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B6 (Pyridoxal, Pyridoxol)
Refers to several water soluble compounds. Best supplied daily.
Vitamin B6, similar to the other B vitamins, is important for macronutrient metabolism. However, it is also important for proper function of the brain and red blood cells. Optimal levels also prevent unnecessary inflammation! B6 is also important for proper immune function. Finally, B6 is important for gluconeogenesis- the formation of glucose from protein! This is certainly something to consider if you are feeding a high protein diet.
Plant vs. Animal Based
Pyridoxal comes from animal based products and Pyridoxine comes from plant based products. To continue the trend here, the type found in animal foods is to be considered better by most because the form found in plant ingredients require the use of other B vitamins for the conversion. Any time the body has to convert or synthesize something, other materials are required. Moreover, B6 found in plants are less absorbable because they are bound to sugars.
Because most commercial foods are fortified with B vitamins (at least canned and kibble are), we don’t see acute deficiencies often. However, we can expect to see disturbances to the functions mentioned above if sub-optimal amounts are provided or if the forms provided are poor. This means sluggishness and disturbances to the skin. Of course, severe cases would also see anemia.
Disturbances to the gut can harm the dog’s ability to absorb B6 (and many other nutrients). A dog in a state of inflammation will see heightened requirements.
The recommended allowance for dogs may not be high enough to optimally support a raw diet (or protein heavy home cooked diet). If the dog is deriving a significant amount of energy from protein, we need more B6 to support this process. Cats, for example, have a relatively higher requirement for B6 because they are expected to derive most of their energy from protein.
High Quality Sources
Fortunately, it is easy to provide enough B6. B6 is found in high amounts in- you guessed it- liver! Especially from beef, turkey, lamb, and veal liver. Other sources include emu, salmon, chicken, turkey, and lean cuts of beef.
If you are feeding a homemade diet, organ meats will help enormously. If you are feeding kibble or other processed commercial diet, stick to the non-organ meat based options above. You can also include heart.
High amounts of B6 should not be supplied as an insurance supplement. While many of the B vitamins are not toxic in high doses, B6 can be. We have some data for dogs, but more data for humans.
If you are using the recommended allowances, do not approach the RA of 10x the amount. Supplement what is needed.
If you are supplementing with a B complex and you have not audited your diet, you should check the form of B6 and the dose. First, to make sure the form is readily usable, and secondly to ensure that you are not over supplementing.
For reference, you can figure out your dog’s RA here: