Vitamin D may play a much bigger role in companion pets than previously thought. Studies are showing correlations between low Vitamin D levels and a number of diseases.

Human studies have  provided some fascinating insights into the role Vitamin D plays in our health. Vitamin D deficiency in middle childhood could result in aggressive behavior as well as anxious and depressive moods during adolescence, according to a new University of Michigan study of school children in Bogotá, Colombia.

Children with blood levels suggestive of deficiency were almost twice as likely to develop externalizing behavior problems–aggressive and rule breaking behaviors — as reported by their parents, compared with children who had higher levels of the vitamin.

Also, low levels of the protein that transports vitamin D in blood were related to more self-reported aggressive behavior and anxious/depressed symptoms. The associations were independent of child, parental and household characteristics.

While we don’t know its impact on the behavior of pets, it is an intriguing new field for research in companion animals, who can’t produce their own Vitamin D like we do through exposure to sunlight. Their sole source of Vitamin D comes from diet. Recent tests of a number of commercial and home cooked diets show a wide range of Vitamin D concentrations, with many diets having insufficient levels.  

Vitamin D plays a significant role in lowering inflammation in the body, protecting pets from hidden sources of inflammation that can lead to disease. It also helps regulate the immune system, strengthening the body’s ability to protect itself against bacteria and viruses.

Studies have now linked low Vitamin D to cancer, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, renal disease, hyperparathyroidism and infection (in people).

Because it can be toxic at high doses, supplementation and diet changes should be accompanied by serial tests that measure Vitamin D levels in the blood.

Please feel free to contact Dr. Gibson at the Animal Care Center of Castle Pines (303) 688-3660 if you have any questions or if you would like to have your pet’s Vitamin D levels assessed.