Help! My Dog Ate Prenatal Vitamins

Photo by StarsApart on Flickr

Dogs eat weird things. We know this. So, what happens when your dog has some of your prenatal vitamins? You know, because preggy brain, you left the open container on the counter where Rover could reach it.

Should you rush off to the emergency vet or just keep an eye on him? Could prenatal vitamins be poisonous for dogs? In short, they’re very dangerous and should always be kept safely locked away. Here’s why.

What are prenatal vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins supply a pregnant woman with all the goodies she needs to keep herself and her unborn baby healthy. These can be taken after giving birth, too, to support lactation. While there are similarities between prenatal vitamins and other multivitamins, the prenatal variety contains some added ingredients. You know, because growing another human inside your body requires loads of extra resources.

Usually, prenatal vitamins contain more folic acid, calcium, and iron than other multivitamins. Less vitamin A, though. Folic acid, calcium, and iron are essential for the baby’s development. However, too much vitamin A could be harmful to the unborn little one.

What are the most dangerous vitamins for a dog?

Vitamins are essential for people, and dogs need them too. We need different ones than our fur kids, though, and some of the good things for people can be poisonous to our fur kids.

Most human vitamins contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener, which is toxic for dogs even in small doses. Vitamin D, iron, and calcium, which is also abundant in human vitamin supplements, are also toxic to dogs. Yikes!

Xylitol causes liver failure and low blood sugar in dogs. Vitamin D enhances calcium formation in the body. When your dog gets too much of it, the overload of calcium could cause secondary kidney failure.

For this same reason, dogs shouldn’t ingest too much calcium. Lastly, iron causes vomiting, diarrhea, and even organ failure in dogs. That’s very scary and enough of a reason to lock those prenatal vitamins up very securely. Your much-needed vitamins could literally kill your dog.

How do human vitamins (in dosage) differ from dog vitamins?

Dogs and humans have very different needs when it comes to diet and vitamins. Just like us, your pup’s age, stage of life, general health, and activity level affect what he needs. Additionally, your pup’s size plays a huge role.

Logically, if your fur kid is a tiny Yorkie, he’ll need less food and fewer vitamins compared to an enormous St Bernard.

Human supplements tend to come in set dosages since we all require more or less the same amount of vitamins, regardless of our length or girth.

Your fur kid’s size and breed matter when he gets his paws on your human vitamins. The smaller he is, the more extreme the effect of that unexpected dose of prenatal vitamins. If his breed has a fast metabolism, you’ll see the effect far quicker than with those slow metabolism couch potatoes.

As a side note, you may ask whether dogs even need vitamin supplements, right? If you feed your pup a well-formulated, balanced, commercially available dog food, you don’t need any supplements.

That is, as long as the dog’s food matches his life stage, size, and general health. If you opt for a home-cooked diet, you might need extra supplements carefully matched to his diet. This way, you’ll ensure that he gets all the goodies he needs to remain in good health.

In some cases, the vet may recommend adding specific supplements to your pup’s diet if he’s suffering from or at risk of particular health conditions.

Do prenatal vitamins contain xylitol?

Some prenatal vitamins contain xylitol, specifically the sugar-free ones. While xylitol is OK for grown humans, it’s a different ball game for kids and dogs.

When your four-footed fur kid gets xylitol into his system, his body gets all confused. Basically, the body thinks that it’s real sugar, so it ramps up insulin levels in the blood. Insulin is the hormone that helps digest sugar.

Now, your pup’s blood sugar level plummets, leading to hypoglycemia. This is a serious condition and could be fatal, so it’s crucial to get your pup to the vet immediately.

Eating xylitol could also lead to liver failure in dogs. The smart people aren’t sure why this happens, but they’ve found a clear link between the two.

Keep in mind that the concentration of xylitol varies widely between products. Your prenatal vitamins could potentially contain tons of the stuff, so your dog could get a hefty dose of it. That’s true even if he has just one vitamin tablet. Remember, only a tiny bit of xylitol is enough to seriously affect your dog’s health, so it’s essential to keep the stuff away from him at all costs.

What is the animal poison helpline, and how will they help you?

If you’re in the States, reach the Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661. They’re available 24/7 and will charge you a $59 incident fee.

These guys have expert vets on call, who will evaluate the seriousness of your situation. If they feel that home care is adequate for your case, they’ll talk you through what needs to be done and follow up afterward.

Suppose your pup’s condition is severe and requires in-person care from a vet. In that case, the Poison Helpline experts will call your vet and work with him to develop the treatment plan best suited to your pup.

Here, you can rest assured that your pup is in safe hands and getting the best possible care.

The cool thing about the Poison Helpline is that they care for all types of animals, not just dogs. So, when you’re in a pinch, all your pets can receive expert care from one dedicated team.

They also have tons of extra resources on their website that will help you figure out how to keep your pets safe, both at home and when you’re out and about.

You could also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Centre at (888) 426-4435. If you’re in the States, these guys are available around the clock, all year. They might charge you a consultation fee when you call, though. When you explain what happened, they’ll explain to you how to help your pup quickly and effectively.

What are the side effects (for a dog) of eating too many vitamins?

We’ve already established that human vitamins could potentially kill your dog, even in small doses. But, what if you didn’t realize that your dog had some of your vitamins? What are the symptoms and side effects to look out for?

Glad you asked.

If your dog had too much Vitamin D, he’s likely to vomit quite a lot. Added to that, he won’t have an appetite, and he’ll probably drain his water bowl repeatedly from extreme thirst. Poor Rover will probably also pee much more than usual and lose weight given a bit of time. Yikes. If left unchecked, all of these things could kill him.

When your pup gets in too much Vitamin A, it’ll show up in his movement first. He’ll be super stiff because of new bone growth around his joints. Poor dog! This bone growth might seriously limit his neck movement. In severe cases, he could also show paralysis.

You may notice some general symptoms when your pup eats human vitamins, such as muscle tremors and seizures. With an overdose of iron, your Rover will probably show abdominal swelling and shock. If xylitol is the culprit, your pup is likely to have convulsions accompanied by drowsiness because of the drop in blood sugar levels. 

These symptoms are all pretty severe and could all be fatal. So, if you suspect that your pup got his paws on your vitamins, call the vet immediately. Don’t wait for signs of poisoning before you act.

How can I stop my dog from eating prenatal vitamins?

This one is simple and pretty logical. Keep your vitamins securely locked up, away from pets and kids. Having even one of your prenatal vitamins could literally kill your dog, especially if he’s on the small side, so don’t take the chance. Don’t leave these vitamins in a coat pocket or handbag where your dog could accidentally access it.

Closing Thoughts

Human vitamins, especially prenatal ones, are particularly poisonous for dogs. If your dog is an enormous St Bernard and he had only one tablet, he will probably be fine. But, if your pup is a tiny Yorkie or if he had a handful of those tablets, it’s best to call the vet straight away. If it’s after hours, call the Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661. Their expert vets are available 24/7 and will help you with the best treatment for your pup. Remember, prevention is better than cure, so rather keep those vitamins securely locked away.