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J Vet Intern Med. 2001 Jan-Feb;15(1):26-32.

Subnormal concentrations of serum cobalamin (vitamin B12) in cats with gastrointestinal disease.

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Department of Clinical Science, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


The present study sought to determine the spectrum of diseases associated with subnormal concentrations of serum cobalamin in cats undergoing investigation of suspected gastrointestinal problems. The solid-phase boil radioassay (RA) for cobalamin employed in the present study was immunologically specific, precise, and accurate, with a sensitivity of 15 pg/mL. The RA yielded results that strongly correlated with those obtained by bioassay (Spearmann rho = .805; P < .0001), although the absolute values were lower for the RA. Forty-nine of 80 serum samples submitted during the period of January 1996-January 1998 had cobalamin concentrations below the reference range for healthy cats (range 900-2,800 pg/mL; mean +/- SD, 1,775 +/- 535 pg/mL; n = 33). Cats with subnormal cobalamin concentrations (mean +/- SD; 384 +/- 272 pg/mL, range 3-883 pg/mL) were middle-aged or older and were presented for weight loss. diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia, and thickened intestines. Definitive diagnoses in 22 cats included inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), intestinal lymphoma, cholangiohepatitis or cholangits, and pancreatic inflammation. Serum concentrations of cobalamin were particularly low in cats with intestinal lymphoma, three-fifths of whom also had subnormal serum concentrations of folate (< 9 ng/mL). The simultaneous presence of disease in the intestines, pancreas, or hepatobiliary system in many cats made it difficult to determine the cause of subnormal cobalamin concentrations. The circulating half-life of parenteral cyanocobalamin was shorter in 2 cats with IBD (5 days) than in 4 healthy cats (12.75 days). The presence of subnormal serum concentrations of cobalamin in 49 of 80 cats evaluated suggests that the measurement of serum cobalamin may be a useful indirect indicator of enteric or pancreatic disease in cats. The rapid depletion of circulating cobalamin in cats suggests that cats may be highly susceptible to cobalamin deficiency. However, the relationship of subnormal serum cobalamin concentrations to cobalamin deficiency and the effect of cobalamin deficiency on cats remain to be determined.

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