Are you feeding your dog eggs, mushrooms, sardines, bananas, almonds and liver? If not, your dog may not be getting enough biotin in his diet. If your dog’s not getting enough biotin, you could run into some serious health issues. So you need to know what to watch out for.
First, what is biotin and how do you know if your dog needs more?
What Is Biotin?
Biotin is one of the complex B vitamins (along with riboflavin, thiamin and niacin). It’s also known as vitamin H (confusing, right?). Vitamins are responsible for breaking down fat and carbs from food. Then they turn them into energy. Biotin is part of that process, but it does a lot of other important things too.
Benefits Of Biotin For Dogs
Biotin is important to help maintain:
- Healthy skin and coat
- Proper muscle formation
- Healthy digestion (it metabolizes proteins and fatty acids)
- Normal growth
- Improved energy
- Thyroid and adrenal gland function
- Normal function of the reproductive tract
Biotin is essential for some of the most important functions in your dog’s body. But in some situations, your dog might have a biotin deficiency.
Causes Of Biotin Deficiency In Dogs
There are a few things that can cause a biotin deficiency in your dog … including not getting enough biotin in his diet.
People also worry that feeding raw eggs could lead to a biotin deficiency in your dog. That’s because the whites contain avidin, an enzyme that binds with biotin, making it less absorbable. But egg yolks are rich in biotin, so if you feed the whole egg, your dog’s unlikely to be deficient. Cooking destroys avidin, so you could also just slightly cook the egg … but you’ll lose some of the nutrition if you do.
The real problem behind biotin deficiencies is antibiotics.The drugs can destroy the biotin-producing bacteria in the gut. And that leads to a biotin deficiency in your dog’s body.
Dogs taking anti-seizure medication over a long period can also have lower biotin levels. There are natural remedies you can use to manage seizures and avoid a biotin shortage and other risks of these medications.
Large breeds and puppies that grow rather quickly may also become biotin deficient.
Here are some less common causes of a biotin deficiency in your dog:
- Gastrointestinal parasites or worms
- Hormonal disturbances
- Chemical or physical trauma
- Functional or metabolic disorders
- Hereditary deficiency
Symptoms Of Biotin Deficiency
How can you tell if your dog has a biotin deficiency? Here are some symptoms to watch for that help you detect a biotin deficiency in your dog:
- Scaly skin
- Skin lesions
- Dry and dull hair/coat
- Scruffy appearance
- Reduced growth rate
Some other clues that might lead you to suspect a biotin deficenci are …
- Has your dog been on antibiotics within the last few months? As mentioned earlier, that can lead to a biotin deficiency.
- Today lots of dogs are dealing with gut issues including leaky gut. Leaky gut can cause skin issues with your dog constantly itching, scratching and chewing. But that could also be a biotin deficiency!
- Is there excessive shedding? More than usual fur loss? Is his coat thinning or becoming dull? You guessed it … it could be a biotin efficiency … not allergies!
Those are the visible signs. Much more serious are the things you can’t see, like these:
- Defects in nerve transmission. This can result in muscle weakness and muscle wasting.
- High blood cholesterol. It can lead to hyperlipidemia (too much fat in the blood) that cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, abdominal swelling and attacks, or lumps of fat in the skin.
- Anemia. Lack of biotin causes oxygen-carrying red blood cells to lose their ability to bind with oxygen. Your dog may have dark, tarry stools or blood in his poop as he loses these red blood cells.
If your dog develops any of these conditions, your vet will need to test concentrations of biotin in your dog’s urine to confirm a biotin deficiency.
How To Fix A Biotin Deficiency In Your Dog
The best way to resolve a biotin deficiency in your dog is through diet. We’ll talk about foods to add in a bit.
Biotin supplements can work. In one study,119 dogs with skin conditions were treated with only biotin. Their symptoms included:
- Dull coat
- Brittle hair
- Hair loss
- Scaly skin
In 60% of the cases all symptoms resolved after treatment with biotin supplements. There was an improvement in 31% of cases.
But if you use a biotin supplement, be sure to buy an organic, naturally sourced product and not synthetic biotin. Ask your holistic vet to help you with dosing depending on your dog’s condition. The deficient dogs in the study above got a very high dose of 5 mg per 20 lbs bodyweight for 3 to 5 weeks.
The good news is, you can correct a biotin deficiency with food and don’t usually need a supplement.
Add These Biotin-Rich Foods To Your Dog’s Diet
Here are common foods containing biotin, along with the amount of biotin present, just to show you the levels. But you don’t need to calculate the amount of biotin in your dog’s food. Just add plenty of biotin-rich whole foods to his diet.
Kidney and liver are the richest sources of biotin for your dog. Heart, pancreas and chicken are good sources. Beef spleen, lung, brain and tongue have the same amount of biotin as pork, beef, veal and lamb muscle meat. Raw is best, but if your dog doesn’t like raw, don’t worry … a report shows that cooked meat retains about 77% of its biotin.
Feed these biotin-rich foods to your dog:
- 100 g (3.5 oz) chicken liver – 232.4 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) pork kidney – 99.5 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) beef kidney – 89.6 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) pork liver – 79.6 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) beef liver – 76.1 mcg
- 62 g (2.2 oz) med egg – raw vs cooked egg yolk – 35 mcg vs 41.6 mcg
- 62 g (2.2 oz) med egg – raw vs cooked whole egg – 15.6 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) sunflower seeds – 80 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) almonds – 61.6 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) cooked shiitake mushrooms – 36 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) hemp seeds – 27.3 mcg
And give your dog extra biotin benefits with these common foods:
- 100 g (3.5 oz) cooked broccoli or cauliflower – 8-9 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) salmon – 5-11 mcg
- 85 g (3 oz) sardines – 5 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) – pork, chicken or beef – 2-7 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) spinach – 3 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) bananas – 1.4 mcg
- 100 g (3.5 oz) blueberries – 1.1 mcg
Is Too Much Biotin Bad For Dogs?
Biotin is water-soluble. That means it’s easily eliminated from the body through urine. So no, you don’t have to worry about your dog getting too much in his system. (Fat-soluble vitamins are different … they build up in the body and can lead to toxicity.)
Does Biotin Have Side Effects?
When you feed food sources of biotin for your dog, it’s really hard to get too much. But overdoing supplements could cause problems … especially if you give a synthetic supplement. Possible side effects include skin rashes, digestive upset, kidney problems and trouble releasing insulin. It can also create false positives in lab tests for thyroid disease and heart issues.
Food is always the best and safest way to give your dog vitamins!
So maybe you want to ensure your dog isn’t deficient in biotin or clear up a skin condition. Or you just want to be on the safe side. When you add biotin-rich foods to your dog’s diet you give his health a boost. Then he’ll be getting all the benefits of this important vitamin … and you won’t have to worry about your dog being deficient in biotin.
Volker, L., et al. Clinical study on the effect of biotin on skin conditions in dogs. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd. 1989;131(10):621-5.
Schweigert, B.S., et al. Biotin Content of Meat and Meat Products. The Journal of Nutrition. Volume 26, Issue 1, July 1943, Pages 65–71.
Staggs CG et al. Determination of the biotin content of select foods using accurate and sensitive HPLC/avidin binding. J Food Compost Anal. 2004 Dec;17(6):767-776.