This is an article that was printed in the August 1976 issue of the
A veterinarian has saved many "hopeless" dogs and cats with large doses of
the vitamin they aren't supposed to need. A biochemist is convinced there's
a crucial lesson for humans here.
Vitamin C and Your Pet's Health
If ever an animal was deathly ill, it was the German Shepherd brought by its
owner to the California veterinary hospital. The dog, a five year old
female, was so weak she could not even walk - a pitiful sight! Eating and
drinking were out of the question.
The diagnosis? Severe jaundice. The outlook? According to every medical
textbook, the illness could only end in death.
In this case, however, instead of giving up, the veterinarian elected to try
a rather unusual and heroic form of treatment. He injected large quantities
of vitamin C - 75 grams a day - into his patient. The next morning the
shepherd was up and moving about, eating and drinking for the first time in
days. After three more days of vitamin C injections, the dog was almost
completely recovered - well enough to be discharged into the hands of a
A miracle? Not really. The above example is just one of literally hundreds
of cases indicating that, contrary to popular belief and medical theory,
dogs and cats, although capable of synthesizing their own vitamin C, do not
manufacture all of this nutrient that they need - particularly during times
of stress. That's the thrust of a significant new report by biochemist
Irwin Stone, one of the early pioneers of vitamin C research, and
veterinarian Wendell O. Belfield, D.V.M. (Journal of the International
Academy of Preventive Medicine, vol. II, no. 3, 1975). Their findings,
though primarily focused on animal nutrition and well-being, have important
implications for human health as well.
In the last few years, vitamin C's ability to counteract and destroy
viruses, bacteria and other disease causing toxins in the test tube has been
demonstrated again and again. But what about outside the medical
laboratory, in real life? Here scientists are stymied. They can't fully
test vitamin C's protective effect in humans, because many of the diseases
in question are so dreadful and vicious. To deliberately infect volunteers
with such pathogens would be inhuman. And to treat people already laid low
by such illnesses with vitamin C alone - while withholding the full range of
antibiotics and other drugs available - would strike the typical prudent
doctor or clinician as being unnecessarily risky.
That's why the research findings of Dr. Belfield are so exciting. This
California veterinarian has been treating animal patients at his Bel-Mar
Orthomolecular Veterinary Hospital in San Jose with massive doses of vitamin
C for more than eight years. Using both injections and dietary supplements
of powdered vitamin C, Dr. Belfield has had outstanding success in treating
hundreds of dogs and cats with a wide variety of serious illnesses. His
results provide a tantalizing glimpse of the possibilities large doses of
vitamin C may someday offer the realm of human medicine.
A four month old Doberman Pinscher was brought to the hospital suffering
from distemper, a highly contagious and common viral disease. The animal
was listless and had no appetite. Mucus and pus oozed from its nose and
eyes. Its misery was compounded by bronchitis and a high fever - 104
Dr. Belfield wasted no time. He immediately injected the pinscher with 12.5
grams of sodium ascorbate (vitamin C). Within 30 minutes, the dog's
temperature dropped to 102.5! Injections were continued at regular
intervals. The next morning the dog was greatly improved. It was eating
again, moving around in a more lively manner, and the nose and eye
discharges were diminishing. Temperature continued to decline. On the
third day, Dr. Belfield reports, "The patient was lively, playful and
barking, appetite excellent, eating voraciously." Bronchitis and coughing
were subsiding. In the fifth day, the dog was well enough to go home. Its
owner was advised to continue adding a teaspoon (about 3 grams) of powdered
vitamin C to its food daily.
"This case is typical" of results obtained with vitamin C, says Dr.
Belfield, who has treated approximately 150 distemper cases in eight years.
Dr. Belfield describes another occasion when he was called upon to treat a
poodle suffering from violent vomiting, fever and loss of appetite. In
addition, the animal was found to have a heart murmur.
All the humans in this pet's household had recently been bitten by the flu
"bug", and Dr. Belfield quickly arrived at a diagnosis of London influenza,
a virus which in humans is known to adversely affect the heart muscle.
