Why Vitamin B6 for Dogs Is Important & Where to Find It in Foods
Step 12 of 18 in the Dogly Basic Nutrition Channel
with Savannah Welna of FeedThyDog, Nutrition Advocate
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Like all vitamin B complex vitamins, vitamin B6 is an essential vitamin for your dog to maintain a healthy lifestyle; it's necessary for proper brain, red blood cell, immune system, and metabolic functions.


Vitamin B6 plays a key role in gluconeogenesis, which is the metabolic process of forming glucose from proteins, making it especially important if your pup is eating a high-protein diet. Glucose is critical fuel for your dog's healthy metabolism and energy and is the only energy source used by the brain. 


What is vitamin B6


Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is a water-soluble vitamin your dog's body needs for several functions. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water so the body cannot store them. (Leftover amounts of the vitamin leave the body through the urine.)


Although the body maintains a small pool of water-soluble vitamins, they have to be taken regularly. Vitamin B6 cannot be made by the body and so it must come from your dog's diet. 


What vitamin B6 does for our dogs


Vitamin B6, similar to the other B vitamins, is important for macronutrient metabolism. It’s significant to protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism and the creation of red blood cells and neurotransmitters.  


Vitamin B6 plays a key role in supporting proper function of the brain and red blood cells. Vitamin B6 helps the body make hemoglobin, the part of your blood that carries energy-boosting oxygen to the brain and other organs.


Optimal levels also help prevent unnecessary inflammation. It's also important for proper immune function and is needed for gluconeogenesis.


Vitamin B6 & brain function

All the B vitamins benefit the brain, brain function and a healthy nervous system, but vitamin B6 is especially important for regulating mood and preventing mental fatigue. This water-soluble vitamin is needed for the brain to produce serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter that helps dogs and humans feel more relaxed.


Vitamin B6 is involved in managing homocysteine levels. In many cases, high homocysteine levels are associated with cognitive impairment and decline. Deficiency in vitamin B6 is regularly linked to high levels of homocysteine found in the blood, posing a risk to brain health. Ensuring sufficient levels of vitamin B6 can help regulate homocysteine levels and protect cognitive function.


Vitamin B6 & eye health 

High levels of homocysteine are also associated with age-related macular degeneration, so vitamin B6 can therefore be beneficial in protecting eye health. As we know, vitamin B6 helps regulate levels of homocysteine in the body and in studies, when taking a regular dose of vitamin B6 supplementation, the risk of age-related macular degeneration decreased by 35-40%.


This data was derived from human studies and so we must be careful when extrapolating to pets, but it certainly provides food for thought.


Vitamin B6 and healthy skin

Vitamin B6 works along with vitamin B5/pantothenic acid to support healthy skin and defend against skin issues like dermatitis. Vitamin B6 reduces inflammation and specifically aids collagen production for stronger, more naturally elastic skin.


Vitamin B6 and arthritis prevention & support 

The high levels of inflammation in the body that result from arthritis may lead to low levels of vitamin B6. There have also been studies demonstrating that vitamin B6 can help modulate pro-inflammatory responses and joint pain in cases of arthritis.


If your dog is suffering with a chronic inflammatory condition, it's a good idea to monitor your pup's vitamin B6 status.


Where to find vitamin B6/pyridoxine in foods


Generally, vitamin B6 is found in organ meats, such as liver and kidneys, fish, dark green leafy vegetables, and whole grains.


Other food sources of vitamin B6 are:

  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Organ Meats
  • Eggs


Plant-based vs. animal-based

Vitamin B6/pyridoxal comes from animal-based sources and Pyridoxine comes from plant-based sources. The type found in animal foods is usually considered better because the form found in plant ingredients requires the use of other B vitamins for the conversion. Any time the body has to convert or synthesize something, other materials are required.


Most important, vitamin B6 found in plants is less absorbable because it is bound to sugars.


High-quality sources

Fortunately, it is easy to provide enough vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is found in high amounts in- you guessed it- liver! Especially from beef, turkey, lamb, and veal liver. Other good sources include salmon, chicken, turkey, and lean cuts of beef. 


A word about protein-heavy diets...

The recommended allowance for dogs may not be high enough to optimally support a raw diet (or a protein-heavy home-cooked diet). If your dog is getting a significant amount of energy from protein, you need more vitamin B6 to support this process. (Cats, for example, have a relatively higher requirement for vitamin B6 because they are expected to derive most of their energy from protein.)


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.


Risks of depletion & vitamin B deficiency


Since vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, it needs to be replenished daily in the body to be at optimal levels for your dog's health.


Risks of depletion:

  • Hormone demands - if your dog is stressed, your pup is at risk of depletion without a sufficient supply of vitamin B6 for support.
  • Undernutrition in general, of course, draws down the supply.
  • Malabsorption through digestive compromise and/or less bioavailable sources can have negative consequences.


Disturbances to the gut can harm a dog’s ability to absorb vitamin B6 (and many other nutrients). A dog in a state of inflammation will see heightened requirements. 


Vitamin B deficiency

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 suboptimal amounts are provided or if the forms provided are poor.


Give me an example

Suboptimal amounts could mean seeing issues such as general sluggishness and disturbances to the skin. Of course, severe cases would also see anemia. 


Vitamin B6 and Anemia

Due to its role in hemoglobin production, the most common sign of low B6 is anaemia.  


Hemoglobin is a protein that delivers oxygen to cells. When there is low hemoglobin, cells don’t get enough oxygen. The result is anemia.  


Be aware of toxicity

High amounts of vitamin B6 should not be supplied as an insurance supplement. While many of the B vitamins are not toxic in high doses, vitamin B6 can be. We have some data for dogs, but more data for humans. Only supplement what is needed.


If you are considering supplementing with a B complex vitamin or any specific vitamin B supplement and you have not audited your diet, it's a good idea to check the form of vitamin B6 and the dose with a canine nutritionist or your veterinarian. First, to make sure the form of any nutritional supplements is readily usable, and second, to ensure that you are not over supplementing.


Steps to evaluate vitamin B6 in your dog's diet:

  1. Identify vitamin B6 in your dog's food: If you're feeding homemade or commercial dog food, identify the vitamin B6 sources- especially if you're a DIY feeder or feeding local raw food blends.
  2. If you're feeding canned and/or kibble: how can you add fresh/whole food vitamin B6 to your dog’s diet? (start by checking sources above for options)
  3. Are your vitamin B6 sources in an easily accessible, bioavailable form? Are they in sufficient amounts and fed regularly to keep replenishing since vitamin B6 is water soluble?


Vitamin B6 is essential for your dog's health and wellbeing, so it's important to ensure your dog is getting enough in his/her diet. By assessing vitamin B6 sources, bioavailability, and amounts needed you can ensure your pup is getting the vitamin B6 he or she needs.


Next up in the Basic Nutrition Channel on Dogly


Now that you have a good understanding of your dog's need for vitamin B6, learn why all of the b vitamins matter for your dog's health if you haven't already.


Or hop over to the Basic Nutrition Channel if you'd like to ask a question in the Community discussion and start any of the other step-by-step guides in Needed Nutrients.


If you ever need more personalized nutrition guidance, please reach out!

Savannah Welna of FeedThyDog

Nutrition Advocate
Dogly loves Savannah because she provides nutrition advice based on the dog in front of you and your lifestyle.

Savannah guides you

Raw Feeding - Basic Nutrition - Fresh Feeding - Home Cooking - Whole Foods - Supplementation

Savannah is certified

CN & ACN - Certified Canine Fitness - & Certified Advanced Canine Nutrition