Taking the Complexity Out of B Vitamins

By Marta Kasper



I am confused about B vitamins. Which ones do I need to add to homemade raw cat food? Your recipe says to use a B-complex vitamin, but the ones I look at are all slightly different. What should I be looking for when I buy vitamin B-complex?
B vitamins play a very important role in every cat’s life. These water-soluble nutrients are essential for cell metabolism and they are needed for proper growth, development and energy production. As they are water-soluble, they are not stored in the body but are eliminated through urine. Consequently, they can become deficient, especially in animals with excessive drinking and urination due to diabetes, kidney disease and other health issues. Vitamin B deficiency may be difficult to specifically diagnose. For that reason, diagnosis relies on clinical signs. And since many of the signs for a lack of a particular B vitamin are overlapping, deficiency is typically treated with vitamin B-complex as all B vitamins are relatively non-toxic.
Almost all homemade raw diet recipes call for B-complex supplements rather than adding each B vitamin separately. Remember, in a balanced raw meat diet recipe, the B-complex is added to supplement the vitamins that are already present in the meat and organs. Vitamin B-complex is usually, but not always, made up of eight vitamins:
  • vitamin B1 – thiamine
  • vitamin B2 – riboflavin
  • vitamin B3 – niacin, niacinamide or inositol hexanicotinate
  • vitamin B5 – pantothenic acid
  • vitamin B6 – pyridoxine
  • vitamin B7 – biotin
  • vitamin B9 – folic acid
  • vitamin B12 – cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin
Most products have inactive ingredients added as flavoring, binding and flow agents and some might also have other active ingredients like vitamin C, choline, inositol – vitamin B8 or PABA – vitamin B10. Please note that the B-complex you use does not have to contain vitamins B8 and B10.
B vitamins can be found in animal and plant sources. Muscle meat, for example, is a good source of B3 and B5. Liver, on the other hand, is a great source of B2, B5, B7, B9 and B12. The addition of only 4 percent liver to a meat meal will deliver adequate amounts of all of these nutrients. Thiamine is the only vitamin that is difficult to supply in sufficient amounts from natural sources. It is also one of the most “sensitive” B vitamins and can be destroyed easily by cooking/heating, by a neutral or alkaline environment or oxidation. The richest source of thiamine is nutritional yeast.
So, unless we want to use at least 2% nutritional yeast in our homemade recipe, we need to add thiamine in some other form to prevent deficiency. The easiest way to do it is to use vitamin B-complex.
Unfortunately, there are a huge number of these products on the market with different compositions, strengths and quality. B-complex supplements can be sold in the form of tablets, caplets, softgels or capsules. All of this makes it difficult to pick the right product for our homemade recipes. Here are few suggestions to make this process easier:
  • Use powdered vitamin B-complex sold in capsules. They can be easily opened and mixed well throughout the food.
  • Get a low-concentration product like vitamin B-complex 25 or 50mg. Only a small amount is needed to balance the diet. You can either sprinkle a small amount onto the food, add the amount called for in the recipe you are using or add at least one 25mg capsule to five pounds of food.¹
  • Almost every vitamin B-complex has a specific odor. Some cats like it, others are not too crazy about it. As the product ages, some ingredients start decomposing and the odor gets stronger. To slow down this process, vitamin B-complex should be stored in a cool, dry place. Nevertheless, if the odor gets too strong, it might be a time to get a fresh new product.
  • To minimize the loss of these water-soluble vitamins once they have been mixed with the meat, it is important to retain all of the liquids coming from the meat, especially after freezing.
Lastly, I would like pay special attention to vitamin B12, a deficiency of which may occur in certain health conditions like diabetes, thyroid disease, stomach or intestinal problems, infections or cancer. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia and loss of appetite. Sometimes, these medical conditions require administration of doses of B12, usually delivered as subcutaneous injections in the form of concentrated cyanocobalamin solution. It is available by prescription only, but it is relatively inexpensive, safe and can be given at home.
If you would like to learn more about feline diet and health, please visit FelineNutritionFoundation.org.  They have a wealth of information on how to feed your cat a healthy, bio-appropriate diet.  They especially welcome raw diet beginners!
Note: Feline Nutrition provides feline health and nutrition information as a public service. Diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions should always be in consultation with your own veterinarian. Feline Nutrition disclaims all warranties and liability related to the veterinary advice and information provided on this site.
If you have a question, please send it to answers@felinenutritionfoundation.org. While we cannot answer questions individually, if your question would be helpful to others, we may post it in Answers.
Marta Kaspar holds a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Pardubice in the Czech Republic. She is a research scientist, and a formulation and analytical chemist in both industrial and academic fields. Marta became interested in feline nutrition when her cats developed health problems. When she decided to prepare their food herself, the effect of the homemade raw meat diet on her cats was so impressive that she created the line of Alnutrin® supplements to help others transition their cats to better diets. You can find her at knowwhatyoufeed.com.
  1. Based on AAFCO nutrient profiles for cat foods. MS Hand DVM, PhD, CD Thatcher, DVM, MS, PhD, RL Remillard, PhD, DVM and P Roudebush, DVM, Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, , 4th ed. Walsworth Publishing Company, 2000, 1055.

