5 min read

Biotin (Vitamin B7) for Dogs

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By Emily Bayne

Published: 02/21/2024, edited: 02/21/2024

Reviewed by a licensed veterinary professional: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

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Overview


If you've googled "how to make my hair grow faster," you've likely read about how beneficial biotin supplements are for hair, skin, and nails. But did you know its effects far surpass luxurious locks‚ÄĒnot just for you‚ÄĒbut for your furbaby, too?

Biotin, also known as Vitamin H, is actually a member of the Vitamin B complex (vitamin B7, to be exact!) It is one of the most underrated vitamins since it helps dogs with digestion, development, and muscle maintenance (but more on that later!) We'll explore natural sources of this vitamin, signs of deficiency, and how to supplement with it safely should your pooch need it. But first, let's dive a little deeper into what it actually does for dogs.




Functions

Biotin has more functions and benefits than you might realize. Here are just a few things that biotin does for our furry companions.

  • Improves the skin barrier- Biotin helps to retain moisture within the skin by preventing transepidermal water loss and may help with skin symptoms associated with allergies.¬†One study¬†of 119 dogs with various skin issues was treated with biotin, and a whopping 60% of the study participants experienced a complete recovery from the skin issues after 3-5 weeks of supplementation. Another 31% of dogs showed signs of improvement within the study window.

  • Adds shine to the coat and helps with shedding - Many people swear by biotin to help with shedding and improve the appearance of dull, lackluster fur. One possible reason this is effective is because biotin deficiencies are associated with alopecia and its effects on the sebaceous glands.

  • Improves digestion and metabolism - You might be surprised to know that biotin is heavily involved with breaking down macronutrients into usable energy. Not only that, but it also helps keep blood sugars stable.

  • Immune support - Biotin is necessary for proper immune cell function, which helps to fight off viruses and bacteria.

  • Muscle composition - Biotin can help senior dogs maintain their muscle composition, which naturally declines as dogs age.




Generally, the daily recommended intake of biotin is calculated by weight. A good rule of thumb is 0.2 mg per 1 lb of body weight. So a 22-pound dog would need just 5 mg, whereas an 88-pound dog would need 20mg daily. 

Age and life stage can definitely play a factor in how much of any vitamin your pet needs, so talk to your vet about the specific dosage for your pet if you have concerns.




dog nose sniffing a cut up banana on a cutting board

Food sources

Dogs usually get enough biotin in their diet without supplementation or added biotin-rich food sources, thanks to the bacteria in their gut that produce it. However, this can depend on your pet's diet and microbiome.

Some whole foods that you can give dogs to boost their biotin intake include:




Signs of biotin deficiency in dogs

Biotin serves many roles throughout a dog's life, supporting the immune system, promoting growth during puppyhood, and helping to maintain muscle composition as your pooch enters their golden years. Unfortunately, some conditions, foods, and medications can cause dogs to become deficient in biotin. 

Common meds like epilepsy drugs and some antibiotics can interfere with biotin levels, as can hereditary conditions and hormone imbalances. As you might expect, poor diets or malnutrition can also contribute to low levels, but you might be surprised that eating raw eggs can, too. You see, raw egg whites contain avidin, which inhibits biotin absorption and can cause your dog's levels to dip temporarily. 

So, what does a biotin deficiency look like in dogs? 

According to a scientific review, "Biotin deficiency can cause the hair to become thin or loose pigment and the skin to become dry and greasy. Along with these direct effects, suboptimal nutrition may enhance susceptibility to parasites, such as mange mites, fleas, and lice, as well as increased susceptibility to skin infections." Needless to say, it's pretty important! Let's explore some other symptoms of biotin deficiency.

Other symptoms include:

Treatment of Biotin deficiency 

Some examples of biotin deficiency (say when a dog eats a lot of raw egg whites or is on a course of antibiotics) clear up on their own with no intervention. However, treating a long-term or chronic biotin deficiency usually involves adding a biotin supplement to a dog's daily diet. The vet may also suggest modifying or changing the dog's diet if that seems to be the source of the deficiency.




Signs of Biotin overdose in dogs

Thankfully, biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, which doesn't pose the same toxicity risks as fat-soluble vitamins. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin D, water-soluble vitamins like biotin aren't stored in the liver and do not pose the same risk of organ damage with overdose. The kidneys are very effective at ridding excess biotin from the body, even if they take a higher-than-recommended dose.

That's not to say you should go overboard with how much you give your furbaby, either. Some pet parents have a "more is better" approach with biotin, but this is usually a waste since the excess is eliminated through the urine.




dog taking a pill - Biotin (Vitamin B7) for Dogs

Biotin supplements for dogs

Biotin supplements come in many forms, including powders, food toppers, and flavored chews, and are available in stand-alone formulations and in combination with other vitamins and fatty acids.

Unless your pet has a pre-existing metabolic, hormonal, or genetic condition predisposing them to a biotin deficiency, they probably won't benefit from supplements if they eat a nutritionally complete commercial dog food. However, extra biotin might help with skin conditions like poor coat health and skin allergies.

Elderly pups may also benefit from extra biotin since it can combat age-related musculoskeletal changes. 

Always consult a vet before starting your pet on over-the-counter supplements, especially if they have pre-existing conditions or are in a high-risk age range, like seniors or puppies.



Recap

Biotin has long been touted for its benefits for hair and skin, but its effects reach much further than the skin's surface. In dogs, biotin helps with muscle mass, digestion, skin allergies, and blood glucose regulaton. 

Biotin naturally occurs in many foods like sweet potatoes, salmon, and liver. Most dogs don't need extra biotin if their diet is complete and balanced, but some conditions (like metabolic or hormonal conditions can cause dogs to be susceptible to deficiency. Likewise, certain medications and poor diet can lead to a drop in a dog's biotin levels. Luckily, biotin supplements are easy to find, and since they're water-soluble, they're very safe, and overdose is nearly unheard of.

While biotin is one of the safest supplements you can give, it's always a good practice to talk to a vet before starting your pet on new supplements. 


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