Vitamin B7, also known as biotin or vitamin H, is commonly associated with healthy skin and hair. It is certainly useful in this role, since it works with vitamin B6 to produce keratin, the protein that makes up hair, feathers, hooves, and horns. However, vitamin B7 has many other vital roles, as well.
Like the other B vitamins, biotin is necessary for metabolizing fats, proteins, and carbohydrates correctly. It helps maintain blood sugar at a steady level. It also assists the digestive system in using the other B vitamins.
Vitamin B7 helps maintain the health of the muscles, connective tissue, nervous system, thyroid, adrenal glands, and reproductive system. It plays a role in transferring carbon dioxide out of the body. It is also critical for cell growth.
Grazing animals can synthesize their own biotin when provided with forage-based diets. Alfalfa is particularly beneficial in this process.
Swine and poultry can also synthesize vitamin B7 to some degree, but not in the necessary quantities. Therefore, they must receive biotin in their diet. This can come from milk, whey, dried yeast, blackstrap molasses, seaweed meal, and alfalfa meal. Oilseeds are another good source of biotin, while cereal grains contain the vitamin in a form that animals cannot readily use.
Pets normally synthesize their own biotin, but in some situations supplementation is useful. For example, large-breed puppies may benefit from some extra biotin as they grow, as will pets that are taking various medications or that suffer from allergies. Effective natural sources for pets include liver, fish, egg yolk, and yeast.
Some horse owners buy shampoos that contain biotin, hoping to improve their horse’s skin and coat. Unfortunately, animals do not readily absorb this vitamin through their skin. A dietary source of biotin is much more effective.
Causes of Deficiency
All types of pets and farm animals may suffer from a biotin deficiency if they consume molds, drugs, pesticides, rancid fats, or large quantities of raw egg whites.
In grazing animals, a biotin deficiency may be sparked by anything that compromises the health of the digestive system. This can include old age, gastrointestinal disease, or a grain-based diet. Another possibility in horses is heavy exercise, since a hardworking horse may use up its biotin faster than it can replace it.
Swine and poultry may suffer from a vitamin B7 deficiency if fed a diet that is either low in fat or high in polyunsaturated fats. Feeds that have been heat-cured or stored for long periods of time are problems, as well. Keep in mind that while cereal grains contain biotin, farm animals cannot readily absorb it; therefore, a diet based on cereal grains must be supplemented with a better source of vitamin B7.
Symptoms of Deficiency
Symptoms of biotin deficiency vary widely. Furthermore, if a deficiency occurs, signs may be noticed in only a few members of the herd or flock.
- Swollen eyelids that stick together in poultry.
- Swollen mucus membranes inside mouth.
- Dry coat.
- Broken feathering, often matted on head and breast.
- White bars on feathers of young bronze tom turkeys.
- Soft, slow-growing horns and hooves.
- Hoof disorders.
- Leg and beak deformities in poultry.
- Spasticity and paralysis of the hind legs.
- Inability to walk in poultry.
- Prolonged interval between weaning and estrus in sows.
- Poor egg production.
- High levels of embryonic mortality.
- Skeletal deformities in newly hatched chicks.
- Poor growth.
- Sudden death.
Symptoms of Toxicity
Biotin is considered to be safe for most pets and farm animals.
Biotin is frequently associated with hair and hooves. Some of its more common uses are ensuring a healthy coat, curing sunburn, and treating a wide range of hoof problems.
In dogs and cats, biotin is often prescribed to treat severe allergies, sometimes in combination with fatty acids.
Vitamin B7 appears to partly correct leg problems in broiler chickens.
Another area where biotin holds potential is in aiding proper reproduction. Research on breeding sows has demonstrated that supplementation can not only improve body condition scores, but increase the number and weight of pigs per litter. It can also help sows breed back quickly after weaning their litter.
Similar studies in dairy cattle suggest that biotin supplementation may improve cow fertility.
Content regarding medical conditions and treatment is provided for general information purposes only, and is not to be construed as legal, medical, or professional advice. Please consult your veterinarian for advice regarding your specific animal’s needs.