Thiamine Levels in Cat Food


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Thiamine Levels in Cat Food – Could Your Cat Suffer from a Deficiency?

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by Lorie Huston, DVM on March 18, 2014
Thiamine, or Vitamin B1, is a water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for normal carbohydrate metabolism, muscle contraction, and nerve conduction. It is found in yeast, wheat germ, kidney, liver, and some types of seeds. Cats, as a species, require four times as much thiamine in their diet than dogs.

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Is it possible that your cat isn’t receiving enough thiamine in his diet? This study, featured on the Winn Feline Foundation blog, indicates that some cat foods may be lacking sufficient levels of thiamine. In this study, “researchers analyzed 90 non-therapeutic canned cat foods (one fish and one non-fish flavor) from 45 brands.” These researchers wanted to determine the effects of flavor (fish vs. moonfish), texture (‘pate’ vs. ‘non-pate’), country of manufacture, and company size on thiamine concentration.

Here’s what they found:

“Thiamine levels were below minimum requirement set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials in 12 of 90 (13.3%) foods and below minimum recommended allowance of the National Research Council in 14 of 90 (15.6%) foods. ‘Pate’ foods had significantly lower thiamine level than ‘non-pate’ foods, and smaller companies (less than $1,000,000 in retail sales) had significantly lower thiamine levels than larger companies (more than $2,000,000 retail in sales). Neither fish or non-fish flavor nor country of manufacture had a significant effect on thiamine level. Thiamine concentrations were found over a wide range in the foods evaluated. The researchers concluded that pet food companies should strive to measure and limit thiamine loss during processing and implement strict quality control practices. In addition, veterinarians should consider thiamine deficiency in cats presenting with acute neurologic dysfunction, especially with accompanying gastrointestinal signs.”

What Are the Signs of Thiamine Deficiency in Cats?

Signs of thiamine deficiency can be either gastrointestinal or neurological in nature, or both. Gastrointestinal signs, decreased appetite, salivation, vomiting, and weight loss, may precede neurological signs. Neurologic signs may include ventriflexion (bending towards the floor) or curling of the neck, ataxia, spastic gait, circling, falling, head tilt, dilated pupils, opisthotonos (an abnormal body position in which the back is arched with the head thrown back), stupor, and seizures. Thiamine deficiency can also lead to secondary hepatic lipidosis.

What Causes Thiamine Deficiency in Cats?

There are actually a number of things that have been implicated in contributing to thiamine deficiency in cats. Among the factors are:

  • prolonged lack of appetite
  • diseases that cause malassimilation/malabsorption
  • extensive surgical resection of jejunum and ileum
  • diuresis
  • feeding an all meat diet
  • feeding meat based diet that has been preserved with sulfur dioxide
  • destruction of B1 during food processing
  • destruction of B1 by thiaminase present in some bacteria and in certain types of raw fish (cod, catfish, carp, herring, etc)

How Is Thiamine Deficiency Diagnosed and Treated?

Diagnosis is most often based on history, clinical signs, and response to treatment. Thiamine can be measured at some laboratories and finding a lower than normal level can be diagnostic.

Treatment involves supplementing the diet with thiamine or changing the diet to one that contains adequate levels of thiamine, if appropriate. In cases where an underlying disease exists that contributes to the development of a deficient level of thiamine, treatment of the underlying disease is indicated, if possible.

As noted by the researchers in the study mentioned previously, veterinarians should be cognizant of the potential for thiamine deficiency and should consider deficiency as a cause for cats with symptoms consistent with a lack of adequate thiamine. Hopefully, cat food manufacturers will take note and take appropriate measures as well.

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About Lorie Huston, DVM
Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.

This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette