• Morganne Maselli
  • Dog Nutrition and Member Service Specialist

  • 3 mins read time
  • Vitamin E: To Supplement or Not to Supplement

    Vitamin E is crucial in a dog’s diet. According to the American Kennel Club, vitamin E is “necessary for cell function and fat metabolism.” Vitamin E is a naturally occurring antioxidant, and it is a fat-soluble vitamin. While we know that it is necessary in a dog’s diet, vitamin E requirements are difficult to establish because of “their interrelationships with other dietary factors.” As a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin E is absorbed by the body along with other fats in the diet. It is stored in the body’s fatty tissue.

    A vitamin E supplement should not be necessary, unless your dog is deficient. As a fat soluble vitamin, deficiency is uncommon, and is usually seen in older dogs. Visible signs of a vitamin E deficiency include muscle and weight loss, unhealthy skin and coat, and eye problems. The best way to determine if your dog is deficient is to have a blood test, because these symptoms are not completely conclusive.

    The requirement for vitamin E established by AAFCO is based on dry matter, “50 IU of vitamin E is recommended per kg (22.7 IU per lb) of diet.” This is the minimum requirement, and many dog foods often include more vitamin E. In assessing a variety of dry dog food brands on Chewy.com, the range is from 50 IU/kg to 500 IU/kg. Many dog foods will increase the amount of vitamin E because it is not easily absorbed as a synthetic vitamin compared to being consumed as a natural, whole food.

    Conscious pet parents, especially those that feed a raw diet, want to make sure their pup is getting enough vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants like vitamin E are a popular supplement because they help fight against free radicals which cause disease, aging, and even cancer. Vitamin C, another antioxidant, is a popular supplement for dogs even though it is produced within the dog’s liver.

    It’s possible that your raw diet is lacking important vitamins and minerals. Foods that are rich in vitamin E include liver, kidney, and brain. Vitamin E is produced by plants, and grass-fed beef liver is probably the best source of vitamin E for your dog. Grass-fed meats are about 4 times higher in vitamin E than grain fed, or grain finished. This is because the grass has greater levels, causing higher tissue levels of vitamin E. The color is more red and vibrant (associated with oxymyoglobin) in the grass fed, whereas grain fed is more brown. This is because “vitamin E acts post-mortem to delay oxidative deterioration of the meat.”

    Dogs in the wild meet their vitamin E requirements because they are tertiary consumers. This means they are eating prey that are primary consumers that get their energy directly from plants, where vitamin E is produced.

    If grass-fed meat is not available to you, you can also include sardines, sunflower seeds, egg, and leafy green vegetables. Spinach and swiss chard are a great source of vitamin E, as well as vitamin A, and vitamin C.

    If your dog is already eating a complete and balanced diet, excess vitamin E can be harmful. According to holistic veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney, “Excessive vitamin E can affect blood clotting by inhibiting normal platelet aggregation (clumping). This effect has been noted in patients taking vitamin E supplements, but not those consuming diets containing vitamin E,” he says. “[This is why] I recommend a veterinarian prescribes the appropriate dosage and frequency suitable to a patient’s body weight and health needs.”

    Supplements that are geared to promote a healthy coat and skin will always include vitamin E. There are even some shampoos that include vitamin E to help with dry or damaged skin. Other options, like Dr. Harvey’s, create herbal supplements that provide a small boost of natural vitamins and minerals to your dog’s diet so you don’t have to worry about over supplementing.