Avoid vitamin D toxicity in dogs with natural, not fortified, diet

Australian dog owners are, once again, being advised to check their dog food as more dog food is recalled today due to potentially excessive amounts of vitamin D. In the US, where the recall was firstly issued, some dogs have been reported to have died from the condition after facing serious health issues in a short period of time. This brings the question – how much vitamin D should your dog gets from their diet? Is there a high risk of vitamin D toxicity from dog food?

Vitamin D toxicity vs deficiency in dogs

The danger of vitamin D toxicity in dogs has seen repeated coverage due to the recent dog food recalls. However, vitamin D deficiency in dogs can be just as dangerous and perhaps more common in dogs. Both conditions can pose your dogs to a number of serious health conditions, which can be avoided by feeding them the right diet.

Vitamin D toxicity, or hypervitaminosis D, is a rare occurrence in dogs but it can be fatal when happens. As vitamin D is categorised as fat-soluble vitamin, it will keep building up instead of being excreted out of the body if your dogs consume more than they need. Over the time, this can lead to a high level of calcium in the blood, called hypercalcemia.

Initial symptoms can include gastrointestinal disorder like nausea and vomiting, and they may progress to other symptoms like loss of appetite, joint issues, weakness, frequent urination, and increased thirst. If it is not treated immediately, it can lead to serious kidney problems, and potentially death.

While vitamin D toxicity is relatively rare, cases of dogs lacking vitamins more and more common, and studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency in dogs have been linked to the increased risk of a number of diseases and health conditions, ranging from rickets to cancer. In addition, studies show that vitamin D at moderate therapeutic doses may improve cancer survival in dogs and be an important risk factor. There is even a study involving 99 consecutively hospitalised cats that finds that cats with a low level of vitamin D in their blood are less likely to recover from hospitalisation.

Our vet, Dr Matthew Muir, has been measuring and supplementing dogs with suboptimal vitamin D in his Integrative Hospital, All Natural Vet Care, where he finds that patients with chronic skin disease and cancer are often having low level of vitamin D. This finding is similar to what Dr Erin Bannink, a board-certified oncologist in the US, finds in her practice. She estimates that 90% of her patients diagnosed with cancer have suboptimal vitamin D levels. In general, research is showing that dogs need to have a sufficient level of vitamin D for their optimal health.

The surprising link between vitamin D poisoning and commercial dog food

Having a diet that contains too much amount of vitamin D can lead to vitamin D toxicity in dogs, though accidental ingestion of rodent bait products is believed to be the most common cause of it. In the recent heart-breaking cases of vitamin-D poisoning-related deaths in dogs, consuming certain commercial pet food products has been claimed as the cause of their death.

This can be linked back to a bulk purchase of premixes of vitamins by large pet food companies. The risk of overdose is so real with large scale production and synthetic vitamins. “Excessive vitamin D is typically introduced into commercial foods by formulation or production error,” says Dr Cailin Heinze, a board-certified vet nutritionist at Tufts University.

In general, most commercial pet foods need to be enriched with synthetic vitamins to replace the natural ones lost due to high-heat processing. Heat treatment is very common in commercial dog food production to avoid spoilage and extend the shelf-life of their products. it is a trade-off between achieving a longer shelf-life and keeping the real nutritional value of food.

The question now: how can your dog get vitamin D safely?

Dogs still need vitamin D for their optimal calcium and phosphorus balance in the body. As dogs can’t synthesise their own vitamin D, they must obtain it from their diet. With the recent dog food recall, it makes it even more clear that only a fresh, natural diet with balanced and complete nutrition is the best and safest diet option for your dog. Find foods that contain natural ingredients high in vitamin D, like fatty fish (mackerel, tuna, salmon), egg yolks, and beef liver.

Can your dog overdose on vitamin D from having a fresh diet? It’s almost impossible, and we’ll show you why. Let’s do a calculation here. In general, clinical signs of vitamin D toxicity can be seen at a dose of 0.5-3mg/kg body weight, while a lethal dose requires 10-20mg/kg body weight. If your dog weighs 20-kg, consuming 10mg vitamin D would be considered a lethal amout of vitamin D .

Now, let’s take sardines as an example of natural sources high in vitamin D. A can of sardine in brine contains on average 0.046 mg vitamin D per kilogram. This means that a 20-kg dog would have to consume 217kg of sardines at once to recieve a lethal level of vitamin D. It is essentially impossible for your dog to be intoxicated with vitamin D when having a fresh, 100% wholefoods diet, such as Lyka.

Meet Lyka, your safest choice to have just enough vitamin D in dogs

At Lyka, we focus on achieving the right balance, ample vitamin D for health beyond the bare minimums required by regulatory bodies such as AAFCO, but no-where near the levels that can cause chronic or acute vitamin D poisoning. We can do this because we lovingly prepare our foods in our own human grade kitchen and do not use synthetic vitamins. We believe that synthetic vitamins may overwhelm the system compared to natural food-based vitamins because they can be missing important cofactors or phytonutrients that help regulate bio-absorption and transportation in the body.

Get your Starter Box now and worry no more about your dog’s vitamin D intake in their diet.

If you are concerned of your dog being on a food involved with the recall, consider seeing an Integrative Vet in hospitals like All Natural Vet Care with access to Vitamin D testing or at minimum have there blood calcium levels tested (an early clue for vitamin D excess).