The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning pet parents about vitamin D toxicity in dogs following the recent recalls of multiple brands of dog food for excess vitamin D. They caution that extremely high levels of vitamin D can cause serious health problems in pets, which can lead to kidney failure and even death.
HILL’S SCIENCE DIET, PRESCRIPTION DIET DOG FOODS
The FDA warning comes after Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s announcement of a worldwide recall of twenty-five different brands of its Hill’s Science Diet and Prescription canned dog foods. It’s worth noting that the recall was prompted after the FDA became aware of a report of vitamin D toxicity in a dog that ate a canned Hill’s dog food formulas.
SUNSHINE MILLS’ DOG FOODS
In recent weeks, recalls for numerous other brands of dog foods have been recalled for excess levels of vitamin D. Those brands were all made by a common contract manufacturer, Sunshine Mills, and marketed worldwide under multiple different brand names. Those brands included ANF, Abound, ELM, Evolve, Old Glory, Orlando, Natural Life, Nature’s Promise, Nature’s Place, Nutrisca, Sportsman’s Pride, and Triumph brand dry dog foods. It’s important to realize that these recalls were also prompted after the FDA learned about reports of vitamin D toxicity in dogs fed one of these recalled brands.
Today the agency is cautioning pet parents about the dangers of excessive amounts of vitamin D in a dogs diet, and what you should do if you have a dog you suspect is ill from vitamin D toxicosis. Vitamin D toxicosis is a potentially life-threatening condition which should be treated immediately. A summary of today’s announcement with additional notes from me follows.
The early signs of vitamin D poisoning may be vague and could easily be missed. At first, your dog may drool, start vomiting, or have diarrhea and may start to drink more than normal and pee more than usual. More serious signs include muscle spasms and fits/convulsions and weight loss. Eventually, your dog may exhibit signs of kidney failure, pain, or have bloody vomiting, bloody diarrhea and changes in the heart rhythm. If your dog exhibits any of these signs, contact a veterinarian immediately.
Only a veterinarian can diagnose vitamin D toxicity. They might take a blood sample to measure levels of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D or obtain urine to assess kidney function. Vitamin D toxicosis is characterized by hyperphosphatemia and hypercalcemia, hypokalemia, and azotemia. These diseases can lead to renal failure, cardiac abnormalities, hypertension, CNS depression, and possibly even death. Treatment will depend on your veterinarian’s assessment of each case. Without aggressive therapy, your dog may be predisposed to chronic kidney disease for the rest of their life.
WHAT TO DO
Take a picture of the pet food label, including the lot number. It’s also helpful if you save the food in its original package, in case it’s needed for testing. 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.
You should 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 your dog’s medical records as part of the report. The FDA welcomes case reports, especially those confirmed through diagnostics. 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. Taking this important step can help prevent other dogs from getting sick.
It is apparent that without these adverse event reports made to the FDA from veterinarians and consumers like you, these recalls would not have occurred. I cannot stress enough the importance of this process, so if you suspect a foodborne illness: Report it.
As we move through these recalls, the FDA is continuing to investigate how these incidents occurred and if any other foods should be recalled. The FDA assures us they will issue public updates as soon as additional recall information becomes available. At this point, it is uncertain how many other pet food manufacturers received and used the faulty vitamin pre-mix, and we don’t know if the same faulty pre-mix was used by both Hill’s and Sunshine Mills. But clearly, it is a failure on the part of these manufacturers to assure the safety of the ingredients before they are used in their pet foods.
RELATED INFORMATION FROM THE FDA
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON VITAMIN D TOXICOSIS
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