Uncovering the Facts: Myths on Vitamins and Weight Loss Supplements

October 2, 2019

You may have recently started a new vitamin regimen, or maybe you’re interested in trying a new weight loss supplement. Either way, like with most supplements, there are dangers that could affect your furry friends. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has everything you need to know about myths surrounding vitamins and weight loss supplements.

First things first, human vitamins and herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA, which means that they do not undergo scientific testing to determine if they are effective or even safe. There is also no guarantee that these products contain what they say they do and there are no testing requirements to ensure that they don’t contain contaminants.

There are some companies that put their products through voluntary testing, which can make them a little more reliable. However, it’s important to always speak with your veterinarian before giving your pet any vitamins or supplements.

Below are some common myths to be aware of:

Myth: If it’s natural, that means it’s safe.

This is a very common misconception that is definitely false—nature is full of dangerous things! Many deadly toxins come from nature including strychnine, cyanide, asbestos, arsenic, mercury—the list goes on and on. Poisonous plants can be found all over the globe, including poison hemlock, foxglove, oleander and bitter nightshade. If you have ever brushed up against poison ivy or stinging nettles, you know that nature can hurt you so just because it’s “natural” doesn’t mean that it’s safe.

Myth: If it’s good for me, then it’s good for my dog or cat.

Dogs and cats are not people, so some things that are safe or even beneficial for humans can be toxic to our pets.

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a supplement that people take to help with sleep disorders, depression, anxiety and a variety of other maladies, but when dogs get into this supplement, they can develop serotonin syndrome, resulting in a dangerously high heart rate, body temperature and even seizures.

Xylitol, a common ingredient in chewable and fast dissolve medications and supplements, can cause low blood sugar, seizures and liver damage when ingested by dogs. 

Myth: If a small amount is okay, a larger amount would be even better.

One important tenet of toxicology is the saying: “The dose makes the poison.” This means that almost anything can be toxic if enough is ingested. Vitamin D is important because it helps the body absorb calcium to keep our bones healthy. But if a dog or cat gets into a large amount of vitamin D, it can cause their calcium and phosphorus levels to rise dangerously and damage the kidneys. 

This principle applies to just about any vitamin, supplement or medication, which is why it’s important to call your veterinarian or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 right away if your pet gets into something they are not supposed to have or a larger dose of something that was recommended by your veterinarian.