It’s NOT “Just Allergies”

By  Inna Shekhtman



Allergies and food sensitivities seem to be on the rise in both human and pets and are likely one of the most common reasons for vet visits. According to recent estimates, up to half of all dogs in North America may be affected by allergies.  Common treatments involved switching to a prescription hypoallergenic diet, shampoos containing antifungal medications, antibiotics, antihistamines or steroids.  While these can help resolve the immediate symptoms, the relief is often temporary and symptoms return with a vengeance, resulting in a cycle of health issues. 

The challenge of treating allergies really hit close to home for me last year when I started doing some research for a friend of mine and her pup. Her dog, Tanner, a four year old lab cross had suffered from chronic infections and allergies most of his life. She had switched foods at least five times and tried several prescriptions and shampoos and was getting frustrated with Tanner’s lack of improvement. I would like to share what we discovered in trying to unravel the causes for Tanner’s suffering and what was done to set him on a path to healing. 

Common Symptoms Associated with Allergies:

-Itchy, red and dry skin

-Runny eyes

-Increased scratching

-Licking and biting

-Hot spots

-Itchy ear and skin infections

-Bloating and diarrhea




What is an allergy?

An allergy is the immune system reacting to something it perceives as a threat. This substance is called an allergen, and it causes the immune system to release a chemical called histamine to fight the perceived invader.  Histamines can also cause inflammation, irritation of skin and digestive issues; giving external representation of the internal battle. Dogs and cats are not born with allergies – they develop over time. Usually it’s because the immune system is overstressed and lacks resources, so it starts overreacting to substances that it would normally consider harmless.  If your pet is developing allergies, it is often a symptom of a deeper imbalance often caused by a combination of diet, stress, conventional medical treatments, heredity, and environmental factors.

Important things to know about allergies:

  • Allergic reactions usually occur immediately or shortly after exposure to an allergen.
  • A severe reaction is triggered by any amount of allergen – small or large.
  • Common allergens include: Tree, grass, weed pollens, mold, dust, smoke, fleas, perfumes, household cleaning products, shampoos, fabrics, other household materials, food and prescription medications
  • True food allergies are very rare and account for less than 10% of allergies seen in dogs and cats.  Yet it is usually the first thing gets targeted when a reaction occurs.

What is food intolerance?

Food intolerance is an irritation of the digestive system when it encounters difficulties with digesting a certain food.  There are several underlying causes for food intolerances. One possibility is that your pet lacks the enzymes to digest a specific food. A more common reason is that the gut is unhealthy and is not optimally processing the foods that your pet is consuming. For example, if the food is causing inflammation in the digestive tract, it could drastically alter the permeability of the gut (its ability to absorb nutrients and prevent unwanted substances from entering the body).

Important things to know about food intolerances:

  • The immune system is not involved.
  • The intolerance will build up with exposure and increase in severity over time.
  • Small amounts of the food can still be tolerated.
  • Often misdiagnosed as allergies. Most reactions to food are because of food intolerances, not allergies!

