Vitamins are required for physiological functions that are necessary for growth, development, maintenance, and reproduction in animal and human bodies. Basically, they are necessary for life to continue and the life of your pet. In the proper amounts, vitamins help maintain life. Vitamins are categorized as water-soluble or fat-soluble. An excess or deficiency in any of them will cause significant, if not, serious consequences to the health of your pet.

  Vitamin D, for example, plays a role in bone growth and maintenance, controls absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and is required for the proper functioning of nerves and muscles. Dogs and cats cannot get Vitamin D from the suns rays as humans can. They must receive Vitamin D from their diet. That means it’s up to you, as the pet caretaker, and your veterinarian, to ensure that these levels are in the normal range for maximum health and longevity.

     Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and can, therefore, accumulate in the body and cause toxicity. Signs of Vitamin D toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia (loss of appetite), lethargy, weakness, polyuria (increased urination), polydipsia (increased water consumption),  and tissue mineralization. Insufficient or low levels of Vitamin D have been associated with such diseases as congestive heart failure, cancer, diabetes, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), hypertension, asthma, infectious diseases, and kidney compromise. Studies have shown that Vitamin D concentrations are insufficient in dogs with cancer.

     Vitamin B12 or Cyanobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin. It is involved in many enzymatic reactions necessary to the proper growth, development, and function of cells. Abnormal levels of Vitamin B12 can be involved in gastrointestinal dysfunctions and pathology as seen in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and small bowel bacterial overgrowth. Inadequate absorption of Vitamin B12 because of gastrointestinal disease or because of an inadequate diet can lead to deficiency.

     Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms you might observe in your pet include muscle weakness, trouble walking, irritability, weight loss, poor appetite, lack of energy. In humans, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet occurs. This probably also occurs in your dog and cat. Blood abnormalities are often seen on routine blood panels. Vitamin B12 is naturally found in meat, eggs, poultry, shellfish and dairy products.

     Magnesium is an essential nutrient that is involved in more than 300 metabolic processes involving the production of energy at the cellular level. Magnesium is involved in protein synthesis, blood glucose metabolism, blood pressure regulation, muscle function, and nerve function. Magnesium is required for your pet’s heart to beat. Most of the disorders that occur with magnesium metabolism has to do with problems associated with its absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. Certain conditions, such as diabetes in dogs and hyperthyroidism in cats, can affect magnesium levels and cause them to be lower than normal.

     Magnesium deficiency (hypermagnesemia) can manifest in your dog as lethargy, weight loss, gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea), weakness, excessive thirst, excessive drooling, joint issues (osteoarthritis), muscle tremors, muscle spasms, seizures, and urinary disorders in cats.

     Hypermagnesemia (too much magnesium in the blood) can cause multiple complications in the cardiac and nervous systems. Hypermagnesemia can result in weakness, paralysis, cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, and death. It is, in fact, a rare condition and when seen, is usually in horses. Hypermagnesemia has been reported in cats with renal failure that were receiving intravenous therapy.

      Anyone interested in having their pet tested should contact me at Animal Wellness Center at 610-558-1616. Testing for these vitamins and minerals is a simple blood test. Results come back in 7-10 days. Pet owners that want to be proactive in their pets’ health and well-being, should consider adding these tests to your regular yearly or bi-yearly examinations.

     Dr. Rose DiLeva is owner and medical director of Animal Wellness Center in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She practices Integrative Veterinary Medicine, including such modalities as acupuncture, orthopedic manipulation, ozone therapies and laser treatment.


– Rose DiLeva VMD, MS, CVCP, CVA


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