December 2021

Keeping Pets Safe: Watch Out for these Ingredients

Recent surveys suggest that the majority of Americans now take dietary supplements. With more supplement products around the house, pets are at an increased risk of accidentally ingesting them. Here are a few products to keep locked up.

Vitamin D is a big one. Observational studies linking low vitamin D levels to poor COVID-19 outcomes led to a huge amount of interest in vitamin D supplements. High potency products are increasingly common. Unfortunately, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has reported an uptick in vitamin D toxicities in pets. While vitamin D is important for human health, high doses can cause serious problems in dogs and other pets. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so excess vitamin D isn’t excreted in the urine. Overdose can lead to kidney failure and death.

Multivitamins are also a concern. In addition to vitamin D, they usually contain iron. Like vitamin D, high doses of iron aren’t safe for pets. They can cause vomiting and potential liver damage. Keep them out of your pets’ reach.

Xylitol, a type of sugar alcohol, is another one to watch out for. It’s being used in more and more supplements, particularly chewable and sugar-free vitamins. While safe for humans, it can be very toxic to dogs. Ingesting even a small amount can lead to vomiting, very low blood sugar, seizures, and even death. Unfortunately, it’s also being added to many peanut and nut butter products – this is a big concern since dogs tend to love peanut butter. Pet owners should always check product labels for xylitol before giving it to dogs. Xylitol doesn’t seem to be a major concern for cats, but tea tree oil and many other OTC products and drugs are.

Pet-owners are also increasingly asking about which supplements they should give their pets. Explain that much of the available research in pets is fairly limited – plus supplements aren’t regulated under DSHEA, which means there are no regulations governing the quality of supplements sold for pets. But this doesn’t mean giving human supplements to pets is a good idea either - they might contain ingredients like xylitol, or vitamins and minerals in doses that are safe in humans but harmful to animals. Always refer pet-owners to a vet, and remind them that just like humans, as long as their furry friend has appropriate food and maintains a healthy diet, supplements usually aren’t needed.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.