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Water Soluble Vitamins: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Pet Healthy

water soluble vitamins for pet health

If you haven't already, be sure to check out these posts:

RELATED POST: Why Vitamins Are So Important to Your Pet’s Health & Wellbeing

RELATED POST: Fat Soluble Vitamins: What You Need to Know

OK, now let’s explore the water-soluble vitamins and how they affect your pets' overall health ...

B-complex vitamins are absorbed passively (without active response or resistance) in the small intestine. Nine vitamins act as coenzymes for specific cellular enzymes involved in energy metabolism and tissue synthesis. 

Six of them (B1, B6, B2, niacin, pantothenic acid and biotin) are involved in the use of food for energy. The remaining three (folic acid, B12 and choline) are important for cell maintenance and growth, as well as for blood cell synthesis.

Vitamin C is also a water-soluble vitamin.


Vitamin B1 is a component of the coenzyme thiamine pyrophosphate, which plays an important role in carbon metabolism.

What’s carbon metabolism? It’s a broad range of biosynthetic reactions that occur in the cytoplasm and the mitochondria. Carbon metabolism is essential for maintaining cellular homeostasis.

What are the benefits of Vitamin B1 (thiamine)?

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is necessary for decarboxylation and transketolation reactions involved in the use of carbohydrates for energy. It’s also involved in converting carbs to fat and metabolising fatty acids, nucleic acids, steroids and certain amino acids.

Your pet's thiamine requirement depends on the level of carbs in his diet. If he becomes deficient in vitamin B1, his central nervous system function may be significantly affected because of its dependency on constant carbs.

Natural food sources of vitamin B1 include lean pork, beef, liver, wheat germ, whole grains and legumes.

Signs of vitamin B1 deficiency

Deficiencies can be seen with inadequate dietary intake or high intake of foods containing thiamine antagonists, such as raw fish, shellfish, bacteria, yeast and fungi. However, like many other nutrients, these antagonists are destroyed when cooked.

VITAMIN B2 (Riboflavin)

Named for its yellow colour (flavin) riboflavin contains the simple sugar D-ribose. Unlike many other nutrients, riboflavin is relatively stable during heat processing. Still, it can be easily destroyed by light exposure and irradiation.

Vitamin B2 is a component of two coenzymes, both required in oxidative enzyme systems that release energy from carbs, fats and proteins. It can be found in milk, organ meats, whole grains and vegetables.

Microbial synthesis of vitamin B2 occurs in your pet’s large intestine. Like vitamin B1, the amount he needs depends on his carbohydrate intake. Still, daily intake of vitamin B2 is necessary for optimal health.

VITAMIN B3 (Niacin; nicotinic acid)

Vitamin B3 is closely associated with riboflavin in cellular oxidation reduction enzyme systems. 

First, vitamin B3 is converted from nicotinic acid to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and its relative nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP). They are two of the most important coenzymes in the cell. NADP is simply NAD with a third phosphate group attached to it. 

After conversion, those coenzymes (NAD and NADP) function as hydrogen-transfer agents in several enzymatic pathways involved in the use of fat, carbs and protein.

Meat, legumes and grains contain high amounts of vitamin B3. But beware, a large portion of vitamin B3 deriving from plant sources is bound to carbs, making it unavailable for absorption by your pet.

For dogs, tryptophan is a precursor to the synthesis of niacin. It directly affects their dietary requirement. Processing these plant foods may release the otherwise bound niacin, increasing availability.

Signs of vitamin B3 deficiency

Vitamin B3 deficiency in dogs is uncommon, but may occur when foods low in niacin and tryptophan are frequently consumed (ie: corn or grains).

Cats cannot synthesize niacin, which means they can easily develop deficiencies when fed high-cereal diets, such as wheat, corn, rice, barley, oats, rye and sorghum.

VITAMIN B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Vitamin B5 naturally occurs in all forms of living tissue. Also known as pantothenic acid, vitamin B5 (along with the other B vitamins) helps the body convert food (carbs) into fuel (glucose), which your pet’s body uses to produce energy. 

Vitamin B5 is absorbed and phosphorylated by adenosine triphosphate. That makes coenzyme A, which is essential to the process of acetylation.

What is acetylation? Glad you asked …

Acetylation is the reaction involved in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism within the citric acid cycle.

Vitamin B5 is found in virtually all foods. Rich sources include organ meats, liver, kidneys, egg yolk, dairy products and legumes.

