B12 Deficiency in Near-Vegan Dog

Just got a note from a reader that her dog developed signs of B12 deficiency:

“I was feeding her a [home-cooked] vegan diet, except for a little fish oil, and giving her 500 micrograms B12 every 4 days. She started yelping when I’d open her mouth to give her a pill. The vet couldn’t find a reason. That went away, but she got chronic diarrhea and decreased appetite, also no reason found. Then on a walk, she started limping, then staggering around. Then she collapsed. The vets found no reason for her problems. But B12 deficiency can cause diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite and ataxia, and nothing else I know of causes all those symptoms. I’m now giving her 500 micrograms every day, and she’s almost completely back to normal. I wrote the vet a letter suggesting it was B12 deficiency, but I haven’t heard back.”

“She needs 10 mcg B12 if given every day, according to Nutrient Requirements of Dogs – but probably at least 2,000 micrograms if only every 4 days.”

18 Responses to “B12 Deficiency in Near-Vegan Dog”

  1. John Says:

    Hi,

    I was just wondering, what is your medical (and ethical if you care to share) opinion on animals forced to vegan diet? Do you think they crave and/or need animal products even if proper supplemented with B12 and taurine?

    Thank you,
    your biggest fan! ;)

  2. Jack Norris RD Says:

    John,

    > your biggest fan!

    Nice!

    I think that as long as they can be healthy, and it appears that most dogs can, then it is ethically okay to feed dogs a vegan diet. I do not know what sort of cravings they have but many appear not to be suffering because of it.

    I would recommend the book, Obligate Carnivore by Jed Gillen. I think he does an excellent job discussing the issues. It is a quick and interesting read.

    If someone thinks (or knows) that their cat (or dog) cannot be healthy eating vegan, then I think they should try to feed them sources of animal products that do not contribute to the deaths of farmed animals. Although if doing this becomes very expensive or time-consuming and cuts down on the amount of other types of animal advocacy they can do, it might not be worth it over just buying dog or cat food.

    At some point in the future, I hope that society will evolve to the point that we no longer keep carnivorous companion animals as I do not think it is “right” to kill one mammal or bird to feed it to another mammal or bird, other things being equal.

  3. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Another good source of info:

    http://www.veganhealth.org/#camp_an

  4. Lisa A. Says:

    This is a very difficult issue for us as we got a puppy about 5 months ago. The nutritionally complete vegan dog food that is available on the market is only suitable for adult dogs. Our dog is almost 8 months old now and he is no longer rapidly growing, so it is easier to feed him a vegan diet. We currently mainly use home-cooked meals prepared with VegeDog, which has vitamin B12 and taurine, neither of which can be found in plant foods. Dry kibble from V-Dog also has L-carnitine in addition to B12 and taurine. To my knowledge, this is the only nutritionally complete dry dog food. However, the protein content of that food is not that high, so it might be only suitable for dogs who completely stopped growing.

  5. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Lisa,

    Do dogs need taurine and carnitine? I didn’t think they did.

  6. Ron Says:

    They do: http://www.ortovet.ro/mesaje/Dog_Health_Survey.pdf

  7. Eleni Says:

    Perhaps anecdotal, but our dog is almost 10, and she has been vegan since about one year old (except for her occasional ‘dumpster diving.’)

    She still goes on hikes (runs and jumps off of small cliffs), swims, plays, and is very active. We feed her Nature’s Recipe vegetarian formula (found at Petco/Petsmart) dry & canned. It’s vegan.

    She also eats carrots, kale stems, and broccoli stems here and there.

    People often comment how young she looks and acts…though for a German Shepherd / Husky mix she’s about at the end of her life cycle, statistically.

  8. Laura Says:

    I’m the reader who wrote to JN about B12 deficiency in my dog.
    About dogs craving animal food – I don’t notice a special craving for it. I do sometimes feed her kibble with meat as a training treat, and she eagerly eats it. (I’d been doing very little of this when she developed deficiency symptoms). But, she also loves lettuce, and for awhile would eagerly gobble the rough ends of asparagus. Little-known fact that dogs will gobble some vegetables :)
    She eagerly eats her almost-entirely vegan food: refried beans cooked with some grain flour, with brewer’s yeast, berries/lettuce, tahini, fish oil and vitamins on top. So no, she doesn’t seem deprived.
    It seems the lesson here is that if you’re feeding a vegan diet to a dog (or cat), they should get B12 EVERY day.
    I did get a reply from my vet, who said B12 deficiency is definitely a possibility – they have done many kinds of tests on her, with no diagnosis for her problems, and this could explain it.
    My dog was previously diagnosed with small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) which could be causing malabsorption of B12, also.
    The vet said the normal supplementation for B12 deficiency (for my 60-pound dog) would be more like 100-200 mcg/day rather than the 500 mcg/day I’ve been giving her.
    So yes, it was basically for ethical reasons that I decided to make her home-cooked diet vegan. Having heard of the grim conditions of farm animals, I’d rather not be a part of that dirty business on a daily basis. Just like with myself, I’m not absolute about it, it’s 95% vegan not 100%.
    It’s probably also cheaper than a store-bought diet – I had to put her in a kennel recently so I bought some commercial dogfood for her, and it was stunningly expensive!

