When Brent came back into the kitchen after answering a knock at the front door, his Labrador retriever, Ginny, looked incredibly guilty. One of the large pieces of raw fish he had left on a countertop prior to baking was missing. Ginny loved raw fish. Brent blamed himself for not covering the dish before leaving the room. He blamed himself again when the vet said the dog was suffering from a thiamine deficiency.
What is Thiamine Deficiency in Dogs?
This syndrome occurs as the result of vascular injury and nerve damage caused by vitamin B1 deficiency in dogs, according to PetPlace.com. An insufficient amount of thiamine, part of the B complex vitamin group, is the culprit. Among the responsibilities of thiamine are metabolizing carbohydrates, maintaining normal growth and transmitting nerve impulses.
Though more common in cats than dogs, this deficiency can result in death when it occurs in dogs, Purina.com reports.
Thiamine deficiency is particularly prevalent in dogs that eat raw fish. Other causes include feeding a pet food that isn’t completely balanced or that’s overprocessed. Sometimes sulfites in the dog’s diet interfere with the ability to absorb thiamine from the animal’s diet.
Signs and Symptoms
Signals of thiamine deficiency in dogs include a complete loss of appetite, vomiting, muscle weakness and seizures. Some dogs have fixed and dilated pupils or paralysis of the muscles surrounding the eye.
Wobbly walking is common. Another symptom is ventroflexion, a condition in which the dog’s neck bends oddly downward. Stunted growth, depression, circling movements and loss of body hair are common. For some pets, thiamine deficiency causes a wide-based limb stance or a crouching gait. It can result in a coma or even death.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A diagnosis of thiamine deficiency in dogs most commonly occurs as the result of observing symptoms and taking a medical history. While it’s standard practice for veterinarians to order baseline tests such as a complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis, the results are often normal for affected dogs. However, chest and abdominal X-rays can rule out certain other disorders.
Treatment for this disorder requires veterinary oversight as well as home care. After a dog is diagnosed with this deficiency, the standard treatment begins with injecting thiamine for a period that can range from several days to a few weeks. The dog’s diet must also be corrected to a well-balanced regimen. The vet will limit the amount of raw fish the animal can have. For some dogs, raw fish will be permanently prohibited.
Adequate home care for a dog with a thiamine deficiency includes administering all medications exactly as ordered by the vet. Owners will also need to adjust the dog’s diet according to the vet’s directions. Sometimes this involves a radical change.
The prognosis for thiamine deficiency in dogs is excellent provided that the pet gets treated at an early stage and that his or her diet immediately improves. If an owner follows all the vet’s directions but the dog appears not to be responding or actually gets worse, it’s essential to contact the practice right away.