Dogs need Vitamin B complex for the assimilation of protein and fat. They are also used in the process to change carbohydrates into glucose providing energy to the body
There is not just one B vitamin, but rather a complex of several different B vitamins, each playing different or complementary roles and your dog needs all of these in its diet.
These vitamins are water-soluble, so they flush through the body in four to eight hours. Since none of these are found naturally in dogs, it means they need to be replenished with the food you feed your dog
Vitamin C is the only other type of water-soluble vitamin and the B-complex vitamins work more efficiently if there is sufficient Vitamin C in the diet and both are critical to protein and fat absorption.
What Constitutes the Vitamin B Complex?
The vitamin B-complex refers to all of the known essential water-soluble vitamins except for vitamin C. These include:
- Thiamine (vitamin B1)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- Pyridoxine (vitamin B6)
- Folic Acid and the Cobalamins (vitamin B12).
Why do dogs need vitamin B complex?
B vitamins are essential for dogs health. They are required for the following:
- Healthy growth
- Nervous and immune system function
- Energy production
- Cell metabolism
- Organ and tissue health
- Muscle, coat, skin and eye health
- Appetite and digestion
B vitamins act as coenzymes and play a key role in the metabolism of carbohydrate, protein and fat. When their supply is limited, the central nervous system can be the first to be affected.
Like a well-oiled machine, B vitamins work together to support energy production and the health of your pet’s brain, liver, muscle, nervous and immune systems, skin, coat, and eyes.
This means your dog or cat must get the entire B complex of vitamins through diet every day. And your pet needs them in the right proportions to each other.
You should also ensure that your dog is getting enough vitamin C, which is also water soluble, as these vitamins will only do their jobs when the other is also available to your dog.
Symptoms that your dog is suffering from B Complex Deficiency
Vitamin B deficiency symptoms in dogs may include
- Excessive shedding
- Constantly picking up fleas and ticks and potentially showing allergies to them
- Flies bother them in the summer
- Dirty and or decaying teeth and worse than normal breath
- Cracks around the mouth
- Sores around the umbilicus/belly or the feet – if your dog licks here a lot, this may be a symptom
- Motion sickness
- Weight gain and constipation
- Your dog becomes more interested in eating other dog’s (or fox, deer etc) stools
- Hair loss or skin allergies
- Chronic ear problems
- Developing kidney or metabolic diseases
- Premature greying or pigmentation changes
- Poor reaction to vaccines
- Behavioural changes such as becoming anxious and stressed or more aggressive or even showing signs that they are not thinking clearly
- Increased cholesterol levels
How much B Complex Vitamins Should You Give To Your Dog
A typical supplement tablet will include
- 60 mcg Vitamin B 12
- 60 mg Niacinamide
- 30 mg Pantothenic Acid
- 9.5 mg Riboflavin
- 7.2 mg Thiamin
- 1.2 mg Folic Acid
Typically, for a 50lb dog, two of these should be given to them with their food (assuming they are fed twice daily)
These amounts can be scaled, so a 25lb dog would be fed half a tablet with each meal and a large, 100lb dog would be fed two.
You will need to check your supplements for the amount they have and read the label for the suggested dose.
Should I supplement Vitamin B Complex in my dog’s diet?
As we mentioned, Vitamin B complex is essential and you should ensure that your dog is getting enough of these vitamins. However, unlike fat-soluble vitamins, these are water soluble and, with the exception of B12, excess amounts aren’t stored in your pet’s body. Rather, they pass through via his or her urine
For this reason, if there is any doubt that your dog is getting enough vitamin B complex, you can supplement as there is little danger of a build up in your dog’s system.
Should I supplement the individual B Vitamins?
There is no known food in which the B complex vitamins are isolated. So if you decide to feed extra B6 for example, it should always be fed along with the rest of the complex.
So although the B vitamins can be bought as single components. It is possible to buy B1, B6, Vitamin B12, etc. and many people use these vitamins without using the whole complex. However, all of these are required for your pet to be healthy.
The various B vitamins usually come together naturally so there should be an overall balance if your diet is good. If you need to supplement, you should do this with the whole complex.
There are very few reasons why a dog would be deficient in just one of these vitamins, so if they are there will be something wrong. However, vitamin B12 can be hard for some dogs to digest
The usual treatment for this is to administer this by syringe. This is not as tricky as it sounds and some vets will show owners how to do this for their pets, while others insist on doing it.
