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Vitamin D poisoning in pets

In light of recent news reports about vitamin D reducing the risk of catching coronavirus, there may be more around the home than ever before.

It is worth noting that if your four-legged friend accidentally gets a hold of and ingests your vitamin D supplements (or any other medication containing vitamin D compounds) then this could potentially be life-threatening to them.

It is important to contact your veterinary surgery or the Animal Poisons Line immediately if you suspect your dog or cat has ingested a vitamin D compound.

Vitamin D is important for maintaining the calcium balance in the body, But when a toxic dose of vitamin D is ingested, it causes an abnormal balance of calcium and phosphorus, leading to potentially deadly consequences.

  • Common sources of vitamin D poisoning:
    • accidental ingestion of vitamin D supplements or certain other human medications containing vitamin D compounds, including some psoriasis skin creams containing calcipotriol
    • ingestion of rodenticide (rat bait) containing cholecalciferol (a vitamin D3 compound)
  • Rarer sources of vitamin D poisoning:
    • plants containing glycosides of calcitriol
    • poorly balanced diets containing high concentrations of liver, milk, fatty fish, or eggs

Vitamin D poisoning causes a variety of clinical signs, which may be seen as early as 6 hours after ingestion.

Initial signs are vague and non-specific and may include: depression, weakness, lethargy, appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased drinking and urination.

In severe and advanced cases your pet may experience: dark, tar-like stools, blood in their vomit, breathing difficulties, an abnormal heart rate and rhythm, muscle tremors and seizures and even mineralization of the soft tissues around the body.

Prognosis is good if treatment is started early and calcium concentrations are able to be controlled.

It is important to contact your veterinary surgery or the Animal Poisons Line immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested a vitamin D compound.

For more information on how to treat, vets can download our vitamin D poisoning guideline here (along with a wealth of other vet and practice resources).

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