dog’s body can create the vitamin C he needs to maintain good health, so a dog with a vitamin C deficiency needs to be evaluated by a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause for the deficiency.

Let’s look at what benefits vitamin C provides for your dog, what the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency look like and what steps can be taken to treat the condition.

Vitamin C Helps Build Strong Canine Bones

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin. It is not stored in your dog’s body because his liver creates an adequate amount of the vitamin each day to meet his body’s needs (18 milligrams of vitamin C per pound of body weight). Vitamin C helps build your dog’s body build and maintain strong bone tissue. Puppies and nursing female dogs require higher levels of vitamin C in their diets than do mature adult dogs so that the puppies’ bones will develop properly.

As in humans, vitamin C also helps your dog’s immune system function properly. Dietary sources can include

  • berries
  • cauliflower
  • grapefruit
  • green peppers
  • oranges
  • potatoes
  • tangerines
  • tomatoes

Online rumors have circulated that implicate vitamin C as a preventive or a cure for hip dysplasia. While this is not true, some dogs with hip dysplasia have shown signs of improvement (less pain and better joint movement) after receiving supplemental vitamin C treatments.

Vitamin C supplements have also shown promise in preventing the formation of some types of bladder stones because it creates a more acidic urine, which is less likely to promote stone formation.

Allergic dogs may find some relief from their symptoms with vitamin C supplements. In these cases, the vitamin works as an antihistamine, alleviating some of the itching, wheezing and other allergy symptoms.

Diabetic dogs may benefit from vitamin C supplements, too. Vitamin C has been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels, protect kidneys, prevent cataracts and increase the efficacy of insulin in diabetic dogs.

Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency

Dogs with a vitamin C deficiency can show the following symptoms:

  • bad breath
  • bleeding
  • bone weakness
  • delayed wound healing
  • joint pain
  • muscle weakness

The phrase "scurvy dog" takes on a whole new meaning for vitamin C-deficient pets because dogs can get scurvy. Dogs with canine scurvy or, more accurately, canine hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD) may show the following symptoms:

  • anemia
  • bleeding from the mouth
  • bloody urine
  • loose teeth
  • swollen gums

Dogs with liver disease may also be at risk for developing a vitamin C deficiency since the liver plays an important role in providing daily vitamin C for the dog’s body.

Preventing a Vitamin C Deficiency in Your Dog

If your dog has a vitamin C deficiency, your veterinarian will need to diagnose and treat the underlying problem that is causing the deficiency. Part of that treatment may include vitamin C supplements that are given daily with his food.

To help keep your dog’s vitamin C level at an adequate level, offer him treats of vitamin C-rich fresh fruit and vegetables. You can also add apple cider vinegar to your dog’s water bowl (1 teaspoon of vinegar for every 10 pounds of your pet’s body weight) to provide additional vitamin C.