Typically though, no one part of the complex should be isolated for more than one month without re-evaluation.
What is a good source of vitamin B for a dog?
This complex is available naturally in
- Brewers yeast
- Wheat bran
- Wheat germ
- Organs such as kidney and heart
However, even diets containing these ingredients, often fall short of providing today’s dog with enough Vitamin B. Also, being a water-soluble vitamin, it needs to be replenished.
Vitamin B Complex in Vegetarian diets for dogs
Vegetarian diets are notoriously low in Vitamin B and will often require more supplementation.
There are some good vegetarian and vegan supplements, although you again need to be careful as their bio-availability may not be as good as others and hence may require larger doses.
Typically Niacin (vitamin B3) is the most likely to be deficient in a vegetarian diet for dogs. The reality is that dogs are omnivorous and great care is needed to get a vegetarian diet to be nutritionally adequate for dogs
VITAMIN B-COMPLEX IN DOG FOOD
Commercial dog food contains this complex, but it is fragile. It can be destroyed by heat, light and air.
Since many commercial dog foods reach temperatures beyond 118 degrees Fahrenheit, or approximately 48 degrees Celsius, in the processing, this can destroy or negatively alter many vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
The amount of complex actually available to the dog through many commercial diets, therefore, is minimal.
Additionally, many of the B-vitamins are destroyed when exposed to light and air. So if the food is left in the dog bowl for any length of time, will have a much lower proportion of the B-complex vitamins (another reason not to leave their food down!)
So for many diets, B complex supplementation should be considered
Should I give my dogs Vitamin B Complex If my Dog Is On Antibiotics?
B-Complex vitamins should also be fed at any time antibiotics are used. Most antibiotics destroy the B-vitamins in the intestinal tract, often resulting in diarrhea.
Supplementing will help your dog cope with both the antibiotics and the ailment the antibiotics have been prescribed to treat.
Can Dogs Eat Human Vitamin B Complex Supplements?
Human vitamins are essentially the same as the ones for dogs. They’re often easier to find and more affordable that supplements made specifically for pets.
However not all human supplements are ideal for your pet. Firstly people are generally much larger than dogs, so the dose will be much higher.
Water-soluble vitamins are the safest because only small amounts of the vitamin will be stored in the dog’s body, so if you do give them too much it will have minimal negative effects.
The components of the Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B complex consists of a multitude of B vitamins. We will detail thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folic acid, B12, and biotin. All are B vitamins and together form the water-soluble vitamin B complex. Toxicities from B vitamins generally pose no concern so we will mainly discuss their functions and the conditions that may result from deficiencies.
Thiamin, or vitamin B1, was the very first water-soluble vitamin to be identified. It is required for the normal function of muscles and nerves as it is used in the conversion of glucose to energy.
Thiamin is found in plants, vegetables, fruits, milk, fish, and other meats. Like all water-soluble vitamins, it is not stored within the body so it is extremely important that the diet has a sufficiently high amount.
In veterinary medicine, a thiamin deficiency is generally associated with pets that are fed a large amount of raw fish. Herring, smelt, and catfish contain large amounts of thiaminase, an enzyme that destroys thiamin.
Pets fed these raw meats as a sole source of food will become thiamin deficient. Cooking fish prior to feeding will destroy the thiaminase enzyme, and therefore, cooked fish poses no problem.
A deficiency of thiamin results in loss of appetite, weakness, loss of reflexes, loss of nerve control, and eventually death.
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, has been proven to be essential to normal growth, muscle development, and a good coat.
It is found naturally in organ meats and dairy products and in much lower quantities in grains, vegetables, and fruits. The unsupplemented vegetarian pet is at extreme risk of developing a riboflavin deficiency.
Dogs fed a diet deficient in vitamin B2 will have poor growth, eye abnormalities, weakness in rear limbs, and eventually heart failure. Deficient patients usually have periodic episodes of fainting, and this is termed the ‘collapsing syndrome of dogs.’
Niacin plays a role mainly in helping enzymes to function properly.
Niacin is found in good levels in meats and meat by-products and is very low in vegetables and grains. Niacin deficiency is generally encountered when owners formulate their own diets for their pets and do not include meat as part of the ration.
Be very careful when trying to convert a pet into a vegetarian diet. Niacin deficiency is one of the biggest issues with vegetarian diets for dogs.
‘Black tongue’ and ‘sore mouth disease’ are the terms used to describe a dog suffering from a niacin deficiency.
