Is a Vitamin B12 deficiency the reason why your dog eats soil?
We have all seen our dogs snuffling in the ground, eating soil, grass, fox and cat poo or just digging and licking whatever dirt they can find outside as well as drinking from ponds and streams. B12 is only produced in nature by certain bacteria and it is found naturally in these ponds and streams and in the soil.
Dogs do have an innate ability to recognise a deficiency in their diets. For example dogs (or cats) that are very anaemic (low in iron and red blood cells) due to a medical condition may start to lick painted walls in your home! Dogs will start to eat more soil and drink more from ponds and streams if there is a deficiency of Vitamin B12 in their diet as they innately recognise the need to ‘top up’ their deficiency and take in the bacteria that helps to make Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin and an essential nutrient that helps to keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. A deficiency of Vit B12 results in appetite loss, lack of white and red blood cells as well as bone marrow changes. It is also associated with helping to synthesise serotonin that we all know keeps us and our pets happier and calmer! An average 15kg dog needs 9 μg of Vitamin B12 a day.
Cows are very good at making Vit B12 as they have certain bacteria in their gut that ferments their high grass diet to produce it. Cows fed in feedlots to make them grow quickly graze on fresh grass so rarely that they need Vitamin B12 supplements in their food. The Vit B12 that cows make is usually passed on into pet food that is high in meat.
Where does Vitamin B12 come from in a plant-based diet?
Just like cows; dogs (and vegan humans) are able to ferment their own Vitamin B12 in their large intestines by eating the bacteria in their plant-based diet but the Vitamin B12 supply is not as plentiful in dogs eating a plant-based compared to a meat-based diet. Unfortunately plant-based diets tend to result in a very alkaline environment in the intestines which impairs the adequate absorption of Vitamin B12 and some other essential nutrients. Lentils, brown rice and asparagus are also all good at acidifying the gut environment and we add organic wild cranberry powder to our protein packs to make our Umameo treats for the same reason.
The other concern is that plant-based dog food diets tend to be high in legumes as a protein source. Most legumes such as chickpeas and lentils contain a high amount of phytic acid that also inhibits the absorption of this valuable Vitamin B12 from the intestine. To reduce the levels of phytic acid when large amounts of beans and lentils are eaten, then it is very important to soak them; eat fermented legumes such a tofu which is fermented soya; or ideally sprout the lentils as shown in our Supersprouts recipe.
All of these methods aim for an environment to allow the maximum absorption of Vitamin B12 from your dog’s large intestine.
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