Vitamin D For Pets

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Dog laying in hammock soaking up some vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as the Sunshine vitamin because it is made in the skin when UVB rays from the sun hit our skin. Most people know that the sun has a role in our body’s vitamin D production. What most people don’t realize is how tough it is to get enough sunshine to produce enough of the vitamin. In the winter when the Earth is tilted away from the sun we aren’t close enough for those UVB rays to reach us.

Other Sources of Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that it requires fat to be digested. It has two main forms, known as D2 and D3. D2 comes from plants sources like mushrooms and dark, leafy greens. D3 is also known as cholecalciferol and is the most biologically active form of vitamin D. This is the form that our bodies produce when UVB hits the skin, converting cholesterol into an active form of vitamin D. Salmon and cod liver oil are high in vitamin D3, as are egg yolks and butter. Since our pets get very little vitamin D3 from the sun (mostly thanks to those big, thick coats) they must get it from their food.

Why is Vitamin D important anyway?

  • Muscle function: it helps to enhance muscle contraction and to stabilize balance. This is especially important in preventing falls and injuries in older pets (and humans too!)
  • Strong bones and teeth: It is critical for absorption of the minerals necessary for strengthening bone. This includes magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.
  • Immune Support: It has shown to boost immune function. D3 specifically has been studied for it’s preventative effect on the flu in humans.
  • Mood: We know that the sunshine makes us feel good. Vitamin D3 is shown to significantly enhance positive feelings. In studies, the positive effects are comparable to the effects of anti-depressants.

Why worry?

Low vitamin D levels are linked to many degenerative diseases like cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and osteoporosis. We know that it’s important to so many functions in our pets’ bodies, and not just for strong bones and teeth. The problem is that vitamin D levels in our pets is dropping. 75% of dogs are vitamin D deficient and cats produce even less than dogs do. Cats must get the vitamin from their diet. As any curious pet parent will point out, our pets’ food is fortified with vitamins and minerals. They are listed as the last ingredients in your pet food. So why do we need to concern ourselves with the vitamin D levels in our pets? There are many compounds in the environment and in foods that decrease our pet’s ability to absorb vitamin D. Polyunsaturated fats, fluoride, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, and even drugs can affect blood levels of vitamin D. Many of these ingredients are present in our beloved pet’s food and are actively blocking absorption.

Cat soaking up the sun


Supplementing with synthetic nutrients can be tricky. You must make sure that you are getting the right form: D3 or cholecalciferol. It’s also important to monitor blood levels of vitamins if you are giving your pet synthetic supplements. Too much vitamin D can cause kidney issues. There have been many commercial foods that have killed pets due to toxicity from synthetic nutrients. This is because synthetic vitamins are isolate chemicals and don’t behave the same way as vitamins from food. It’s best to give your pet whole food sources of vitamin D like cod liver oil, or salmon.

Final words on Vitamin D in pets:

The pet food world is a mess of misinformation regarding what our pets really need to live happy, healthy lives. This makes it very important that pet guardians do their research to find out what their pet needs most. Scientists and integrative veterinarians are always expanding our research into nutrition and holistic health for our pets. Opinions change daily on the web about the best way to feed our companion animals but the body’s need for real, whole-food nutrients doesn’t change. There are many changes that pet owners can make that drastically increase their vitality. Feeding real foods ensure just that, a long and vital life for your best friend. Dr. Maggie Skin & Coat is a whole food-source of fish, olive, and flaxseed oils that provide the body with naturally occurring vitamins and healthy fats that help our pets’ bodies absorb more vitamin D3 from their food. This blend of healthy oils is also great for nourishing their coats and to lock in moisture in their skin.


Lindsey Eadie, CNP
Lindsey Eadie, CNP
Lindsey is a Holistic Nutritionist who graduated from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Vancouver, BC on the Dean’s Honors list where she learned the true healing abilities of whole foods, herbs, and supplemental nutrients. After graduation she worked as a Natural Health Advisor for an integrative pharmacy where she used her nutrition and orthomolecular knowledge to promote the wellbeing of all her clients, including the furry four-legged ones. Her passion for natural health has directly benefited her allergy-riddled female Pyrenes/Bernese Mountain dog named Astro and her anxious Golden Retriever/Bernese Mountain Dog Bella.

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