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Vitamin E for Dogs

One of the four main Vitamins that NRC has recognized as an essential nutrient for dogs is Vitamin E. Pet food manufacturers have to meet AAFCO requirements to add at least 50 UI/kg in dog food recipes.

What is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that exists in eight different forms. The most active form in the body is alpha-tocopherol. This vitamin scavenges harmful toxins called free radicals, which can damage the cellular structure and lead to disease.

In 1922, Evans and Bishop discovered this vitamin and their work in the 30’s further revealed the chemical structure and the biological function of alpha-tocopherol.In the 40’s further research revealed how Vitamin E protects tissue unsaturated fatty acids against oxidation. It was also during this time that it was discovered that vitamin E is necessary for fertility in rats. More about history of Vitamin E here.

The only other known function of Vitamin E is its role as an immune system booster.

Vitamin E is found in plant leaves and is synthesized by some bacteria, fungi, and algae.

Sources of Vitamin E:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Spinach, broccoli, avocados, kiwis, tomatoes, and olive oil are all excellent sources of vitamin E.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts are all great sources of this vitamin.
  • Fish: Salmon, rainbow, trout, and tuna, atlantic and salmon are all high in vitamin E.
  • Eggs: One large egg contains about 6
  • Vegetable oils: Wheat germ, sunflower oil, safflower oil

If you feed your dog commercial kibble, they must be getting enough Vitamin E in their diet as per the AAFCO requirement. However, if you are feeding a homemade diet or table scraps, it is possible that your dog could be deficient in this important vitamin.

Benefits of Vitamin E in Dogs:

Membrane stabilization:

This vitamin protects cell membranes by scavenging free radicals and preventing lipid peroxidation. In pain management, vitamin E has been used as an adjuvant to decrease the side effects of NSAIDs(source). Vitamin E also decreases exercise-induced oxidative stress in dogs. Read this research on the role of Vitamin E in membrane stabilization and pain management.

Vitamin E has been shown to be effective for reducing inflammation and indicators of pain in dogs with canine osteoarthritis (CAD).

Immune system support:

This vitamin plays a role in the immune response by boosting the activity of white blood cells and by generally supporting your dog’s healthy growth. It also assists to keep the muscles, heart, liver, nerve cells, and skin healthy.

Antioxidant activity:

Vitamin E scavenges free radicals and protects cells from damage. This is especially important in the brain, where free radical damage can lead to cognitive decline.

Cancer prevention:

There is some evidence that vitamin E may help to prevent certain types of cancer. This vitamin may work by inhibiting the formation of cancer-causing agents, by scavenging free radicals that can damage DNA, or by boosting the immune system.

Vitamin E has been shown to be effective in preventing sun-induced skin cancer in dogs.

Cardiovascular health:

This vitamin helps to keep blood vessels and arteries healthy by scavenging free radicals and preventing damage. This, in turn, can help to prevent heart disease.

Vitamin E and Dog Skin:

Low levels of vitamin E were discovered in dogs with CAD, which supports the idea that vitamin E supplementation may help dogs with skin issues. The 2014 study concluded that vitamin E supplementation may indeed be helpful for dogs with allergic dermatitis, though more research is needed.

Another study on the “Effects of Serum Vitamin E Levels on Pet Skin” found that “between 20% and 75% of small animals seen in a typical veterinary practice have skin problems as a chief or concurrent owner complaint.

The study concluded that increasing Vitamin E in pets’ diets reduces biomarkers associated with oxidative stress and therefore reduces the risk of skin problems.

You can read the whole study here.

Vitamin E Deficiency in Dogs:

Vitamin E deficiency is relatively rare in dogs, but it can occur if your dog is not getting enough of this vitamin in their diet. Dogs who are fed a homemade diet or table scraps may be at risk for a deficiency, as well as dogs who are not getting enough fat in their diet.

How much Vitamin E to give my dog?

AAFCO recommends a minimum of 50 UI/kg but other veterinarians such as Dr. George Melillo of Heart + Paw explained that puppies can be given up to 400 UI/Kg of vitamin E and 800 IU for dogs over two years of age. Dr. Melillo was quoted by greatpetcare.com here.

The AAFCO’s recommended 50 UI is equivalent to 33.5 mg d-alpha-tocopherol or 45 mg of dl-alpha-tocopherol.

If your vet prescribes Vitamin E supplements, they are generally trying to get the dosage to around 2000 IU/kg per day for small dogs or 3000 IU per day for larger breeds as per Dr. Melillo.

Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency include:

  1. Muscle weakness
  2. Loss of coordination
  3. Dilated cardiomyopathy
  4. Lethargy
  5. Recurrent infections
  6. Poor wound healing
  7. Dry, scaly skin
  8. Hair loss