Tanner’s case, he had a combination of both allergies and food intolerances. He had an allergy to certain pollens. He had also been given antibiotics on several occasions during the past year and likely had a imbalance of bacteria in his gut that caused both inflammation and made him more susceptible to yeast infections. 

Roadmap to Health begins in the Gut

Dogs and cats don’t develop allergies because they are exposed to allergens. And they don’t become sensitive or allergic to food because they are exposed to food.  To stop the cycle it is important to identify and treat the underlying cause of the immune or digestive health problem, not just the external symptoms.

The first step is to make sure that your pet is as comfortable as possible. Try and identify the substance causing the reaction and either eliminate or reduce your pet’s exposure to this as much as possible. If your pet is allergic to something that’s unavoidable, like pollen or grass, an antihistamine like Benedryl can often help alleviate the symptoms and make your pet more comfortable.  There are also more natural options, like coconut oil, that can help relieve itchy skin.

But now the real work begins to find the underlying cause. Most of the time, we start this process with the gut. For allergies, much of the immune function actually begins in the gut, so it makes sense to look there first.  

The digestive tract has three main functions: digestion, absorption, and prevention of toxins and other unwanted substances from entering the body. It is the first filter of the immune system. This is possible because your digestive tract contains a host of bacteria called “probiotics”, that help with digesting food, production of vitamins, breaking down toxins and acting as a filter for what is allowed to move into your bloodstream. In a healthy gut there is a constant balance of good and bad bacteria that fulfill this vital function. 

If there is an imbalance in the intestine, bacteria can seriously compromise your pet’s health and affect not just their digestion, but their immune system, organ functions and every other system in their body. It can also frequently lead to a condition called leaky gut syndrome that creates a vicious cycle. Leaky gut syndrome is exactly what it sounds – a condition in which damage to the wall of the small intestine (caused by something – usually diet related) creates spaces between the cells in the intestinal lining that allow fragments of partially digested food, toxins, and bacteria to enter the bloodstream.   This leads to impaired digestion, incomplete absorption of nutrients, and often overwhelms the body’s filters (liver and kidney) and immune system, causing further damage and inflammation.

Common causes for this imbalance and damage to the intestinal wall are:

  1. Anti-biotics: Anti-biotics (Latin for “against-life”)destroy all bacteria – healthy and unhealthy. If the good bacteria are not replenished by taking a Probiotic supplement immediately after the dose of anti-biotics is complete, it increases the risk of bad bacteria overrunning the digestive tract.
  2. Diet: What you feed your pet can dramatically alter the balance of the good bacteria in their gut. A good quality diet feeds the good bacteria and provides the resources for them to thrive. Diets that are high in carbohydrates and sugars feed, and can cause an overgrowth of, the bad bacteria and damage the intestinal walls. Raw is the most natural diet for dogs and cats to eat. If you cannot feed raw, then a good quality grain-free canned food will help maintain a healthy gut as well. For more information on raw diets, check out the Red Dog Deli Handbook for a Healthier Pet (free in select retail stores). 
  3. Deworming Medications and Steroids: All of these can throw your pet’s gut bacteria into chaos. Try to minimize the use of these to only one when absolutely necessary and give your pet a probiotic to help re-builda balanced gut flora. A great alternative to chemical deworming medication is coconut meat.

Mending the Fence

Think of your pet’s small intestine and the layer of good bacteria as a fence that protects them from the outside world (toxins, viruses, parasites, etc.). The bacteria in the intestine act as the bodyguards, selecting who is allowed to enter through the fence’s gate. If these bodyguards are constantly under attack (overrun by bad bacteria) and hungry (insufficient good fiber in diet) they will miss some bad guys and get into more fights (food intolerance). When this fence breaks down or the bouncers go on strike, the internal guards (immune system) get overwhelmed. If these guards are also working overtime and skipped their dinner (don’t get enough nutrients from diet to be in optimal health), they will likely get extra grumpy and start fighting with everyone – good and bad. Even the mail courier ends up on the “bad guy” list (allergy).