VITAMIN B6 (Pyridoxine)

There are three natural forms of vitamin B6:

  1. Pyridoxine
  2. Pyridoxamine
  3. Pyridoxal

Pyridoxal is the biologically active form of vitamin B6. It is necessary for many reactions of amino acid metabolization, and it is required to synthesize hemoglobin and convert tryptophan into niacin (Vitamin B3).

Your pet’s pyridoxine requirement is influenced by the level of protein in his diet. The more protein, the more pyridoxine. That’s a good thing.

Animal tissues, such as organs, meats and fish, are predominantly pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. Plant foods, such as wheat germ and whole grains, provide pyridoxine and pyridoxamine.

Signs of vitamin B6 deficiency

Signs of vitamin B6 deficiencies include reduced growth, muscle weakness, neurological issues, kidney lesions and anorexia (severe loss of appetite).

VITAMIN B7 (Biotin)

Biotin is plentiful in the average diet, but a large portion of your pet’s nutritional requirement can also be synthesized by gut bacteria. 

Vitamin B7 is also found in foods such as liver, milk, legumes, eggs and nuts.

What are the benefits of vitamin B7?

Biotin is a coenzyme required in several carboxylation reactions. In certain steps of fatty acid and non-essential amino-acid synthesis, carbon chains are lengthened (carbon atoms are added) so that biotin is able to carry carbon dioxide.

Signs of B7 (biotin) deficiency

If your pet is low in vitamin B7, you may notice a lacklustre coat, brittle hair, dry, flaky skin, or even alopecia (loss of hair). Some pets may develop diarrhea or loss of appetite, which can lead to unhealthy weight loss.

VITAMINS B10 + B11 (Folic Acid)

Vitamins B10 & B11 are the names used for a group of vitamins with related biological activity. They are required daily for optimal health.

Vitamins B10 / B11 go through enzymatic changes, first to tetrahydrofolic acid then to folate enzymes. They are synthesized by bacteria in the intestine in both cats and dogs.

Signs of a vitamin B10 / B11 deficiency

A vitamin b10 or b11 deficiency results in the inability to produce adequate DNA, which can lead to decreased cellular growth and maturation.

Feeding your pet raw green leafy vegetables, liver and kidneys can help prevent him from becoming deficient.

VITAMIN B12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin to contain a trace element of cobalt. It is also the only vitamin that is synthesized by microorganisms. It is involved in the transfer of single carbon units during various biochemical reactions, such as metabolism of fats and carbs, and synthesis of myelin.

Vitamin B12 is only found in animal origin foods, such as meat, poultry, fish and dairy.

Your pet’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 depends on his dietary intake and adequate gastrointestinal tract function (his ability to absorb it through his digestive tract). Excess B12 is stored in your pet’s body, primarily in the liver, so it can draw on the reserve whenever needed.

Signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency

Absence of intrinsic factors (such as glycoprotein secreted by chief cells of the gastric mucosa) can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency, which, in turn, can result in a condition known as pernicious anemia.

A vegetarian diet may also contribute to a deficiency. Our pets need their meat!


Choline is not a vitamin or a mineral but there are similarities with the vitamin B complex. 

What are the benefits of choline?

Unlike other vitamins, choline is an integral part of cellular membranes. It provides methyl units for metabolic reactions, and is a precursor for the neurotransmitter substance acetylcholine (which is required to transport fatty acid in cells).

Many animals are capable of synthesizing choline for their needs and do not require a dietary source. Diets which are high in methionine can replace some choline requirements. 

You’ll find large amounts of choline in egg yolks, organs, legumes, dairy and whole grains.

VITAMIN C (Ascorbic Acid)

Closely related to monosaccharide sugars, cats and dogs synthesize Vitamin C from glucose in plants.

Only some monosaccharide sugars have a sweet taste, such as glucose (dextrose), fructose (levulose), and galactose. Monosaccharides are the building blocks of disaccharides (sucrose and lactose) and polysaccharides (cellulose and starch).

What are the benefits of vitamin C?

Vitamin C is required for hydroxylation of aminos like lysine, asparagine, aspartate and histidine. When molecules are hydroxylated, they become more water‐soluble, which affects their structure and function. Aminos contribute to muscle health, and collagen and elastin for healthy skin and joint health.

Signs of a vitamin C deficiency

When vitamin C is exposed to heat, light, alkalies, oxidative enzymes, copper and/or iron, its efficacy is significantly reduced. 

A vitamin C deficiency can result in scurvy, impaired wound healing, capillary bleeding, anemia, and faulty bone formation.

Dogs and cats do not require an exogenous source of vitamin C. 

Good to know, but what’s an exogenous source of vitamin C? 

An exogenous factor is any material that is present and active in an individual organism or living cell but that originated outside that organism.

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