How do I keep my dog healthy is a question that tends to be at the front of most dog-owner’s minds. You want to make sure that your dog is fit and has a healthy immune system, a shiny coat, and lots of pep.
But with a lot of pseudo-science, conflicting articles, and predatory companies, how can you determine what’s the most necessary vitamins for your precious pit bull?
Why Does My Dog Need Vitamins?
This is a reasonable question. You’ve probably put a bit of thought into the type of dog food you're providing and have thought extensively about your dog’s diet.
However, nutritional deficiencies can cause many problems, and there's no guarantee that your pit bull is getting all the vitamins they need from your dog food alone. Pit bulls, especially, are rather large, muscular, and active dogs that can quickly burn through nutrients - especially when growing.
In addition, older dogs may struggle to get sufficient nutrients and vitamins through food and may need more easily digestible alternatives.
What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic compounds that are normally digested through minerals, meat, or plant matter found in food. Vitamins will slowly be used up or lost by the body, so replenishing them is vital. 
Some examples are vitamin C, often found in fruits, and vitamin D, which we get from sunlight.
Sometimes, important minerals are included alongside vitamins, even if they aren’t strictly ‘vitamins’ themselves. An example of this is Omega oils, calcium, magnesium, and so on.
While some vitamins are water-soluble, others are fat-soluble. This will make a difference in how your pit bull can ingest and properly metabolize them.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that impacts growth, cell function, the immune system and eyesight. It's most commonly found in carrots, egg yolks, and liver.
Dogs can eat cooked carrots, but they contain quite a bit of sugar and should only be served in moderation. Because of this, it might be a good idea to ensure your dog gets vitamin A without any excess carbs.
Vitamin B is a bit of a complicated vitamin. ‘Vitamin B’ actually refers to a group of vitamins in the same water-soluble family.  You may have heard names such as B-6 or B-12 before, which are different types of B Vitamin. It also includes vitamins such as riboflavin and thiamine.
The different types of Vitamin B have several functions in the body. They’re responsible for ensuring your dog’s nervous system and metabolism run smoothly. They also promote the production of digestive enzymes. A deficiency can cause fatigue or weakness in the body.
Unfortunately, Vitamin B is easily destroyed, especially in highly processed dog food. It also doesn’t store easily in the body. So you need to make sure your dog’s diet is balanced and contains a lot of whole grains and legumes (such as peas and chickpeas. But NEVER fava or lima beans) to help prevent a deficiency.
Other B Vitamins, such as riboflavin, can also be found in meats, yogurts, and egg whites. All of which can be enjoyed by your pit bull in moderation.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that produces a mild sour taste in some fruits and veggies. It provides a lot of immune system support and aids in the digestion of iron.
Dogs naturally produce vitamin C; therefore, they don’t normally suffer from a vitamin deficiency. They should be able to get more than enough vitamin C to maintain a healthy immune system from a balanced diet.
However, some new studies show that dogs undergoing stressful situations - such as a move, a new dog, frequent vet visits, etc. - may have a reduced ability to produce this vitamin. They may then develop a weakened immune system. In this case, it may be good to include some vitamin C in your dog’s diet.
Dogs cannot eat citrus fruits, which is what most people think of when they hear vitamin C. But you can still find vitamin C in vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, and pumpkin or in proteins such as fish or yogurt.
If you prefer to try supplements, a pit bull puppy needs around 250mg, and a medium-sized dog needs around 500mg. Long term use shouldn’t really be necessary.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that's necessary for a lot of life processes. It's often nicknamed the ‘sunshine vitamin’ since humans can absorb some vitamin D from exposure to direct sunlight. However, dogs cannot do this and may need extra help.
Vitamin D helps dogs use calcium effectively in their bodies. It helps with muscle and bone growth and recovery after an injury. It also can promote blood flow to muscles, support muscle maintenance, help with kidney function, and offer immune system support.
Vitamin D can be found in a lot of fatty proteins, such as salmon, liver, or eggs. Most dog food should have adequate levels, but since pit bulls tend to suffer from joint pain and hip dysplasia, providing them with enough vitamin D can help keep them strong for longer.
Another important vitamin for pit bulls who suffer from skin ailments and allergies. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant.
Most dogs don’t need a lot of vitamin E, but pit bulls may really benefit from having a supplement. Vitamin E is primarily responsible for maintaining healthy skin and a healthy, shiny coat, as well as providing immune system support against outside influences.
