Vitamin B12 is essential in senior cat food (feed) | Vets and Clinics

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Vitamin B12 is essential in senior cat food (feed)

As cats age, they suffer a decline in their ability to digest and absorb macro- and micronutrients, including cobalamin (or vitamin B12). A direct relationship between suboptimal concentrations of blood cobalamin has been reported in cats with GI disorders, with these low levels being very prevalent in senior cats.

Do you want to know more about the study published by the Journal of Nutritional Science? We also discuss dietary solutions for GI problems in senior cats.

Nutrition and illnesses

As cats age, they suffer a decline in their ability to digest and absorb macro- and micronutrients, including cobalamin (or vitamin B12).. A direct relationship between suboptimal concentrations of blood cobalamin has been reported in cats with GI disorders, with these low levels being very prevalent in senior cats. This post includes some recommendations for gastrointestinal disorders such as changing to a senior cat food.

A recent study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science explains why older cats often suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency (Sales et al., 2014):

  • Hypocobalaminaemia in asymptomatic cats is more commonly attributed to gastrointestinal disease rather than pancreatic insufficiency.
  • Bacterial overgrowth can cause hypocobalaminaemia.

 

We can therefore consider cobalamin to be a very sensitive marker of gastrointestinal disease, so its level should be measured in all cats, but especially senior ones before the onset of the initial symptoms. This approach will avoid the need to treat diseases secondary to hypocobalaminaemia.

Dietary solutions for GI disorders: senior cat food

Gastrointestinal disorders are a common problem in older cats. In fact, a recent study showed that nearly half of cats with clinical signs of chronic gastrointestinal were over 12 years old (Norsworthy et al., 2013).

When recommending a senior cat food, vets should take into account the cat’s gastrointestinal status with respect to all the information already explained in this post.

Therefore, diets suited to combating feline gastrointestinal disorders must feature five properties:

  • Excellent digestibility: to compensate for poor digestion and facilitate nutrient absorption.
  • Intestinal protection: with prebiotics and omega-3 to develop a healthy microbiota and reduce inflammation.
  • Low fat: adapted to the cat’s impaired digestive capacity.
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): to compensate for hypocobalaminaemia.
  • Low allergenicity: with the use of novel or hydrolysed proteins.

 

Cobalamin for subclinical GI disease

As stated earlier, although a diminished capacity to digest food is common, it does not apply to all senior cats. However, it may be a characteristic of cats with chronic  subclinical gastrointestinal disease.

A cobalamin-rich diet ensures that senior cats do not suffer a deficiency of this essential vitamin and helps delay the appearance of gastroenteritis.

Núria Sanchez, DVM, PhD, a researcher in Affinity Petcare’s R&D group and author of several articles on gastrointestinal disorders in cats, gives a detailed explanation of why cats are more likely to suffer from hypocobalaminaemia, which is related to the rapid enterohepatic recirculation and consequent elimination of cobalamin.

Bibliography:
  • Salas A, Manuelian C-L, Garganté M, Sánchez N, Fernández S, Compagnucci M, Cerón JJ, Jeusette I, Vilaseca L, Torre C. Fat digestibility is reduced in old cats with subnormal cobalamin concentrations. J. Nutr. Sci. 3: e62, 2014.
  • Norsworthy GD, Scot Estep J, Kiupel M, Olson JC, Gassler LN. Diagnosis of chronic small bowel disease in cats: 100 cases (2008-2012). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2013 Nov 15;243(10):1455-61.
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