A study published in the November 2017 Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine looked at cats admitted to a teaching hospital with gastrointestinal signs and low blood cobalamin (vitamin B12) levels. Twenty cats completed the study.
Signs of illness in the cats ranged from weight loss to classic gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and a lack of appetite. The cats were being treated with other medications, including steroids, antibiotics, and probiotics. Both actual cobalamin levels and levels of methylmalonic acid (MMA) were evaluated in the study cats. MMA is usually metabolized by pathways that require cobalamin, so if the cobalamin level is low, the level of this chemical will increase in the blood.
The researchers’ hope was that by giving injections of cobalamin, the cats’ levels of cobalamin (and secondarily, levels of MMA) would normalize and the signs of gastrointestinal illness would improve. Cats were given the supplement once a week for a period of six weeks.
During the supplementation period, cats improved both clinically and in their lab values. Unfortunately, within weeks of discontinuing the supplementation, the cats reverted to their previous condition.
The take-home message from this study is that cobalamin supplementation may be helpful for cats with chronic gastrointestinal illness. However, it appears that the supplementation must continue for longer than six weeks (and possibly for life) to maintain the benefits. Further study is warranted but, since gastrointestinal diseases can be frustrating for cats, owners, and veterinarians, these injections may be another weapon in the arsenal against these problems.