Vitamins and minerals While you may think that your multivitamins pose little poisoning risk to your dog, they can be poisonous when ingested in larger amounts. There are 4 potentially toxic ingredients commonly found within multivitamins including xylitol, vitamin D, iron, and calcium. Chewable, sugar-free vitamins often contain xylitol, and can result in signs of low blood sugar and even liver failure. Vitamin D – when ingested in toxic amounts– can result in a very elevated calcium level in the body, resulting in secondary kidney failure. Iron, which is found in very high levels in pre-natal vitamins, can result in severe vomiting, diarrhea, even organ damage/failure. Finally, oral calcium levels can transiently result in a high calcium in the body. NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) Most of you know that you should never give any human over-the-counter (OTC) medication without consulting a veterinarian, right? That’s because common human drugs including NSAIDs (e.g. Advil®, Aleve® and Motrin) can cause serious harm to pets when ingested, and cause stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as potential kidney failure. Even veterinary NSAIDs – while safer than human NSAIDs – can result in similar problems when ingested in large amounts. That’s why it’s so important to keep chewable veterinary prescription NSAIDs out of reach – even your cat finds them flavorable. Signs of poisoning include inappetance, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, black-tarry stool, lethargy, bad breath, and excessive thirst and urination. Rarer signs include seizures, coma, and even death. Cardiac medications Many geriatric humans are commonly on heart medications such as calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, diuretics, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These cardiac drugs are commonly used for hypertension and to prevent heart failure. While we use these medications in veterinary medicine too, they can be quite dangerous to pets when ingested in even small amounts. Signs of poisoning include a very abnormal heart rate, collapse, low blood pressure, excessive thirst and urination, and even organ failure. When in doubt, make sure to keep these very dangerous pills away from your pets. If you think your dog or cat may have accidentally gotten into something poisonous, call your veterinarian or an animal poison control center immediately to find out how to treat it. With any type of poisoning, the sooner you treat a poisoning situation, the safer it is for your pet and the less expensive it is to you! If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Next week – March 17-23rd – is Poison Prevention Week, marking over five decades of safer homes and saved lives. While this nationally-recognized awareness effort was originally directed towards parents of two-legged kids, it has since morphed to include our four-legged canine and feline family members! In conjunction with Poison Prevention Week, Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control based out of Minneapolis, recently released the Top 10 canine toxins from 2012. A huge shout out to them for helping spread this great info! We’ll cover the top 5 most common dog poisons this week, followed by the remaining in Part II (make sure to check out the top 5 cat toxins of 2012, too!). Top 10 canine toxicants:
Dr. Justine Lees specialty is pet poison prevention, and in this blog she discusses some of the most dangerous toxins for dogs. For more from Dr. Lee, find her on Facebook!
Chocolate While one or two chocolate chips isn’t a big deal for your dog, larger amounts can be poisonous. Chocolate contains the chemical theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine, which is toxic to dogs (and less so, to cats). Remember this fact: the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. That means that baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and gourmet dark chocolates are the most dangerous, while white chocolate (which barely has any real chocolate in it) is generally less of a poisoning concern. Signs of chocolate poisoning include gastrointestinal signs (e.g., drooling, vomiting, diarrhea), an elevated heart rate, abnormal heart rhythm, anxiety, hyperactivity, and even tremors or seizures. Don’t forget about foods covered or dipped in chocolate; these can also be dangerous, as in addition to the chocolate, the food inside (including macadamia nuts, espresso beans, and raisins) can result in a different type of poisoning too. Mouse and rat poison (rodenticides) When it comes to mouse and rat poisons, there are several different active ingredients and types of action, making all of them potentially poisonous to dogs. Depending on what type was ingested, poisoning can result in internal bleeding, brain swelling, kidney failure, or even severe vomiting and bloat. Signs of poisoning include difficult breathing, coughing (of blood), walking drunk, tremoring, seizuring, vomiting, excessive thirst or urination, and acute death. Personally, I’m not a huge advocate of having mouse and rat poison around your house if you have pets, as they pose a poisoning risk to your dog, cat, and to wildlife. When in doubt, consider using the more humane snap traps instead (which quickly kills mice and rats without poison).
