Why Is My Dog Or Cat’s Blood Folate Level Low?

Ron Hines DVM PhD

See What Normal Blood & Urine Values Are

Causes Of Most Abnormal Blood & Urine Tests

See How Tests Are Grouped

Your Pet’s Blood Folate Level = Folic Acid aka Vitamin B9

Veterinarians usually request blood folate and cobalamin level tests on your dog or cat when they suspect that it might have intestinal (small intestine) nutrient absorption problems (that is “doesn’t digest its food well”).

I mentioned that when your veterinarian orders the folate test, it will almost always be run with another assay, your pet’s cobalamin (vitamin B-12) level. These two tests need to be considered together in order for your vet to gain maximum information. That is because folate and cobalamin are absorbed through different areas of your pet’s intestine. Disease high in the small intestine tends to cause a decrease in folate levels whereas problems located a bit farther down the tract (in the ileum portion) tend to impact cobalamin absorption more. When large areas of the tract are affected, absorption of both will often decrease.

Reasons Your Pet’s Blood Folate Level Might Be Low:

Disease of the proximal (beginning part) of the small intestine (its duodenum and jejunum), food allergies, or gluten allergies (e.g. gluten enteropathy in Irish setters). In cats, IBD, triad disease/cholangiohepatitis involving the cat’s intestine.

The best source of folate for your dog or cat is fresh calf’s liver that has been lightly cooked. Broiling and frying cause a 41% and 50% destruction of folate respectively.  Meat does not retain its folate content well when frozen. Liver is also an excellent source of vitamin B12.

Reasons Your Pet’s Blood Folate Level Might Be High:

In dogs, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (SIBO aka antibiotic responsive diarrheas) can cause blood folate levels to rise. This misplaced increase in bacteria high in the intestinal tract is sometimes the result of pancreatic problems (EPI).

Hemolyzed blood samples can give inaccurately high folate readings in both dogs and cats. Hemolyzed blood samples are more common in veterinary medicine than human medicine because pets don’t like to sit still for a blood draw.

Complimentary Tests:

CBC/ WBC and blood chemistry panel, tests to rule out an exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) that include TLI,   fPL or cPL tests, evidence of low-folate-associated anemia (macrocytic non-regenerative anemia) in cats, intestinal parasite exam and fecal bacterial culture in both dogs and cats


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