Vitamin D supplements – toxic risks to our pets from the sunshine vitamin

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What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is essential to maintain healthy teeth, bones and muscles; it also has an important role in regulating calcium in the body. Vitamin D is absorbed from the diet and during the summer the body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin. Vitamin D is promoted as a supplement, particularly during winter months to maintain good health and for protection against various diseases.

How is it dangerous?

Many vitamin D supplements are available and they vary hugely in dose from 10 micrograms (or 400 International Units [IU]) to 1.25 milligrams (or 50,000 IU). Most importantly the bottle can contain several hundred capsules or tablets. Accidentally eating a few vitamin D tablets is unlikely to be a problem for dogs and cats, but if a pet gains access to a pot containing a large number of tablets they are at risk of vitamin D poisoning. 

What are the signs of Vitamin D poisoning?

Signs of vitamin D poisoning do not occur immediately and may take hours to manifest as the vitamin D causes a slow rise in the animal’s blood calcium levels. The early signs of vitamin D poisoning may be vague and could easily be missed. Initially, animals can develop vomiting, diarrhoea and may start to drink more than normal. As the calcium concentration rises in the blood there are more serious signs including muscle spasms and fits/convulsions. The calcium is deposited in tissues resulting in kidney failure, pain, bloody vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and changes in the heart rhythm.  If untreated, pets will die several days after vitamin D overdose.

Animal PoisonLine’s top tips to prevent vitamin D poisoning:

  • Replace the tops of medicine containers securely after use.
  • Always store your medicines safely out of reach and out of sight of pets.
  • Ensure storage cupboard doors are closed securely.

If you are concerned that your dog or any other pet may have eaten a vitamin D supplement and would like to know if it needs to be seen immediately by a vet, call Animal PoisonLine on 01202 509000. One of our veterinary poisons specialists will be able to tell you if the amount is enough to cause poisoning. We are always here 24 hours a day to help you and your pets.