Centre for Inflammation Research

Vitamin D in study spotlight

May 2106: Research is taking place to investigate the effects of vitamin D on the health of pet dogs

Research lead by Dr Richard Mellanby, Head of Veterinary Clinical Research and Companion Animal Sciences at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and a Wellcome Trust intermediate clinical fellow with us here at the MRC Centre for Inflammation Research is taking place to investigate the effects of vitamin D on the health of pet dogs. Studies have begun to better understand how dogs acquire vitamin D, which has been linked to animal health and wellbeing. Researchers also hope to learn more about whether it has any benefits for animals recovering from surgery. 

In the first of the studies, vets are assessing pet dogs that have had surgery to repair damage to their knee ligaments. All of the animals involved in the research have been injured spontaneously, typically while on a walk with their owners. 

Previous studies have shown that animals with lower levels of vitamin D in their blood often show signs of increased inflammation. Researchers will examine whether inflammation linked to reduced vitamin D can hamper dogs’ recovery from surgery. Blood samples will be taken before and after surgery to allow the team to measure vitamin D and any symptoms of inflammation. 

The team will then monitors the dogs to see whether having higher levels of vitamin D before surgery has a positive effect on their recovery. If a link is found, researchers will test if vitamin D supplements can help to lower inflammation and improve chances of better recovery from surgery. 

In a separate study, vets will investigate how dogs acquire vitamin D in the first place. It is widely thought that dogs get most of their vitamin D from their diet. The research will explore whether dogs can also produce vitamin D in their skin after exposure to the sun, in the same way that people do. The findings will help to determine whether dogs are getting enough vitamin D in their diet throughout the year. 

All of the dogs taking part are owned by local people who have given permission for their pets to be studied and the research is tightly regulated.