Is Biotin Safe for Dogs?
Though the wonders of modern medicine have endowed us and our dogs with a wide range of drugs designed to treat every possible ailment, those of us who are more interested in natural remedies have started investing in dietary supplements rather than prescription drugs. Many people have always taken a daily multivitamin, but today, more and more of us have started taking specific supplements that have been marketed for specific ailments. Whether we are taking B12 for energy, Vitamin C to stave off a cold, or DHA for brain health, supplements have become an important ritual for many of us.
While humans struggle with fatigue and headaches, dogs struggle with skin problems, and one of the dietary supplements most often praised for its effect on skin health is biotin. Also known as Vitamin H, biotin is easy to find in any place that sells over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements. But is it a good idea to use these supplements on our furry friends? Can my dog have biotin?
The answer is yes, you can give your dog biotin, but you should always seek veterinary care for any serious or chronic skin problem. Biotin occurs naturally in foods like pecans, walnuts, peas, and sunflower seeds, but it is also available in tablets and gel caps that can be taken once or twice per day. While studies on dietary supplements often have mixed results, there is some evidence which suggests that biotin may prevent or alleviate mild skin problems in canines.
Biotin plays an important role in supporting healthy cell growth. Many of us take biotin supplements that are marketed as being able to give us strong, thick, healthy hair and nails. Though your dog probably isn’t interested in achieving thick, luxurious, magazine-worthy locks, biotin supplements may be able to improve their health in much the same way.
When pet parents supplement their dogs’ diets with biotin, it is usually to treat common and mild skin problems like itching, dandruff, and dull or coarse hair. If your dog’s coat is thin and rough, or if their nails seem brittle, a biotin supplement may help them grow stronger fur and nails.
Biotin deficiency is relatively rare in dogs, but its symptoms can include dry or thinning hair, skin lesions, chronic fatigue, depression, and other behavioral changes. Dogs who are suffering from skin problems may scratch or gnaw at the most irritated areas on their body, which can result in unsightly bald spots and open wounds.
Though some dogs may recommend from a biotin supplement, any kind of nutritional deficiency is a sign of an inadequate diet. Before adding a supplement to your dog’s diet, consult a veterinarian to see how you can alter their daily diet to meet all of their nutritional needs. A healthy dog consuming a balanced diet usually will not develop any deficiencies. While supplements may be helpful to replenish your dog’s stores after an extended period of deficiency, it is usually better for your dog to get all of their nutrition from food instead of relying on pills.
It is also important to note that biotin will not help all skin conditions. Skin and hair problems are a symptom of many ailments that range in severity, so any chronic skin problems should be reported to your veterinarian. Any time you try to treat your dog’s symptoms without veterinary guidance, you run the risk of misdiagnosis.
Things to Consider
Treating the wrong condition will not only be frustrating and ineffective, but it may also waste precious time. If your dog has a more serious condition that causes dermatitis and hair loss, wasting time on biotin supplements will only worsen their prognosis over time. Even if you think your dog is biotin deficient, it is strongly recommended that you take them to see a vet before you add any medications, including supplements, to their routine.
Biotin is a water soluble vitamin, so the risk of overdose is almost nonexistent—it is unlikely that your dog will suffer from kidney or liver damage as a result of taking a biotin supplement. That said, most things can be harmful in excess, so it is usually best to ask a veterinarian for dosing instructions. The average recommended dose for dogs seems to be around 5mg of biotin per 20 lbs of body weight every 24 hours. When searching for a biotin supplement, make sure that biotin is the only vitamin in the pill—many supplements contain a combination of vitamins and minerals, and some of these products may be harmful to dogs in excess. Never administer human multivitamins to canines.
In the end, though biotin supplements are safe for dogs, they are generally useless. If your furry friend is healthy and eating a balanced diet, they have no need for a biotin supplement. If, however, their diet is lacking and they are suffering from itching and other skin problems, giving them biotin may provide some relief. If your dog’s skin condition worsens or does not go away, seek veterinary care.