Choline is an essential nutrient that is categorized as a vitamin. In reality, it is much more complex and is involved in a wide variety of processes inside a dog’s body.
In today’s article, we’re looking at the benefits of choline for dogs, its dosage, what foods it can be found in, and whether or not some pets can suffer from choline deficiency.
What Can Choline Do for Dogs?
This nutrient influences your pet’s body on the whole. Many studies have found that it acts like a neurotransmitter, which is why it can improve neurologic conditions, especially in older animals.
Small doses of choline can also have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health since it can regulate the heart rate. Given that choline is also involved in the dilatation of blood vessels, it would be fair to say that it also regulates blood pressure.
But there are many other functions that this nutrient influences. For example, it helps your dog have normal hormone production and it even regulates the quantity of fluids in their body, which means that it ensures that Fido remains well hydrated.
Choline can also influence digestion through the liver since it is said to stimulate the production of gallbladder juices. For dogs that have a history of digestive distress such as bloating or constipation, this can be quite important.
It’s also worth noting that choline influences the way fat is metabolized inside your pooch’s body, so it regulates cholesterol levels and protects your pet from developing potentially dangerous health issues, including the development of clots inside the arteries.
And finally, choline is an ingredient of the protective sheath present on the surface of all nerves present in your pup’s body. If this sheath were to be absent, none of the nerves would be functional as any electrical signal couldn’t be transmitted from one nerve to the other.
Natural Food Sources
While there are plenty of vet-approved supplements currently available, and you should definitely ask your veterinarian about this option, choline can also be found in several natural sources.
You do not have to feed your dog exclusively a homemade diet for your pup to benefit from choline. You simply have to give your dog healthier snacks, meaning steering clear of the commercial sticks and treats and opting for wholesome choices, instead.
Choline can be found in some of the following foods:
You probably know that many dogs love peanut butter, which is why some pet parents give them apple sticks dipped in nut butter every now and then. This is a rather healthy snack provided that you do not overdo it — do keep in mind that commercial varieties can contain salt, sugar, as well as preservatives, so try to stick to the cleanest peanut butter you can buy.
Fortunately, goat milk rarely causes digestive issues in dogs as it is perhaps the only type of dairy product that is easily digestible. Small amounts of all of the other foods we have mentioned are safe for dogs.
Choline Deficiency and Overdose
Even though choline deficiency in dogs is a quite rare event, it can still affect some pets, particularly those that are fed a homemade diet.
Some of the clinical signs that you are likely to notice in a pooch that has developed this disorder are the following:
- General malaise
- A lack of appetite for food
When you take your dog to the vet, and they run a blood test, there could be a number of issues that they discover, such as a high level of cholesterol or triglycerides. If this problem is not addressed as soon as possible, dogs can develop hepatic steatosis (essentially known as fatty liver).
On the other hand, there is the possibility that a dog can develop choline poisoning, but this happens very rarely. In that case, the most commonly encountered symptom is anemia.
Should You Give Your Dog Choline Supplements?
You should never give your dog any supplements whatsoever without first asking your veterinarian. They are the person that knows best what potential health issues your dog might have and if choline makes a good choice for your pup.
Many vets agree that choline supplementation is beneficial for many reasons and can actually improve the conditions of dogs that have diabetes. It can also vastly improve the quality of life for dogs that have a cognitive disorder (which commonly affects senior pets) and those that experience seizures.
If your pup has a history of digestive upsets or has been diagnosed with a liver pathology of any kind, you should never give them choline supplements without asking your vet.
The daily dosage of this nutrient is 20 to 40 mg per day, but it depends on your pet’s weight, so they are supposed to receive approximately .5 to 1 mg per pound.
Choline and Other Drugs
Another reason to refrain from giving your dog choline supplements is that it’s actually known to interact with other medications. If your dog is undergoing treatment for blood pressure, whether high, low, or blood pressure fluctuations, you should never give them choline on your own.
Additionally, since choline is also involved in fat metabolism, in general, if your dog is being treated for hepatitis or receives medication for chronic conditions (which could, in time, also affect the liver), it can interact with those drugs, too.