IT is an all-too-common phone call.

‘Help! My dog has swallowed my Ibuprofen, my birth control pills, my anti-depressants, a bar of chocolate, an entire chicken dinner, a packet of raisins, a whole washing machine gel, some mouse poison…’.

You get the idea.

This time, however, things were a little bit different.

‘Good morning. Sorry to bother you about nothing. I am sure it is okay but I wanted to check. My naughty dog has just stolen a whole tub of my daughter’s Vitamin D tablets. That’s not dangerous, is it? I mean they are supposed to be good for her, so they surely won’t do him any harm?’

Well actually, maybe they could. Contrary to popular belief (and some advertising and marketing nonsense), not all herbal, ‘natural’ and vitamin preparations are entirely safe. Vitamin D toxicity, for example, is becoming more common because it is present in a number of products including mouse poison, psoriasis treatment creams and medication used to help treat osteoporosis and renal failure.

Doses as low as 2mg/kg can be toxic in dogs, and puppies are particularly susceptible, especially if their mothers are receiving excessive supplementation. Two tablets are not always better than one.

After ingestion, whether intentional or accidental, Vitamin D is absorbed from the gut and metabolised into a chemical called calcitrol, whose pharmacological action is to enhance resorption of calcium from bones and increase absorption of calcium from the intestine and kidney, resulting in excessive blood levels of calcium, or hypercalcaemia (Yup, even chalk is dangerous in excess!).

The consequence is calcium deposition in the kidney, which can lead to renal failure.

Within eight to forty-eight hours of ingestion, patients become dull, dehydrated and lethargic. Vomiting and increased thirst and urine production are apparent. Bleeding can occur from the bowel and lungs. Without supportive treatment, death is possible. But it all depends on the dose of Vitamin D that has been consumed.

So, back to our phone call. We asked our worried owner to check the label of her ’supermarket jelly Vitamin D for children’ tub, so that we could ascertain the quantity her pet had eaten.

Remarkably, there was no information, excepting it contained ninety ‘jellies’.

We were sceptical, so we looked the product up online ourselves. No help at all. We phoned the supermarket helpline, pointing out that it was a medical emergency. They didn’t have a clue.

No one was able to tell us the concentration of Vitamin D that was in a product being openly sold for use in children.

The Veterinary Poisons Information Service is a fantastic source of information for almost every accidental ingestion event but even they need to know the quantity of toxin involved (owners can call the Animal Poison Line on 01202 50900. Charges apply.).

Better safe than sorry, we agreed to induce vomiting to remove as much of the product from the stomach as possible, but we were left with an uneasy feeling about the whole situation.

Personally, I was incredulous that the product was being offered for sale at all and it reminded me once more that danger lies in the strangest of places.