What is Failure to Absorb Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is necessary for cell reproduction, growth, and without the sufficient amount of vitamins, your dog’s vital organs (i.e. liver, heart, brain) cannot perform properly, which will cause illness and eventually death. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) contains cobalt, which is essential to your dog’s health, the lack of which can lead to many problems with the digestive system and even neurological issues such as neuropathy and dementia. If your dog is a Border Collie, Giant Schnauzer, or a Beagle, and he has symptoms of intestinal cobalamin malabsorption (i.e. diarrhea, weight loss), it is important to get him to see the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Failure to absorb vitamin B12 (intestinal cobalamin malabsorption) is a genetic condition that affects Border Collies, Beagles, and Giant Schnauzers that causes the vitamin B12 to bypass the intestine rather than being absorbed. This disease is usually a secondary illness to an exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) or a small intestine disorder.
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Symptoms of Failure to Absorb Vitamin B12 in Dogs
The symptoms of intestinal cobalamin malabsorption will vary according to your dog’s health and how long he has had the disease. This will show up around six months in Border Collies, and about two or three months for Giant Schnauzers and Beagles. If you can catch it early enough, you can get your dog treated right away and the symptoms will not be as extreme as in dogs that have had the disease for a while. The most common signs of intestinal cobalamin malabsorption are:
- Extreme weight loss
- Loss of appetite or eating more than usual
- Lack of energy
- Excessive sleepiness
- Refuses to exercise or play
- Lack of muscle mass
- Altered mental state
Causes of Failure to Absorb Vitamin B12 in Dogs
The cause of intestinal cobalamin malabsorption is usually genetics, but it has been seen in other breeds due to another underlying disease or injury. However, there are only certain breeds that seem to be at risk for this disease. These breeds are:
- Border Collie
- Giant Schnauzer
Diagnosis of Failure to Absorb Vitamin B12 in Dogs
If you suspect your dog may have intestinal cobalamin malabsorption, even if you have a breed other than a Beagle, Giant Schnauzer, or Border Collie, you should make an appointment to see your veterinarian. The veterinarian will do a complete and thorough physical examination including body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Your veterinarian will also need your dog’s medical records, any recent illnesses and injuries, what the symptoms are, and how long they have been going on. You will also need to inform him of any changes in behavior or activity as well as changes in your dog’s food.
The veterinarian will also need to run some tests, such as complete blood count (CBC), chemical blood panel, urinalysis, and stool sample. In addition, a specific blood test the veterinarian will conduct, which is called a serum check (vitamin B12) that checks the amount of cobalamin (vitamin B12) in your dog’s blood. The veterinarian may want to check to see if the malabsorption is being caused by a metabolic disorder or a parasite.
If your veterinarian finds that your dog has chronic anemia, he will probably want to run more thorough tests to determine if this is related to neutropenia (low white blood cells) and to find what can be done to resolve this issue. Some veterinarians will perform digital radiographs (x-rays) to rule out any other underlying disease or illnesses. After all the parasitic, systemic, infection and dietary causes are ruled out, the veterinarian will check the amounts of folate and cobalamin to confirm intestinal cobalamin malabsorption so your dog can be treated. If the veterinarian suspects that your dog may have EPI, he will perform a test, which gives the veterinarian the exact concentration of trypsinogen. This test has to be done after your dog has fasted, so your veterinarian may want you to come back the following day.
Treatment of Failure to Absorb Vitamin B12 in Dogs
If your veterinarian finds that your dog has intestinal cobalamin malabsorption, a B12 vitamin supplement will be administered orally and he may send you home with some B12 vitamin supplements to administer yourself. In extreme cases, your veterinarian will probably administer the B12 through an injection so it will be absorbed faster.
If there is an underlying disease or infection, your veterinarian will treat that as well with medication or a prescription. If EPI is the culprit, you will have to feed your dog a low-fiber diet with moderate levels of easily digested fats, carbohydrates, and protein. The veterinarian may also give you a supplement of B12 vitamins to give your dog daily for a lifetime.
Recovery of Failure to Absorb Vitamin B12 in Dogs
The prognosis for your dog is excellent if he has intestinal cobalamin malabsorption, although you will need to feed him the special diet and supplement for the rest of his life to keep the B12 level up. You will also need to bring your dog to the veterinarian regularly for follow-ups and routine examination.
Failure to Absorb Vitamin B12 Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My 10 year old ( not sure if exact age as I got him from a pound) make chocolate lab was Diagnosed with diabetes in October. We originally thought it was hip dysplasia as he was having trouble getting around and eventually his back legs completely gave out. Blood work and urinalysis showed all the symptoms of diabetes and he’s been on two insulin injections daily since. At first his sugars would bottom out 5 hours after his first injection so we continued to lower it. He was stable for about a month. Now his sugars are getting higher around 5 hours after and not having an affect on him. His discomfort seems to be back in his legs and heavy having trouble getting around again. Any advice other than what we’ve already been told? He’s been checked for Cushings as well.
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My German Shepherd is a puppy mill rescue and has always had GI issues .His pancreatic enzymes tested normal as a puppy. after loosing 20 lbs over the last two years he was retested and they are now low. I put him on B12 right away but it took a week to order and receive the enzyme supplement. During that week he gained 5 lbs. Why? Do I need the supplement? If the enzyme deficiency causes the lack of B12 absorbtion, why is he gaining weight without it?
B12 accumulates in the body and when pancreatic insufficiency occurs, it may take a while for the reserves to be taken up. I am not sure why Moose started to gain weight suddenly after two years of weight loss; you need to think back to other changes you made prior to the weight gain to determine if any of those are attributable to the weight gain. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
I had never heard of this condition. I got my dog at a kennel when he was 4 months old. He was obviously mal nourished and I took him to 2 vets and neither one picked up on this disorder. Is it easily detected in Border Collies?
Yes it was , thank both of you, just started my Doberman on B12 shots last week understand the problem better.RDavis White Plains Al.
My white shepherd has the small intestine bacteria issue and just got her first B12 injection today. It is not a trend yet, but she is up 2 lbs since we started treating her with Tylosin about 5 days ago to directly address the gut bacteria. She is underweight, and I have struggled to get weight on her for a while.
Hey! I have a german shepherd(male) he just turned 3 and he has had Small intestinal bacteria overgrowth since probably he was 1. We recently started taking action after doing the blood work and got the same results as to when he was 1 and he has b12 deficiency and folate deficiency! So what my vet recommended was to do the b12 injections for 4-6 weeks and give folate and see how it goes. My question i have for anyone that also light have gone through this with their dog is, how do you know if you have to stick to this b12 injection forever or not?
I have a 3 year-old Spinone Italiano who has been having bloody stools recently. He has always been underweight and the vets have always poo poo'd my concerns telling me he was young and active and would gain weight as he aged. I feel horrible! His folate is low, too, but his pancreatic levels were normal. Has anyone had this combination? Did you have your dogs scoped for biopsies of the colon or just monitored blood work with the supplementation? We have his first injection of B12 tomorrow.
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