The Dog Food Project
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Vitamins are organic substances required by the body in minute amounts as essential enzymes, enzyme precursors, or coenzymes for many of the body's metabolic processes. Most vitamins can not be synthesized by the body and need to be supplied with the food in sufficient quantities.
Vitamins are divided into two groups:
Fat soluble vitamins
Vitamin A (Retinol, beta carotene as precursor)
Effects: Vision, appetite, maintenance of the skin and coat. Natural beta carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A based on its needs) has antioxidant activity. In supplements, the natural form is identified by descriptions like "from D. salina", "from an algal source", "from a palm source", or as "natural beta-carotene" on the label. The synthetic form is identified only as "beta-carotene".
Vitamin D (Calciferol)
Effects: Promotes the body's absorption of calcium, which is essential for normal development and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones. It also helps maintain adequate blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Can be manufactured by the body under sufficient exposure to UV radiation. Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine 3 times weekly is adequate to produce the body's requirement of vitamin D.
Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Effects: Acts as a biological antioxidant, and is required for normal reproduction. There are several forms of vitamin E. The most biologically active form is know as alpha-tocopherol, which should be supplemented as alpha-tocopherol, alpha-tocopherol acetate, or alpha-tocopherol succinate. Other forms, like gamma-tocopherol or beta-tocopherol, do not provide the same level of protection. Vitamin E from natural sources is labeled as alpha tocopherol or d-alpha tocopherol - dl-alpha tocopherol indicates a synthetic, less effective product. Do not give cheap vitamin E supplements that contain high levels of vitamin A, since this could lead to an overdose of vitamin A and possibly vitamin A toxicity. Vitamin E is also important for the formation of red blood cells and it helps the body to utilize vitamin K.
Vitamin K (Naphthoquinone)
Effects: Required for blood clotting. The bacteria present in the healthy intestine can synthesize all the vitamin K the body needs, so supplementation is generally not necessary.
Water soluble vitamins
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Effects: Conversion of carbohydrates into energy, essential for
the functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system.)
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Effects: Plays a role in many enzyme reactions of the metabolism.
Also important for growth, red blood cell production, maintenance
of skin and coat, breakdown of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Effects: Assists in the functioning of the digestive system, skin,
and nerves and is also important for the conversion of food to
energy. The amino acid tryptophan is a provitamin of niacin.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Effects: Important in many enzyme reactions in metabolism and the
synthesis of hormones.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Effects: Prevents skin conditions and nerve problems, supports the
synthesis of antibodies by the immune system, helps maintain
normal nerve function, and acts in the formation of red blood
cells and in protein metabolism.
Vitamin B8 (Biotin)
Effects: Essential for the protein and fatty acid metabolism.
Occurs in 8 different forms but only one of these, D-biotin, is
found in nature and has full vitamin activity.
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid, Folate)
Effects: Along with vitamin B12 and vitamin C folic acid helps to
digest and utilize proteins, to synthesize new proteins when
needed, and aids tissue growth and cell function. It is also
necessary for the production of red blood cells and the synthesis
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin, Cyanocobalamin)
Effects: Important in the formation of blood and the maintenance
of the nervous system.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Effects: Vitamin C is synthesized in the liver by dogs. It is important in collagen synthesis, and in many other metabolic reactions, including proper functioning of the immune system. Since the dog's body produces Vitamin C, many pet food manufacturers and veterinarians state that it is not required in the food and that oversupplementation may be harmful. This is not true, and supplementation in an appropriate form (for example Ester-C, calcium ascorbate) can have beneficial effects on dogs suffering from chronic joint and musculoskeletal disorders. In puppies it helps to prevent the development of such disorders.
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