This is part of an ongoing series on supplements recommended on the internet for reactive dogs. I am not a vet, nor have I personally tried most of these supplements with my dog, which means that I cannot tell you if you should or shouldn’t use them with your own. I’m also a lazy researcher, and used Wikipedia for my starting point. Google filled in the rest, and while I think I’m pretty good at separating the good sites from the propaganda, I cannot verify the accuracy of their claims. If you want to use a supplement with your dog, do your own research, and consult with your vet.
In other words: Use this information at your own risk.
Vitamin B Complex
What is it? How does it work?
There are 8 B vitamins: Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Pyrodoxine/Pyrodoxal (B6), Biotin (B7), Folic Acid (B9), and Cobalamins (B12), which are collectively called Vitamin B Complex. These vitamins are water-soluble, which means that excess amounts are flushed out of the body instead of being stored.
The B vitamins are sometimes called the stress vitamins because they are the first to be depleted when our bodies experience physical or emotional stress. The B vitamins also support a host of mood-related functions in the brain. For example, Niacin is necessary for tryptophan metabolism (which in turn results in serotonin production), while B6 supports the serotonin neurotransmitters.
What are the risks of using it?
There are minimal risks to using B vitamins since excess amounts are flushed out of the body. Taking large doses may still have adverse effects, with the most common being nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Still, there are some serious side effects of large doses, so there really can be too much of a good thing.
Availability and dosing considerations.
All of the B vitamins are found in meat, and are especially concentrated in liver, turkey and tuna. Plants can also be a source of the B vitamins, with the exception of B12, which is found only in animal based products.
If you choose to supplement the B vitamins, it’s best to do a complex supplement rather than choosing individual ones so they remain in the proper balance. This site suggests either a 25mg complex daily, or to give a total of one ounce of beef liver per ten pounds of body weight each week. Since the B vitamins are water-soluble, it seems wise to split this up throughout the week instead of simply doing it once. This site recommends supplementing twice a day, and that you should give “regular B complex” to small dogs, “B 50s” to medium dogs, and “B 100s” to large ones.
Are there any scientific studies supporting its use in canines?
This study, though old, is interesting. The researchers created classically conditioned responses to different auditory tones, and found that when the dog’s diet was deficient in certain B vitamins, their ability to discriminate between the tones was greatly diminished. Once returned to a normal diet, their response returned to normal as well. Honestly, I’m not quite sure how this would apply to the question of stress in dogs, but it’s interesting!
This study, done on healthy adult males (human), was a double-blind, placebo-controlled study which found that B vitamin complex and vitamin C supplementation resulted in improved self-reports of stress and mental health, as well as improved functioning on cognitive performance tests.
Edit February 2015: Why I Chose Medication Instead of Supplements