Why Vitamin B3/Niacin is Essential for Dogs & Where to Find It in Foods
Step 10 of 18 in the Dogly Basic Nutrition Channel
with Savannah Welna of FeedThyDog, Nutrition Advocate

Niacin plays essential roles both large and small in ensuring your dog's wellness and vitality.

It's critical for energy production to help dogs live their best, active lives (not unlike dogs, we humans count on niacin for generating energy, too).

Building things, taking things down, and recycling other nutrients all require niacin in order to work efficiently.

What is niacin

As part of the vitamin B group, niacin/B3 is a water soluble vitamin. That means it can't be stored in the body and should be available daily.

Although a dog's body can synthesize niacin from proteins and the amino acid tryptophan through tryptophan metabolism in the liver, it isn't known precisely how much niacin (sometimes called nicotinic acid) can be made - and the rate this occurs can vary.

That's why it’s important to provide niacin in your dog's diet every day to be certain your dog is getting a good daily dose. Since synthesizing niacin requires using other nutrients, it's best to get niacin directly from food.


What niacin does for our dogs

A lot of things in your dog's body require energy and therefore require niacin.

Niacin's main job is to turn food into energy. It helps keep your dog's nervous system and digestive system healthy and functioning - and supports healthy skin. In fact, niacin/B3 together with pantothenic acid/B5 are known for keeping skin strong and hydrated.

The less talked-about roles of niacin include DNA repair and stimulating the production and operation of neurotransmitters for healthy cognitive function and mood.

Food sources of niacin for dogs

Animal protein sources

Niacin is found in proteins and fats, so it's important to provide these nutrients in a dog's diet. Animal proteins like beef, chicken, and lamb are good sources of niacin as well as fish and eggs (which include fatty acids such as omega-3s and together with niacin can help lower cholesterol).

Vegetarian sources of niacin

Vegetarian sources of niacin include seeds and legumes such as flax seeds, chickpeas, lentils, and beans, nuts like peanuts and almonds, grains such as wheat germ or bran, vegetables like potatoes and mushrooms, and fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and avocados.

When it comes to niacin, you can include it in your dog’s diet by providing your pup with a nutritionally balanced meal plan or supplementing his or her daily meals with niacin-rich foods.

By including niacin-rich foods in your dog's meals, you can help ensure your pup is getting all the niacin needed each day. Plus, niacin-rich foods are not only delicious, they also provide your pup with many other nutrients like protein and fiber.


Plant vs. animal-based sources

When it comes to niacin, dogs should get it primarily from animal-based foods. Niacin from cereal grains is bound and has very low bioavailability. Nuts and legumes are niacin-rich but still have low bioavailability, with niacin found in animal proteins having the highest bioavailability.

No matter which niacin-rich food sources you choose to include in your pup’s meals, it’s important to provide your dog with a balanced diet that is rich in niacin that can fuel your dog's energy needs.

What about niacin deficiency

Deficiencies are rare and would manifest from lack of food.

Severe disturbances to the skin, gut, mouth, are seen in those cases and eventually death occurs.

Most homemade diets are heavy in animal products that include plenty of niacin and commercial foods that are processed most often (when following nutrient guidelines) supplement niacin.

Lean meat in general is a great source of niacin. Providing your dog with plenty of fresh animal-based food will boost your pup's niacin quite easily!

Does cooking & storage affect niacin?

Niacin is one of the more stable B vitamins and is minimally at risk for destruction by air, heat or light. You can feel confident in sharing home-cooked meats, fish, and eggs with your dog to fulfill niacin requirements.


Requirements: how much do dogs need?

Dogs expending more energy will need more niacin. Similar to the other water soluble vitamins, disturbances to the gut and some medical conditions will increase the niacin requirement.

On average, a dog needs about 13 mg of niacin a day to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. If you're feeding a quality food or a raw diet, then your dog should be getting the right amounts of vitamin B3. (Very rarely would you need to supplement niacin beyond a proper diet - and only in those cases when your vet recommends it, to avoid the risk of overly high doses and side effects.)

Niacin is easy to provide in the diet if you're feeding an animal-based high quality diet!

Steps to evaluate niacin (B3) in your dog's diet

  1. Identify niacin in your dog's food: If you're feeding homemade or commercial dog food, identify the niacin sources- especially if you're a DIY feeder or feeding local raw food blends.
  2. If you're feeding canned and/or kibble: how can you add fresh niacin to your dog’s diet (start by checking sources above)?

Next up in the Basic Nutrition Channel on Dogly

Now that you have a good understanding of vitamin B3, continue to the next essential vitamin step-by-step guide on vitamin B5/pantothenic acid.

Or hop over to the Basic Nutrition Channel if you'd like to ask a question in the Community discussion and start any of the other step-by-step guides in Needed Nutrients.

If you ever need more personalized nutrition guidance, please reach out!

Savannah Welna of FeedThyDog

Nutrition Advocate
Dogly loves Savannah because she provides nutrition advice based on the dog in front of you and your lifestyle.

Savannah guides you

Raw Feeding - Basic Nutrition - Fresh Feeding - Home Cooking - Whole Foods - Supplementation

Savannah is certified

CN & ACN - Certified Canine Fitness - & Certified Advanced Canine Nutrition