Thiamine (Vitamin B1) Deficiency in Cats

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Thiamine Deficiency in Cats

Thiamine deficiency, also known as Vitamin B1 deficiency,  is a clinical syndrome associated with vascular injury (pertaining to vessels) and nerve damage caused by the deficiency of vitamin B1 in cats. It is due to an inadequate dietary intake of thiamine, a component of the B complex group of vitamins, relative to the body’s overall needs.

This deficiency is more common in cats than dogs and is especially prevalent in raw fish eaters, cats fed homemade cat foods and cats fed some various canned foods that are deficient.

Thiamine is very sensitive to heat and can be destroyed cooking with high temperatures which is common in over-processed food.  Some studies have suggested that 16% of cat foods may be deficient in thiamine. Many of these cat foods are created to be supplemental food and not feed as a sole diet. 

General Causes of Vitamin B1 Deficiency in Cats

  • Eating raw fish
  • Feeding pet food that is not completely balanced
  • Overprocessed food
  • Sulfites (chemicals) in the diet that interfere with the absorption of thiamine
  • What to Watch For

  • Ventroflexion (bending in a downward position) of the neck
  • Muscle weakness
  • Ataxia (wobbly walking)/Incoordination
  • Seizures
  • Fixed, dilated pupils
  • Paralysis of the muscles around the eye
  • Falling
  • Some cats will experience gastrointestinal symptoms prior to the neurologic impairment. Signs may include vomiting, drooling, decreased appetite and/or weight loss. 
  • Diagnosis of Thiamine Deficiency in Cats

    The diagnosis is largely based on clinical signs, history and response to treatment. Baseline tests to include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis are recommended in all patients, although are most often within normal limits. Thiamine blood levels can be measured. 

    Screening chest and abdominal radiographs (x-rays) are an important part of any baseline workup, especially to rule out other disorders.

    Treatment of Thiamine Deficiency in Cats

  • Administer thiamine by injection for a several day to several week period
  • Thiamine can also be given orally
  • Feed a proper well balanced diet
  • Limit or discontinue raw-fish diet
  • Home Care

    Administer all medication and feed a well balanced diet as directed by your veterinarian. Contact your veterinarian at once if your pet is not responding to therapy or is getting worse. Prognosis is excellent if the disease is treated early and the diet is improved. Some cats can have persistent neurologic impairment. 

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