Excessive Vitamin D in Pet Food May Be Making Dogs Sick

A number of brands, including Nutrisca and Natural Life, have issued recalls of certain products

HANNAH SUMMERS / Alamy Stock Photo

The Food and Drug Administration is warning dog owners to keep a close watch on their furry friends, after several brands of dry dog food were found to contain potentially toxic levels of vitamin D.

According to NPR’s Amy Held, the FDA has received reports of dogs falling ill after eating certain foods, which are made by an unnamed manufacturer and sold under at least eight different brands. Nutrisca and Natural Life issued recalls in early November, reports Shelby Lin Erdman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and several other brands have followed suit. The full list, which includes products by Sunshine Mills and ELM Pet Foods, can be seen here.

The FDA says the situation is developing, and its scientists are still working to definitively link the dogs’ illnesses to their diet. But when the agency sampled some of the questionable products, it found that the foods contained as much as 70 times the amount of intended vitamin D.

As it does in humans and other mammals, vitamin D helps dogs maintain calcium and phosphorus levels in their bodies, which is essential for bone formation, along with heart, muscle and nerve function.

But if pooches ingest excessive doses of the nutrient—which happens most often when dogs accidentally eat vitamin D-containing rodenticide —their calcium and phosphorous levels can get thrown off balance, according to the veterinary company VCA. Very high amounts of vitamin D can have a number of serious health effects on dogs, including kidney disease and even death.

Symptoms of vitamin D poisoning in dogs include vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling and weight loss. The FDA says that pet owners who notice these symptoms in dogs that have been eating the recalled brands should contact their vets right away—there are treatments that can help.

The agency also recommends disposing of recalled products in a way that makes them inaccessible to pets, wildlife and children. And owners who suspect that their dogs have fallen sick from vitamin D poisoning can report the illness to the FDA through an online portal.

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