To bring our pets back to health, we need to repair the “fence” and give the bouncers and guards the resources to do their job:

  1. Start your pet on a good quality probiotic –Preferably a live culture.
  2. Switch your pet to a food that is as minimally processed as possible – Preferably a good quality grain-free canned food with a novelty protein. (A protein that your pet has not been exposed to yet). If possible, switch to raw. Grains and other sugars in commercial kibble foods help to feed the opportunistic bacteria and change the pH balance in the digestive tract, creating an optimal environment for these bad bacteria to thrive. Raw ingredients are also easier to digest, putting less stress on the digestive system.
  3. Add some good quality fiber or a prebiotic to your pet’s diet to support the good bacteria in the gut. A new Australian recent study for humans found that increasing the consumption of good quality fiber helped reduce occurrences of allergies and reduced inflammatory.
  4. If your pet is stressed for other reasons, look for ways to reduce their stress level. For example, they may be stressed because of a change in routine.  Trying to create a stable routine, giving them a bit more attention and more frequent walks could help.

For Tanner, after introducing him to liquid probiotics and a raw diet, his itchiness and skin inflammations slowly decreased.  His gut began to heal. His diet now consists of a rotation of 5 raw proteins. In time chicken was reintroduced into his diet – he was allergic to it in the dry food, but was able to eat raw chicken without any issues.  His pollen allergies have not gone away, but now his immune system has a lot more support so the reaction is significantly less severe.

One last thought …

Healing takes time! It took time for your pet to develop these health issues – they didn’t just pop up overnight. It will take time for their systems to balance out.  The process of helping your pet return to health will likely involve some trial and error and other natural methods of healing, depending on the severity of their condition. Start by working closely with a holistic vet that is supportive of natural healing and modalities.   

1 Caring for a Dog with Food Allergies. Sandy Eckstein. WebMD April 2012
2 Dietary Fiber and Bacterial SCFA Enhance Oral Tolerance and Protest against Food Allergy through Diverse Cellular Pathways. Jian Tan, Craig McKenzie, Peter J. Vuillermin, Gera Goverse, Carola G. Vineusa, Reina E. Mebius, Laurence Macia, Charles R. MacKay. Cell Reports Volume 15, Issue 12, p2809-2824, June 21, 2016

Can Nutritional Therapy Help Your Pets?

By Marijke van de Water


Contrary to popular opinion, the diet of the domestic dog or cat does not provide all of the nutrients that they need for optimum health. For many years pet owners were educated to believe that a bag of commercial pet food would provide all of the nutrition that their pets would need to stay healthy. However, with the current epidemic of diseased dogs and cats everywhere, most of us have since learned that there is no possible way that a processed diet – or any other diet for that matter – can offer enough nutrition to ward off all illness. And, we will never be able to standardize a diet – raw, cooked, kibble or otherwise – for all dogs and cats because varying lifestyles and situations, including age and breed, makes a “one-fits all” diet impossible. Rarely then can any diet provide the appropriate levels of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that are required to sustain the numerous body functions and processes that support life, prevent disease, maintain health and optimize wellness for each individual pet. All pets, especially those with health problems, are affected by specific nutrient deficiencies and/or the requirement for well-selected vitamins and minerals that must be supplemented at therapeutic dosages to be effective.

Nutrient Deficiencies

A nutrient deficiency disease is when an illness or disease occurs as an actual result of one or more nutrient deficiencies which results in clinical symptoms. Therefore, when the specific deficiencies are replenished or corrected the symptoms disappear and the disease is so-called cured. Nutrient deficiency diseases can manifest from incomplete or inappropriate diets; poor digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients from food; faulty metabolism, toxicity, illness, abuse or neglect, over-training, unhappy households and/or periods of high nutritional demands. All of these situations can deplete a variety of different nutrients. And, if they are not replenished they will eventually lead to more health problems which lead to more deficiencies which lead to more health problems…and so it continues. In addition, all medications, without exception, deplete certain nutrients. Drug-related deficiencies therefore are very common but seldom addressed. For example, antibiotics deplete probiotics, biotin, folic acid and Vitamin B12; and steroids deplete calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and B-vitamins.