A pet suffering with black tongue/niacin deficiency will lose weight, fail to eat, and have red inflamed gums, lips, and inner cheeks. Bloody diarrhea and death may follow.
Pantothenic Acid/Vitamin B5
Pantothenic acid enables the body to create usable energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
It is found in sufficient quantities in most raw foodstuffs including meats and vegetables.
Processing of these will typically reduce the amount of pantothenic acid available to the dog.
The symptoms of pantothenic acid deficiency include loss of hair, diarrhea, and gastric (stomach) upsets. It has also been associated with abnormal graying, particularly in black-coated animals.
Pyridoxine, also known as vitamin B6, is used by the body in the utilization of amino acids. It is absolutely essential for life.
Vitamin B6 is found in many foods, but processing easily destroys it.
Deficiencies of pyridoxine lead to anemia, poor growth, kidney stones, tooth cavities, skin lesions, and in advanced cases, death. There are no known toxicities.
Folic Acid/cyanocobalamin/cobalamin/Vitamin B12
Folic acid and vitamin B12 (also called cyanocobalamin or cobalamin) are two closely related B complex vitamins and are usually grouped together.
Both vitamins are found in organ meats, so dogs on a vegetarian diet often need supplementation
These vitamins are used by the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. A deficiency of either can lead to advanced anemia.
In this type of anemia the red cells are fewer in number but are larger than normal (macrocytic). The number of white blood cells may also be reduced.
Biotin is another B complex vitamin that helps in maintaining healthy skin and hair and it is necessary for growth, digestion, and muscle function. In some animals, it has also been linked to litter size.
Beef liver supplies the richest source of Biotin, with brewers yeast being next highest. Biotin is found in grains but is not always of a usable quantity. Diets rich in corn or soybean are best, while those of wheat and barley are deficient.
Egg yolk is very high in Biotin, while raw egg whites contain an enzyme called avidin that acts to destroy biotin. Cooking inactivates avidin, so cooked egg whites will not have this effect.
If the whole egg is fed, the avidin in the white and the high biotin in the yolk cancel each other out. It is best if raw egg whites are not fed to dogs as Biotin deficiencies have been reported following the ingestion of raw egg whites.
A dog suffering from a lack of biotin may have poor hair, skin lesions, dried eye discharge, diarrhea, decreased litter size, and in advanced cases, a paralysis of the limbs.
How Long Until My Pet Shows Signs of Improvement?
The breed, size and medical condition of the dog will ultimately determine how long it will take to show improvements. For the majority of pets, a few weeks taking the supplement will begin to show improvements in the problems associated with the deficiency,
While the pet is taking the supplements, improvements in appetite and energy, weight gain, and improvement of any gastrointestinal problems should be noticeable.
In bad cases that have required veterinary intervention, the veterinarian will test the pet’s blood regularly, until the levels are acceptable.
How long will my dog have to take Vitamin B Supplementation?
Whether it will need the supplements in the short or long term really depends on the condition and the steps you take to counter the deficit.
If your dog has a chronic condition, then they may always need to take supplements. However many owners can address this with some simple changes to their dog’s diet
The high-heat processing methods used to create most varieties of pet food available today are, unsurprisingly often deficient in B complex vitamins
So whether you feed your pet pelleted, extruded, freeze-dried, semi-moist, baked, canned and even frozen food, you may need to supplement this to ensure they get enough B complex vitamins
Since B complex vitamins are water soluble there is little risk of any major side effects, so if your dog shows any of the symptoms above, then supplementation is a good first port of call to address these.
- 1 What Constitutes the Vitamin B Complex?
- 2 Why do dogs need vitamin B complex?
- 3 Symptoms that your dog is suffering from B Complex Deficiency
- 4 How much B Complex Vitamins Should You Give To Your Dog
- 5 Should I supplement Vitamin B Complex in my dog’s diet?
- 6 What is a good source of vitamin B for a dog?
- 7 Vitamin B Complex in Vegetarian diets for dogs
- 8 VITAMIN B-COMPLEX IN DOG FOOD
- 9 Should I give my dogs Vitamin B Complex If my Dog Is On Antibiotics?
- 10 Can Dogs Eat Human Vitamin B Complex Supplements?
- 11 The components of the Vitamin B Complex
- 12 How long will my dog have to take Vitamin B Supplementation?
- 13 Conclusion