  9. Laura Says:

    PS My dog trotted along my bike for 10 miles when I took her to the kennel the other day, with no signs of fatigue. So she seems entirely recovered!

  10. Laura Says:

    About the Vegedog supplement: This is advertised on some websites as “put this on your vegan dog food and it will become nutritionally complete”. This is not true. I got the nutrientl composition of Vegedog from their website and compared it to my dog’s nutritional needs as explained in “Nutrient Requirements of Dogs”, which is available free online at http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309034965
    With Vegedog, my recipes, based on refried beans, grain flours and fat, still needed things like riboflavin, pantothenic acid and choline.
    So I stopped buying Vegedog and bought the individual vitamins she needs. It’s much less expensive to do it that way, too.
    I give her 500 mg of choline/day. Choline is a vitamin that is often ignored, and if you’re vegan and you don’t happen to take soy lecithin as a supplement, you’re quite likely to not get the Adequate Intake of it, since plant foods don’t have much. Dogs need more of it for their body weight than people do.

  11. Laura Says:

    > I hope that society will evolve to the point that we no longer keep carnivorous companion animals as I do not think it is “right” to kill one mammal or bird to feed it to another mammal or bird, other things being equal.

    Dogs aren’t all that carnivorous, though. They’re more carnivores than people are – I noticed when I was looking at the nutrient requirements of dogs that for the vitamins and minerals that are more available in animal food than in plant food, dogs need more than people do.
    Cats really are carnivores, and I’d hesitate to feed a cat a vegan diet. And if you let the cat roam at all, I think it will quickly de-veganize itself by eating mice and birds.
    I don’t think people will stop needing the companionship of animals. Especially people who’ve been hurt by the human race. Dogs have been important to me for many years, although in recent years I’ve often felt I’d rather have “pets” by feeding the squirrels. At least that doesn’t involve vet visits and the endless worries of responsibility.
    If you don’t wear mosquito repellent you have pets too :) Being non-vegan by eating your blood …

  12. Mary Says:

    This is interesting. I guess you can say I feed my dog a “half vegan diet.” I just don’t know where to get complete nutrition information for veggie dogs. Her breed is also prone to UTIs so I’m also concerned about that. The only thing I’ve found on the web is a vegan vet that does encourage vegan diets for dogs with vegdog supplementation. I looked for the individual L-Carnitine and Taurine supplements for dogs but all I found was really expensive ones.

    Sigh. No I personally don’t enjoy buying and cooking meat for her but I’d be too concerned for her health. I need to do more extensive research. I had her before I went vegan but she still depends on me. I buy hers at WF which is probably not the best place? Idk. Her diet consists of lentils, split peas, brown rice, millet, quinoa, flax seeds, carrots, peas, broccoli, pumpkin, tofu sometimes, sweet potatoes, nutritional yeast, olive oil, parsley, and a little bit of meat. Supplements: Soy lecithin, alfafa powder, and calcium.

    It seems like people attack you aggressively if you’re even considering a veggie diet for your dog. They think you’re crazy! Even though there has been many healthy veggie dogs living long happy lives. I think as long as you’re careful and giving your dog everything they need to be happy and healthy, I don’t see a problem. My dog loves veggie food as well.

    There are many people who buy kibble from the grocery store and have no clue of what all is in there.

  13. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Many cats have thrived (at least for a number of years) on a vegan diet that was properly supplemented, while other cats stop eating (which can be very dangerous). You can read up on vegan diets for cats in this article by Armaiti May, DVM:

    veganhealth.org/articles/vegan_cats

  14. Name (required) Says:

    Dogs are natural coprophages and especially like the feces of herbivores, so you could give them your very own vitamin B12 treat.

  15. Lisa A. Says:

    Here is some more info about vegetarian diets for dogs: http://www.vegepets.info/pages/vegetarian_canine_diets.htm

    I understand a concern about keeping pets that need meat in their diets. However, istead of moving away from keeping such animals, we could try to learn more about their nutritional needs and develop vegan food that would satisfy their needs. Our dog is like a baby to me and my husband, and it is hard to imagine living without dogs now that we have experienced what it is like to have him in our lives.

  16. miriam Says:

    Hello,
    I don t think you should feed your dog vegan food.
    They where wolfs before and they are meat eaters.
    If they could make a choice, they eat meat and nothing else.
    I m a vegetarian for a long time, but my dog is not and never will be

    kind regards

  17. Chris Says:

    I’m sure if all the animals who are mistreated and abused on factory farms from birth until they are killed so that they can make it into non-vegan dog food had a choice on what your dog ate, they would want your dog to be vegan and nothing else. As for my dog, he’s perfectly happy eating just about anything…not in the least bit finicky. Just starting him on that nature’s recipe vegetarian dog food mentioned by another writer above. Also got him a dog bone treat yesterday called health bone, which is quinoa based. He’s only 15 pounds so the medium sized bone was a little large for him, but he absolutely loved it. Went to town on it for nearly an entire hour without break before he finally had the last bit down. I’m curious about a dog food I’ve seen with 5 stars on amazon called evolution too. It’s high end but is supposed to be human grade quality.

  18. Deanne Says:

    Umm, My dog has just had his spleen taken out and the sample just came back that it was malignant . Although, it is in remission my husband and I have been looking for foods highest in b’s and omega three’s. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Leave a Reply

*