Vitamin C treatment was begun - 15 grams a day, intravenously, as well as
three grams daily added to dog food. Within a few days the poodle was fully
recovered and the heart murmur was gone. About 250 similar flu cases have
been treated in this way, Dr. Belfield adds.
An All Purpose Virus Killer
"The intravenous use of ascorbate is especially valuable in the therapy of
the viral diseases, as it appears to be an effective, non-specific,
non-toxic virucidal agent," Belfield and Stone conclude. "We have not seen
any viral disease that did not respond to this treatment. Successful
therapy appears to depend on using it in sufficiently large doses.
"It is our belief that in communicable viral diseases," they continue, "the
virus is incapacitated within a few minutes" after the vitamin C is
injected. They point out that healthy, unvaccinated dogs placed in
continued close contact with distemper victims didn't pick up the disease
provided the sick dogs had been treated with vitamin C minutes before.
There's evidence that vitamin C can protect pets from all sorts of
infectious diseases. A male Siamese cat was brought to Dr. Belfield with a
bad case of rhinotracheitis: inflammation of the nasal passages and
windpipe. The cat was running a high temperature, sneezing and had
laryngitis. Two injections of vitamin C (four grams each) were given the
first day. The next morning the cat was well on the way to recovery. The
fever had broken and the other symptoms were disappearing. After two more
vitamin C injections, the patient was discharged - just one of more than 100
rhinotracheitis cases successfully treated with vitamin C by Dr. Belfield.
Megavitamin therapy also brought good results to a male miniature poodle.
This dog had a long history of coughing, mostly in the morning and evening
or whenever he became excited. Dr. Belfield diagnosed the condition as
acute bronchitis, isolated the poodle from other animals at the hospital,
and proceeded to inject vitamin C (75 grams per day in divided doses).
Within 72 hours, the poodle's nagging cough was gone.
How does vitamin C accomplish such amazing feats of healing in animals? At
first, Dr. Belfield wasn't sure, but he went right on using it because it
brought results. "All that was known was that it worked and gave successful
results where other treatments failed," Belfield and Stone point out.
Later they came to the conclusion that dogs and cats simply were not capable
of synthesizing enough of the vitamin in their livers to meet extraordinary
challenges such as disease. "For a long time," they write, "the impression
has existed among veterinarian and others that those mammals capable of
synthesizing their own ascorbate produce enough each day to fully satisfy
their requirements. This is far from the truth, especially during periods
The result is a form of scurvy, the vitamin C deficiency disease. "As a
result of nearly a decade of clinical experience in this area," they say,
"it is our opinion that the incidence and morbidity of chronic subclinical
scurvy amongst dogs and cats is much higher than is generally recognized.
It amounts to an endemic condition afflicting most of these animals
throughout their lives."
With this basis for understanding vitamin C's protective mechanism, Dr.
Belfield has gone on to treat a formidable array of seemingly unrelated pet
problems. Here are just a few examples:
A female mixed terrier suffered from severe allergy in the spring. Every
time she stepped into the back yard she began sneezing, and her eyes teared
excessively. Both a potent steroid drug and a widely prescribed
antihistamine had failed to help. Dr. Belfield gave the terrier a five-gram
injection of vitamin C and told her owner to add one to two grams more of
the vitamin to the dog's food daily. The very next day, the owner called to
report that the terrier was free of all allergic symptoms!
"Ascorbate is the natural antihistamine which has been used by the mammals
for millions of years to detoxify the effects of histamine," the authors
Bladder Problems Solved
A female miniature poodle with a long history of cystitis (bladder
inflammation) was brought to the hospital. This animal had previously been
treated with sulfa drugs and various antibiotics, but the symptoms always
returned within a few weeks. Dr. Belfield prescribed daily supplementation
with one gram of vitamin C, and the cystitis completely disappeared.
Eighteen months later the poodle was still symptom free.
"High levels of ascorbate in the urine tend to lower its pH (make it more
acid) and endow it with antibacterial, antiviral, anticancer and healing
qualities," the authors comment. "Excretion of high levels of ascorbate in
the urine is not "wasted" as many authors in human medicine contend."
