Vitamin K for dogs: benefits and side effects

Dog food

To understand the need for vitamin K for dogs, we must understand that it is a nutrient that they need to stay healthy. Among its main actions is to modulate the processes of blood coagulation and bone health. In this article, we will know these and other effects of vitamin K.

Natural vitamin K types

There are two forms of vitamin K: the first, which plants make, is K1 or phytonadione. Green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are rich in vitamin K, in its K1 form.

On the other hand, vitamin K2 or menaquinone is made by bacteria that reside in the intestines of mammals. Thus, this vitamin is produced during the digestion of food.

Types of synthetic K vitamins

The chemical industry ventured into the production of synthetic forms of vitamin K. Thus, in the market, there are vitamins K3 (menadione), K4, and K5.

Vitamin K3 proved to be toxic by interfering with glutathione function: it causes liver toxicity and damage to cell membranes. For this reason, its use has been banned since 1963 to treat vitamin K deficiency in humans.

Although its use is discouraged, the three synthetic forms of vitamin K are used in many areas. These include the pet food industry (vitamin K3) and to inhibit the growth of fungi in processed foods (vitamin K5).

Vitamin K3 can be easily identified on pet food labels.  Vitamin K3 is indicated by the names of menadione sodium bisulfate, menadione sodium bisulfite, or menadione dimethylpyrimidinol bisulfite.

The name of vitamin K comes from the German word ‘coagulation vitamin.’

Functions of this vitamin in dogs

Vitamins K1 and K2 are fat-soluble compounds. The K1 form is absorbed in the proximal small intestine and requires bile for absorption. The K2 way is incorporated in the ileum and colon.

After intestinal uptake, vitamin K undergoes recycling in the liver. It is in this organ where vitamin K acts as a cofactor for the modification of a group of proteins.

Coagulation cascade factors are included in this group of proteins. It is also a growth factor and a relevant protein for bone metabolism and dentin, osteocalcin.

The dependent modification of this vitamin is a requirement for these proteins to interact with calcium and become operative in the coagulation process.

What clinical use does vitamin K administration have for dogs?

Vitamin K for dogs is administered in several specific cases. For example, in poisoning by rodenticides, such as warfarin, which act by effectively blocking the hepatic recycling of vitamin K.

These poisons induce the inability to produce essential coagulation factors, mainly coagulation factors II and VII.

Thus, treatment with vitamin K for dogs poisoned by rodenticides has been used successfully as an antidote. 

In these cases, the antidote works in both pets and humans accidentally – or intentionally – exposed to anticoagulant poisons.

On the other hand, vitamin K for dogs is administered in cases where there is a condition that prevents its normal absorption. This happens in cases of liver diseases, in addition to the prevention and treatment of weak bones or osteoporosis.

Hemophilia is a disease characterized by a hereditary defect that prevents normal blood clotting. In this case, treatment with this vitamin seeks to counteract the risk of significant bleeding.

If your dog has gone through a prolonged antibiotic treatment, which has altered the intestinal microbiota, you may need a vitamin K supplement. It will be necessary to supplement your diet until the normality of your intestinal bacterial ecosystem is restored.

Side effects of treatment with this vitamin

Treatment with high doses of this vitamin in dogs should be administered with caution. This is because it has been reported that vitamin K3 (menadione) can induce hemolytic anemia in dogs when 4 mg/kg is administered for five days.

It should be noted that vitamin K takes a day to work when administered by any route. Remember that the new proteins must be synthesized, since the treatment will not modify the already circulating coagulation factors.

Therefore, in life-threatening situations, such as severe bleeding, vitamin K should not be relied upon to provide immediate hemostasis. Instead, you must include a source of active coagulation factors, such as a transfusion.

Finally, it is necessary to mention that dogs must obtain essential nutrients from their diet. The diet should contain vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers, and other substances beneficial to health.

Only in some cases, the dog should consume fortified foods and dietary supplements to provide nutrients that, otherwise, would not be consumed in the minimum recommended amounts.

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