B12 is found in animal products such as meat, liver, fish and eggs, and cats are carnivores. So you would think that a cat’s food contains a lot of B12. However, sick cats may not be able to absorb enough of the B12 in their food. Absorption of this vitamin is a complex process involving the stomach, pancreas, small intestine, and liver, so if any of these organs are not working well, less B12 will be absorbed.
In addition, vitamin B12 only stays in the body for a limited time. In a healthy cat, tissues retain B12 for an average of 13 days, while in a cat with gastrointestinal disease or other health problems, B12 can stay in the body for only about 5 days. The reserves of this vitamin are quickly depleted in cats, which causes the B12 level to drop.
Disorders that interfere with the absorption of nutrients, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), can lead to B12 deficiency in cats. Studies have shown that cats with IBD, intestinal lymphoma, and pancreatitis tend to have much lower levels of B12 in their bodies than healthy cats.
What Are the Symptoms of B12 Deficiency?
A lack of adequate B12 in cats can cause weight loss, lethargy, diarrhea or vomiting.
Because GI tract disorders can interfere with the absorption of B12, the blood level of this vitamin is sometimes used as a test of gut health. If your cat has weight loss, lethargy, diarrhea or vomiting, your veterinarian may measure the B12 level in your cat’s blood. A low B12 level in your cat can indicate an unhealthy gut.
Treatment of Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Cats
If your cat suffers from chronic digestive or gastrointestinal problems, oral B12 supplements are unlikely to help. This is because their digestive tissues cannot absorb the nutrient very well, no matter how much they get through the diet. However, many cats can benefit from B12 injections under their skin. Instead of being absorbed by the digestive tract, a B12 injection (injection) goes straight to the source. You should talk to your veterinarian to find out if B12 injections are an option for your cat.
Extra B12 alone will not cure IBD or other diseases in cats, but it can help relieve some symptoms while improving your cat’s overall well-being and quality of life.