A new study conducted by the University of Edinburg found that vitamin D deficiency acts as an independent predictor of short term mortality in hospitalized cats.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a variety of disorders in humans, including infectious diseases, cancer, diabetes and autoimmune conditions. Additionally, low vitamin D status has been associated to all-cause mortality in the human population.
Sun exposure, ethnicity, location and seasonality are known confounding factors that can affect a person’s vitamin D production in the skin, which may contribute to conflicting outcomes.
Since cats do not synthesize vitamin D through their skin, their primary source of vitamin D intake derives from a standard fortification of commercial feed. This typically ranges between 500-750 IU of vitamin D per kg of dry feed.
Due to the fact that the only source of vitamin D for cats derives from their diet, vitamin D intake can be easily controlled by researchers. This makes them an ideal model system allowing for clearer interpretation of vitamin D’s influence on health outcomes.
Researchers from the Royal School of Veterinary Studies, Hospital for Small Animals in Edinburg, measured serum 25(OH)D concentrations in 99 hospitalized cats. They also measured various clinical, hematological and biochemical markers.
They found that cats who survived the first 30 days after initial assessment had significantly higher vitamin D levels than those who died within the first 30 days (p = 0.0022). Cats with serum 25(OH)D levels in the lowest tertile were independently predictive of mortality within 30 days (p = 0.0051).
The researchers concluded,
“The central finding of this study demonstrates that hospitalized ill cats with low serum 25(OH)D concentrations were less likely to survive 30 days.”
They went on to state,
“Our study also indicates that domestic cats with spontaneous illnesses may provide a valuable alternative to rodent models in which the effects of vitamin D on health outcomes can be probed without the need to induce disease in otherwise healthy animals.”