What is Calcium Supplements Poisoning?
Cases of calcium supplements poisoning most often result when a canine family member discovers a supply of human calcium chews. As palatable to dogs as they are to people, our pets can ingest a large number of these chews, wrappers and all which can result in a case of toxicity. Vitamin D3 is usually included in supplements because it aids in the absorption of the calcium, allowing for the body to increase stores. Excessive amounts can cause symptoms like vomiting, gastrointestinal irritation, and thirst. Pets who have existing kidney issues, as well as young dogs, are more at risk of toxicity from eating calcium supplement chews. Some pet owners also choose to supplement their pet’s diet with calcium; this is generally not necessary if proper food is the mainstay of the diet. Care must be taken to not overdose a pet in this way as well.
Calcium supplement poisoning in dogs can occur when a canine ingests a large amount of this product; for example, in the form of non-prescription calcium chews taken by people as an aid to boost their calcium. Toxicity from the consumption of excessive amounts of Vitamin D3, as well as elevated blood calcium levels, can result.
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Symptoms of Calcium Supplements Poisoning in Dogs
Calcium supplements poisoning can result in effects as serious as kidney failure. Other dogs will experience a mild stomach upset. The level of toxicity will depend on the age and size of the dog (in comparison to the amount ingested), as well as the state of the kidneys at time of exposure.
Ingestion of chews
- Blood in the urine
- Blood in the stool
- Abdominal pain
- Rapid breathing
Vitamin D Toxicity
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Loss of appetite
Calcium supplements can lead to toxicity if too much of the chews are eaten. The brand most pet owners may be aware of is Caltrate; other brands are Viactiv and Nature Made. Some products with added calcium and Vitamin D which could also be palatable to your dog are Tums tablets and Citracal gummies.
Causes of Calcium Supplements Poisoning in Dogs
- Calcium absorbed in the chewable supplements is increased when Vitamin D3 is added
- Chews and other forms of supplementation can contain both vitamins D and K
- Pet owners who feel calcium addition is needed must speak to their veterinary caregiver for advice and verification of the need
- Calcium chews are often chocolate flavored; chocolate can be poisonous though most chews contain only enough chocolate to make your dog very sick
- Excessive calcium causes electrolyte changes
- The blood may have high calcium levels
- Kidney damage can be acute but can lead to chronic kidney disease
- Puppies and dogs with previous or concurrent kidney issues will be predisposed to poisoning
- The heart and gastrointestinal tract can be affected
- Vitamin D3 is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract increasing serum calcium levels and the kidney cannot eliminate or regulate it
- If a dog eats a lot of calcium chew wrappers there is a chance of obstruction
Diagnosis of Calcium Supplements Poisoning in Dogs
If you suspect that your pet has consumed a large number of your calcium supplement chews or tablets, or if you have been adding supplements to his diet and notice that he is drinking excessively, is lethargic, or seems depressed, these signs along with other behavioral changes indicate that your dog should be seen by the veterinarian. If you have the calcium supplement packaging available bring it along to the clinic as the more information provided to the veterinary team, the better.
Clinical signs like frequent urination, information provided by you as to your pet’s history (previous illnesses, current medications, or knowledge of intake of supplements), and a physical examination will all add to the quick diagnosis by the veterinarian. Blood tests such as serum chemistry may reveal elevations in the blood of BUN (blood urea nitrogen), calcium, and phosphorous. Kidney function can also be evaluated by blood tests like complete blood count (to look for anemia) as well as urinalysis to verify the urine concentration.
Treatment of Calcium Supplements Poisoning in Dogs
The treatment steps will be contingent on the severity of the toxicosis. What type of supplements were eaten, how much extra vitamin D3 and K are contained in the tablets, chews, or powder, and the severity of the signs will all be determining factors in the steps the veterinary team will take to treat your canine companion. If the signs of toxicity are relatively mild, blood tests are within normal ranges, and your dog appears stable, he may be sent home with instructions for you to monitor him for changes in behavior or health condition.
In more severe cases of poisoning, such as in the case of hypercalcemia or kidney trouble, the veterinarian may need to commence more intensive treatment. The veterinary team may induce vomiting (which could bring up chew wrappers) or perform gastric lavage to flush out the stomach. Fluid therapy via intravenous could be needed; this may also include medications to promote a bowel movement, increase urine production, ease nausea, and stabilize blood calcium levels. Blood markers, electrolyte levels, and kidney and liver function will be monitored because all must be normal before your pet can be released from the hospital.
Recovery of Calcium Supplements Poisoning in Dogs
Most simple cases of calcium supplement ingestion will end in a positive way as long as the situation was treated as needed. If the poisoning resulted in kidney damage, the prognosis will depend on the extent of the damage and your dog’s response to the treatment. When you bring your furry family member home, keep an eye on him and provide a restful place for him to sleep. Keep food, supplements, medications, and household products out of reach of children and pets.
Calcium Supplements Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My 7ish year old beagle mix ate a 250 mg calcium chew. It contains 500 IU of vitamin D and 125 mg of phosphorus. Is he in any danger? He is a relatively healthy dog other than having allergies.
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My dog pickles ate about 40 Viactiv calcium chews plus vitamins D and K. He seems completely fine at the moment and he probably did it a few hours ago. Since he isn’t showing any symptoms should I be worried and take him to the vet or should I just wait and watch him?
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My 3year old dog ate just a taste of a calcium tablet. Should I be concerned? It's obvious that the cap was broken but it may be that he only licked a very small amount of the powder from the ground
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Harley - Very healthy, lively 5 year-old boxer, eat a cheap bone treat purchased from a small grouchier store, was sick a little later that day and sick again next day, eating grass etc, but still lively and bright. sometime between 12 noon and 2pm he licked and eat his way through the wall plaster board by his bed, two very large holes and had been very sick. Went down hill very quickly, emergency vets visited at midnight, kept in for blood tests. Very high levels of calcium in blood and lymph nodes enlarged. Vet said almost certainly cancer, did needle aspiration. Very, very ill when got him home for another 24 hours and then starting to eat, within another 24 hours he is back to normal, running, jumping, eating and yesterday 20 minutes running round field with 3 other dogs. Lab results are now inconclusive and two more blood smear test taken but vet now says 85% cancer. Could he had had calcium poisoning from wall boards, there are calcium based, actually known as calcium boards by some manufacturers. Could lymph cancer resulting in 6 lymph nodes being enlarged disable my dog so quickly and then he recover totally with 72 hours, without any pain or discomfort.
Sometimes when bones or other treats are not part of a dog’s usual diet, consumption of the bone may irritate the dog’s stomach and cause him to vomit. Plaster boards are non-toxic (because they replaced asbestos in building, but older ones may not be so safe) but are slightly irritating and can cause gastrointestinal symptoms and blockage. Enlarged lymph nodes may be caused by a variety of different conditions including infectious, immune-mediated, allergy and cancerous in nature. A lymph node aspirate when examined by a Veterinary Pathologist (would probably need to be sent for analysis) would be able to give a diagnosis on the cause of the lymph node enlargement. Lymphoma is a common cancer in dogs and Boxers are predisposed to this condition; given this I would recommend getting a Veterinary Pathologist to examine the lymph node aspirate. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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