Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) is a critical nutrient. It regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the bowel and is involved with its mobilization from bone. It works with other hormones to balance the calcium levels in the body. Too little vitamin D is associated with many problems discussed below. Too much Vitamin D can be toxic and may result in high blood calcium levels.
Many people do not get enough Vitamin D. There has been a lot of research on the human side linking low Vitamin D levels to many problems, but especially cancer. Even conventional human physicians have now realized the importance of this nutrient and are measuring blood levels and recommending supplementation as needed.
One problem with Vitamin D in dogs and cats is that the research in this area is just beginning. Just last year a study was done to establish the desirable range of Vitamin D in the blood of pets. It found that Vitamin D should be 100-120 ng/ml. Some experts think we should be shooting a little higher (120-150 ng/ml). At the same time, it is certain that blood levels above 300 lead to toxicity.
This study showed that low levels of Vitamin D cause an increase in inflammation in the body. Vitamin D acts as an anti-inflammatory. Another study found that a low Vitamin D level is a risk factor for heart failure in dogs. Vitamin D protects the heart. Still another study found that the lower the level of vitamin D, the more severe the heart condition.
This study found a correlation between low Vitamin D and cancer in dogs. It further found that Vitamin D has a potent positive effect on the immune system. This study and this study found that dogs with low Vitamin D levels are prone to more serious chronic intestinal disease. This study found that lower blood levels of Vitamin D correlated with more serious disease in hospitalized cats.
Humans can get Vitamin D from their food, from supplements and by making it in their skin when exposed to sunlight. Dogs and cats are unable to make Vitamin D in their skin so they depend on getting all they need from their food and supplements. Unfortunately, many pet diets (including raw) may be deficient.
This study looked at the blood levels of Vitamin D in 320 dogs. Most of the dogs (292) were being fed processed dog food from 40 different manufacturers, 18 were on homemade diets, and 10 were on a combination of the two. The blood levels of vitamin D ranged from 9.5-249.2 ng/ml. (The 9.5 level was from a dog on a homemade diet).
The importance of Vitamin D for pets is irrefutable. The only way to know that your pet is getting the right amount is to check blood levels. Beaver Animal Clinic is now offering testing for blood levels of Vitamin D. If you want to be sure your pet has a reduced risk of inflammation, cancer and other serious diseases, call my office for this important test.
Have you had your own Vitamin D levels checked?