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. If homecooking for your dog; the addition of apple cider vinegar to their food will help to balance this alkalinity. We add organic wild cranberry powder to our protein packs for the same reason. Lentils, brown rice and asparagus are also all good at acidifying the gut environment.
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.
What is the main source of Vitamin B12 in a plant-based dog food diet?
Most homemade plant-based require the addition of nutritional yeast either in the form of nutritional yeast flakes (nooch) or brewer’s yeast or yeast extract such as Marmite, but we recommend the low salt variety.
We add nutritional yeast flakes, crushed Vitamin B tablets, marine phytoplankton, and Vegdog supplement to our protein pack treat recipe to ensure the correct amount of Vitamin B is available.
If you are homecooking and unable to get any supplements such as Vegdog All-In-Veluxe powder, then we definitely would recommend supplementing with daily Vitamin B tablets. If you increase the amount of nutritional yeast to make up for the shortage in B vitamins, you risk your dog having a yeast infection with the strong familiar sweet smell.
A very good Cobalamin supplement to give if you are unable to purchase any of the normal supplements or tablets, is Purathrive Vitamin B12 Liquid drops. A 15kg dog would need 1/2 pump on their food daily and a 30kg dog can have 1 pump on their food daily to get all their Vitamin B12 that they need. This would last for 6 months so although it appears expensive, it will last a while. It should be kept refrigerated if keeping for that long (in the back of the fridge, not in the door where it changes in temperature everytime the fridge door opens:)
Vitamin B12 deficiencies are even more of a concern in our older dogs as they tend to have an even more alkaline large intestine environment which results in less Vit B12 uptake, so definitely supplement your elderly pet with Vitamin B12 tablets to keep their nerve and blood function as effective as possible.
The maned wolf really blows the theory of our pet dogs needing meat in their diet completely out the water
There is evidence to prove that a plant-based diet that is properly balanced whether dry or homemade is kinder for your dog
We have Bramble the dog who wanted to live forever as proof that vegan diets help our pets live longer healthier lives
An online survey in 2019 revealed that around one in three owners may be willing to consider switching to a vegan diet for their pet in the future
This is one of our biggest concerns as pet owners that we are not getting the balance just right for the health of our pet
When we choose to change our dogs onto a vegan diet, worrying about what other people think is a huge concern to us
Just try it – you may be amazed as a vegan dog food diet can be made to be fully hypoallergenic as well as…..
There is a very easy way to get your vet on your side straight away when you switch your dog to a vegan diet
Making homemade vegan dog food or Umameo treats offers the perfect opportunity to make a difference in your community
You are being a compassionate owner by feeding your dog a plant-based diet
My dog only likes to eat meat and chicken, how do I know that she will like a vegan diet?
If you calculate the amount you currently spend on dog food and treats for your pet, we can assure you that you can afford it