And furthermore, nutritional deficiencies are often overlooked because of the mistaken assumption that they can all be identified with blood tests. But blood tests are a very poor indicator of nutritional status since the blood is the last vehicle to change when a particular nutrient falls below normal or adequate levels. This means that certain body organs and tissues can be deficient in a particular nutrient for months or even years before it will ever – if ever at all – show up in a blood test. (This is also true for people by the way.) These unidentified “sub-clinical” nutritional deficiencies are therefore difficult to diagnose, at least with conventional medical tests. This is unfortunate because nutrient deficiencies are extremely common and have a major impact on health, wellness and disease prevention.

Some of the most common deficiencies present which are seldom identified include calcium (muscle strength, joints, arthritis, anxiety); magnesium (nerves, heart, muscles); potassium (digestion and elimination of toxicity); iron (anemia, energy, circulation, immunity); selenium (liver, immunity, muscles); vitamin B6 (arthritis, hormones, skin); vitamin B12 (anemia, energy, colon health, anemia, nerve nutrient); and folic acid (protein digestion, parasite resistance, nerve nutrient). When nutrient deficits are identified, replenished and corrected they have a significant influence on the health of your pet – they feel better, they digest better, they eat better, they build resistance to disease, they are more mobile and they live longer.

Therapeutic Nutrition

Therapeutic nutrition is a primary holistic therapy which means that when vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, probiotics and phytonutrients are supplemented well above the recommended daily dose, they have a significant impact on health by altering the course and the outcome of the disease. All nutrients nourish the body and provide the elements for it to prevent and heal its own diseases and imbalances. Therapeutic nutrition is not based on identifiable or overt signs of deficiencies, nor does it focus on the so-called balanced diet or minimum daily requirements, since these guidelines are clearly not adequate. Rather, it is based on the fact that all nutrients must be present at optimum levels in order for all physiological processes, including the immune system, to function properly. Therapeutic nutrition is also able to address deficiencies that are sub-clinical and impossible to detect on a blood test, much less to the untrained eye.

Rarely, is there a health condition that does not benefit from or even derive a cure from applied therapeutic nutrition. I consider it a mainstream and primary therapy for all health conditions and it belongs smack-dab in the middle of animal health care!

Where to Start

Because nutritional deficiencies and individual requirements with therapeutic dosages are difficult or impossible to identify with conventional medical tests, and, because nutrition is poorly understood by most health care practitioners, clinical nutrition of any kind is not considered a primary therapy by mainstream. Most animal health practitioners have little to none knowledge about the relationship between nutrition and disease. It just isn’t in their training, despite the fact that clinical nutrition is a strong science. This lack of training is unfortunate because nutrient deficiencies are very common, and the benefits of therapeutic dosages have a major impact on health and wellness, as well as disease prevention and treatment.

An effective nutritional supplement program can be determined by working with those who have a strong background in animal nutrition and/or knowledge of deficiency symptoms. Practitioners with a working knowledge of nutrition can often identify deficiencies by considering the pet’s health history, medication history, diet, lifestyle and current symptoms. Methods such as nutritional kinesiology and/or hair analysis as also very useful tools. Kinesiology – also known as energy testing – is a practical and simple-to-use muscle testing technique that can identify both nutrient deficiencies as well as imbalances in certain organs and body systems. Hair tissue analyses are invaluable in helping to determine mineral deficiencies and excesses, toxic heavy metals, inflammation and the stability of endocrine glands such as the adrenal, thyroid and pituitary.

About Marijke van de Water

Marijke van de Water, B.Sc., DHMS is an Animal Health & Nutrition Specialist, Homeopathic Practitioner and Medical Intuitive who has worked with animals and their people for over 25 years. She is a well-known speaker and educator and has recorded over 100 radio shows and videos on topics of holistic health. She is the author of two best-selling books: Healing Horses Their Way, Healing People The Marijke Method and is currently completing her third book on Healing Dogs. For more information please visit her websites: