Vitamin D metabolism and rickets in domestic animals: a review

Vet Pathol. 2011 Mar;48(2):389-407. doi: 10.1177/0300985810375240. Epub 2010 Jul 15.


Rickets and osteomalacia are increasing in prevalence in people because of cultural practices, breast-feeding, decreased sun exposure, and increased sunscreen usage. Several hereditary forms of rickets owing to either renal phosphate wasting or defects in vitamin D metabolism are also reported in people. Rickets is well recognized in domestic animals, but published reports are not always supported by microscopic findings, and diagnoses based on clinical signs and radiology are unreliable. Most cases in domestic animals are caused by dietary deficiency of either vitamin D or phosphorus, but occasional inherited forms are reported in pigs, sheep, cats, and dogs. There is variation between species in susceptibility to dietary vitamin D and phosphorus deficiency and in the ability to manufacture vitamin D in their skin. A number of mouse models have been discovered or created to study human skeletal diseases and skeletal homeostasis. With the discovery that vitamin D is involved in not only calcium and phosphorus homeostasis but also in the immune system and cancer, there is great potential for new and existing animal models to generate valuable information about vitamin D and its many functions. This review presents an overview of vitamin D metabolism and rickets in domestic and laboratory animals and makes comparisons where appropriate with the disease in humans.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Diseases / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic*
  • Bone Remodeling / physiology
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Bone and Bones / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxylation
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Molecular Structure
  • Parathyroid Glands / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rickets / etiology
  • Rickets / pathology
  • Rickets / veterinary*
  • Vitamin D / chemistry*
  • Vitamin D / metabolism*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / pathology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / veterinary*


  • Vitamin D