Cobalamin, or Vitamin B12 deficiency, is a common finding in cats with gastrointestinal diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, pancreatitis, and small intestinal lymphoma. While the mechanisms behind the associated deficiency in cats are not completely understood, there is strong evidence to support the need for supplementation.
Cats with gastrointestinal signs and cobalamin levels below the mid-range of normal have visible improvements in appetite and energy levels when supplemented with cobalamin. Until recently, it was perceived that cobalamin repletion could only be achieved through parenteral means (subcutaneous injection). As evidence in humans and dogs has demonstrated that oral supplementation is likely to be beneficial, the authors sought to determine if this might also be the case in cats.
The objective of a Winn Feline Foundation funded study was to evaluate whether oral cobalamin supplementation in cats would provide the same benefits as parenteral supplementation. A retrospective study evaluated 25 client-owned cats treated at Evidensia Specialist Animal Hospital in Sweden between December 2013 and December 2016. Inclusion criteria for the study were cats with clinical signs of chronic enteropathy, an initial serum concentration of less than or equal to 250 pmol/L (reference 214-738 pmol/L) cobalamin, and oral treatment with cobalamin tablets.
Twenty-five cats met the inclusion criteria for the study and were administered 0.25 mg cyanocobalamin orally once daily. Serum cobalamin concentrations, checked 27-94 days after continuous oral cobalamin supplementation, showed serum cobalamin levels above reference ranges in all 25 cats. The change was statistically significant (P< 0.0001).
This retrospective study provides preliminary evidence that oral cobalamin supplementation is likely to be a successful alternative to parenteral administration. The authors recommend a larger, prospective study to further evaluate the benefits of oral cobalamin supplementation compared to administration via injection. However, some may argue: Why even think about pilling a cat if you don’t need to?