What are the signs of vitamin D poisoning?
Signs of vitamin D poisoning typically start 12-36 hours after ingestion. The severity of signs depends upon the amount of Vitamin D ingested. Vomiting, diarrhea, increased drinking and urination, abdominal pain, depression, and lack of appetite are generally seen with smaller doses. Higher doses can cause elevated levels of calcium and phosphorous in the body which may result in kidney failure. In addition to the signs above, severe poisoning may also cause an increased respiratory rate, difficulty breathing, bleeding in the intestines, slow heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms, and mineralization of body tissues. Without appropriate treatment, death may occur.
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Dogs that eat pet food containing too much vitamin D can develop vitamin D toxicity. It can also occur if a dog accidentally gets into vitamin D supplements that a person in the household is taking. Another common way that dogs get vitamin D toxicity is after accidentally eating certain chemicals meant to kill rodents like rats and mice, called cholecalciferol rodenticides. Cholecalciferol is the chemical name for vitamin D3.
Dogs with excess vitamin D may vomit, have little appetite, drink and urinate more, drool excessively, and/or lose weight. Depending on the concentration of the vitamin D in the food, diet-related toxicity tends to develop more gradually over time. Cases of vitamin D rodenticide or supplement poisoning are rapid onset – showing signs of illness in a matter of hours or days.
If you suspect your dog is showing signs of vitamin D toxicity, take him or her to a veterinarian immediately.
Only a veterinarian can diagnose vitamin D toxicity. He or she will evaluate your dog’s signs, ask about what food the dog is eating and what the dog might have gotten into, and might take a blood sample to measure levels of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D or obtain urine to assess kidney function. Depending on the results of a veterinarian’s examination, he or she will determine the best course of action.
Treatment will depend on a veterinarian’s assessment of each case, but the aim will be to remove the source of vitamin D to prevent additional exposure (e.g., stop the feeding of recalled dog food) and to flush the body of the excess vitamin D. In less acute cases of vitamin D toxicity that are caught early, the veterinarian may determine that a change of diet may help resolve the issue within weeks to months, or he or she may choose to prescribe medication. A veterinarian may also continue to monitor blood calcium and phosphorus levels until they return to a healthy baseline.
If your dog is showing signs of vitamin D toxicity such as vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst and urination, excessive drooling and/or weight loss, contact a veterinarian immediately. Provide a full diet history to your veterinarian, including what food you (or other household members) give him and also other food or items he might have gotten into. You may find it helpful to take a picture of the pet food label, including the lot number. If your veterinarian suspects the food is the source of excess vitamin D, having the lot code helps the FDA identify exactly when the contamination occurred and what other products might also be affected. For tips about locating and saving pet food lot code information, see: Save Your Pet Food Lot Number! This can help prevent other dogs from getting sick. Don’t feed the products to your pets or any other animals.
Dog owners can report suspected illness to the FDA electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators. It’s most helpful if you work with your veterinarian to submit a dog’s medical records as part of the report. For an explanation of the information and level of detail that would be helpful to include in a complaint to the FDA, please see How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.
It’s also helpful if you save the food in its original package, in case it’s needed for testing. If testing is not needed, contact the company listed on the package for further instructions or throw the products away in a way that children, pets and wildlife cannot access them.
The FDA encourages veterinarians treating vitamin D toxicity related to diet to ask clients for a detailed diet history. We also remind clinicians that vitamin D toxicity may present as hypercalcemia, hyperphosphatemia, and/or renal failure. If you suspect that the pet food is the source of the excess vitamin D, we welcome case reports, especially those confirmed through diagnostics. We ask that you not tell the pet owner to discard the leftover food, but instead to retain it in a safe place and not feed it to their pet or any other animal.
Reports to the FDA can be submitted through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling your local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators. For submissions through the Safety Reporting Portal, when asked “Who are you?” please select, “A private citizen/business submitting a voluntary report,” on the selection screen in order to guide you through a veterinary submission. For an explanation of the information and level of detail that would be helpful to include in a complaint to the FDA, see How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.
What happens if my dog eats vitamins?
Will human vitamins hurt a dog?
Can one vitamin D pill hurt a dog?