It can also play an important role in pain management in your dog’s health, and it offers support for cell membranes and promotes a healthy liver.
Like other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin E concentrations are the highest in organ and fatty proteins, such as livers, spleens, fish oils, and eggs. It can also be found in a lot of seed and legume oils, such as sunflower oil or soybean oil.
There are also plenty of supplements, such as cod liver oil. Vitamin E is relatively easy to incorporate, as adding a small squirt of oil to your pit bull’s food can make it more enjoyable for them and easier to digest.
Vitamin K is another fat-soluble vitamin. This vitamin helps prevent heart disease, a large concern for several breeds and helps prevent plaque build-up. However, vitamin K’s biggest benefit is its vital role in the blood’s ability to form clots.
Most natural sources of Vitamin K come from green vegetables or fermented foods. Safe sources for dogs include cabbage, green beans, broccoli, ground beef, eggs, or cheese (in moderation).
Vitamin K is also used to treat ingested rat-poisoning cases.
However, some manufactured sources of Vitamin K (K3) have been linked to liver disease and toxicity in dogs, so it is best to only go by a vet’s recommendation when it comes to manufactured Vitamin K supplements.
Many vitamins work alongside nutrients and minerals to promote health. For example, vitamin D works alongside calcium to promote bone growth and magnesium for healthy muscle development.
Omega-3 Fatty acids also provide a lot more good than just providing a source of vitamin E and offer many nutritional benefits.
A good probiotic can also promote good gut function, especially in puppies and older dogs, and can help your pit bull’s immune system fight off tummy troubles in the future.
Too Much of a Good Thing…
Like with anything in life, vitamins can actually be dangerous if taken in toxic amounts. While your dog’s body will generally pass an excess of vitamins out of their system, some can cause real trouble for their liver and kidneys.
Many ‘human vitamin’ supplements can also contain very harmful ingredients to dogs, such as xylitol, or may contain amounts that are way too high for your pit bull to handle.
Be hyper-aware of any serious stomach upsets, weakness, drowsiness, or tremors following purposeful or accidental ingestion of vitamins. Vitamin poisoning can be fatal to dogs if not treated quickly. Acute poisoning can happen if your pit bull eats too many in one sitting, and general poisoning can happen over several weeks if the dosage is too high.
So please don’t just chuck in a multivitamin and call it a day. A balanced diet full of natural vegetables, proteins, grains, and oils will normally provide more than enough vitamins for a healthy dog.
If you believe your dog is suffering from a deficiency, which you can normally tell from…
- Changes to your dog’s feces that last longer than 48 hours
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Coat and skin problems
- Muscle problems or tremors
…And it doesn’t correct after you add more nutrition to their diet - then it is normally best to consult a vet. They should be able to give you the best supplements calculated for your dog’s specific lifestyle and weight.
Like humans, dogs need a variety of vitamins to aid them in their body processes. A lot of these should be readily available in most commercial dog food, but sometimes your dog may require a little more.
Vitamin A - Deals with cell growth, immune support, and eyesight. You can find it in carrots and egg yolks.
Vitamin B - A complex group of vitamins responsible for nervous system functions. They are normally found in grains and pulses, like barley and chickpeas.
Vitamin C - A huge immune-system supporter that helps with iron uptake. It can be found in pumpkin, carrots, kale, and strawberries.
Vitamin D Helps bone growth, joint support, and muscle health. It can be found in many fatty proteins such as liver, egg, and fish.
Vitamin E - Plays a massive role in maintaining healthy, moisturized skin and a shiny coat. It can be found in many oily and fatty foods, such as grain oils, liver oils, fish, and organs.
Vitamin K - This is an important vitamin in helping the blood to be able to clot efficiently and prevent heart disease. It can be found in several green vegetables such as green beans, cabbage, broccoli, etc.
Whatever decision you make for your dog’s health, research the options available, as well as how much of a supplement your dog needs to take. Be careful of overdoses, as well as predatory pseudo-science supplements.
If in doubt, it's best to consult a vet first.
After you have made sure that your pit bull is safe on the inside, why not make sure they're safe on the outside by ensuring they stay warm and toasty this winter with Sparkpaw’s new line of doggy sweaters?
It's our goal that your dogs stay warm and healthy this chilly season!