A four year old male cat was brought to the veterinarian with recurring
stones so severe the animal could not urinate at all. The cat's owner was
advised to add one to two grams of vitamin C to the animal's food daily.
The symptoms disappeared, and nine months later no new stones had formed.
An 80 pound Labrador Retriever was brought to Dr. Belfield suffering from
spinal degeneration. This is an intensely painful and crippling condition
with no known cure. Penicillin, streptomycin and tetracycline were tried in
vain. As a last resort, the doctor injected 80 grams of vitamin C.
Improvement was noticed within 16 hours. After three more days of
injections, the retriever was switched over to vitamin C supplementation in
its food - 60 grams daily. "The improvement was progressive and gradual;
within three months the patient was normal."
"The client was so impressed," the authors add, "that he purchases the
sodium ascorbate in kilogram quantities and plans to administer it for the
remainder of the dog's life. This is but one of some 10 cases successfully
treated in like manner."
Dr. Belfield is convinced that vitamin C offers hope of preventing an even
more tragic and baffling disorder, particularly among larger dogs: hip
dysplasia. Twenty-five percent of all guide dogs for the blind are lost
every year because of this crippling structural disorder, Dr. Belfield told
Prevention in a recent interview.
Yet there is much clinical evidence that vitamin C taken as a food
supplement during puppyhood will prevent this malformation from ever
developing in the mature dog. "It's a collagen problem. Vitamin C will
prevent this from occurring," Dr. Belfield told us. (Vitamin C is essential
for the formation of healthy collagen, the body's connective substance
sometimes referred to as intercellular "cement".)
In a similar vein, Dr. Belfield was able to help an eight week old Doberman
pup suffering from an abnormal bony growth which kept the carpal joint of
the right front leg constantly flexed. "It appeared that the carpal
ligaments were not holding the carpal joint in normal position and might be
related to poor collagen quality in the ligament." After three days of
vitamin C treatment, the joint returned to normal.
The outcome of this last case must have been particularly gratifying to Dr.
Belfield, since the pup's condition had previously been labeled hopeless,
with the recommendation that the animal be "put to sleep".
All Pets Need Vitamin C Daily
Vitamin C is too basic a nutrient to be reserved exclusively for such heroic
rescue attempts, however. Dr. Belfield recommends that all pets receive a
daily maintenance dose of the vitamin as a routine prophylactic measure to
protect against future problems. He has found that regular supplements of
vitamin C mixed with food help keep animals in good health, more mentally
alert and playful, and with improved resistance to infections. He suggests
a large dog (over 50 pounds) might need three to six grams of supplemental
vitamin C a day, while a smaller dog (under 25 pounds) would require
three-quarters to a gram and a half. No side effects or toxicity have been
observed using vitamin C in this way, he assured us.
Dogs and cats are "particularly low producers" of this critical vitamin,
according to the authors. But keep in mind that we humans don't produce any
of our own vitamin C at all. Whereas a small 20 pound dog, for example,
might manufacture approximately 360 mg. of vitamin C in its liver daily (and
still need more in times of stress), a 150 pound human doesn't synthesize
any. Whatever vitamin C we get, we must get from our diet and from food
Yet this basic human need for adequate vitamin C is often overlooked. As
Belfield and Stone put it, "The failure to recognize and differentiate
between the premortal signs of frank clinical scurvy and the more insidious,
less dramatic, but nonetheless serious, subclinical scurvy has been a
stumbling block for the past 40 years in clinical research in both
veterinary medicine and in human medicine" (emphasis added).
In a letter to Nutrition Today (vol. 10, no. 3, 1975) biochemist Stone goes
a step further: Given our new understanding of vitamin C's disease fighting
ability, he proclaims, "There is no longer any excuse for anyone dying of a
And as the two partners in research sum up in their joint report, "We have
always been cautioned to be wary of something that has the appearance of a
panacea drug, but this effect of large doses of vitamin C is much more than
mere drug action; it is a completely new basic modality or rationale for
overcoming disease stress."