Calcium – probably the first nutrient every kid hears and learns about, even before going to school. Indeed, calcium is an essential nutrient for us and also for our canines. Growing puppies, mother dogs, and dogs with underlying illness can become calcium-deficient. Before we can know more about calcium deficiency in dogs, let’s take a look, why calcium is important for dogs.
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Significance of calcium
In our childhood, when we were throwing tantrums about not liking milk, our parents would tell us to drink our milk because it is rich in calcium, a nutrient that helps to keep our bones and teeth strong.
But, did you know that, in addition to bone and teeth development, calcium also plays an important role in heart health, muscle function, nerve signaling, and blood coagulation.
All this is true for our four-legged companions as well, and a deficiency in calcium can lead to many serious health issues within their body.
So, it is not the least bit surprising that calcium is a necessary nutrient in a dog’s diet too.
Natural sources of calcium include ground bones, yoghurt, milk, organ tissues, meat, seafood, dark leafy greens, and legume plants.
Causes of calcium deficiency in dogs
Generally, dietary factors cause calcium deficiency in dogs.
Low quality store-bought food can lack in calcium and other minerals which your dog requires.
Additionally, a poor choice of ingredients in a homemade diet may also be the reason for calcium deficiency in dogs.
While a diet that fails to provide sufficient calcium can certainly lead to deficiencies, there are more common reasons for calcium deficiency in dogs.
One such reason is kidney failure. When the kidneys do not function properly, they create a calcium/phosphorus imbalance in the blood which results in high levels of phosphorus and kidney enzymes.
Another cause of calcium deficiency in dogs is an injured or damaged parathyroid gland.
If a dog has undergone a thyroid surgery, there are chances of the parathyroid gland getting damaged. This gland plays a key role in producing and regulating hormones that control blood calcium levels.
So, if the parathyroid gland is injured or damaged, they will not produce parathyroid hormones, and calcium levels will drop rapidly. This can place the dog at serious risk of low calcium complications.
Renal failure, pancreatitis, diabetic ketoacidosis, milk fever, trauma, and inflammatory bowel diseases are several other possible causes of low blood calcium levels in dogs.
Additionally, mother dogs who are nursing puppies need higher doses of calcium because they are losing large amounts in their milk.
Breed and stages of life can also be factors that change a dog’s ideal balance of calcium in the body.
Feeding a good quality diet sufficient amount of calcium and a good multi-vitamin can help minimize any chances of mineral and calcium deficiency in dogs.
Symptoms of low calcium levels
When dogs lack in calcium, they may show visible signs of calcium deficiency.
The symptom of low blood calcium depends on the cause and also on how severe the deficiency is.
Since 99% of the calcium dogs get from a diet is used in the structure of bones and teeth, the most common disease linked with calcium deficiency is rickets – a condition where the bones become soft and fragile.
As we read earlier, the parathyroid glands found near the thyroid glands, regulate calcium levels in the body. Imperfectly working parathyroid glands can lead to hypocalcemia, a condition in which the blood has too little calcium.
If a dog has low levels of calcium, there will be issues in its central and peripheral nervous systems.
Here are some signs that can help you to identify a calcium deficiency in dogs.
- Bone and joint problems
- Muscle twitching
- Losing control of bodily movements
- Muscle spasms & tremors
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in behaviour (restlessness)
Required daily dose
A healthy daily amount of calcium a dog should have directly depends on the total calories the dogs needs in a day.
You’ll need to keep in mind your dog’s breed and age to determine the calories and calcium it requires daily.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), an authority that sets standards for food quality and safety, recommends that adult dogs must get at least 1.25 grams for every 1,000 kcal of food.
This means a
Calcium does more than just build and maintain healthy bones.
So, as responsible dog parents and guardians we must make sure, it goes in our dog’s diet daily.
Moreover, if you have lately adopted a puppy, you must be wondering how much calcium your fur baby needs.
Well, when you get a puppy, the first thing you must do is to make a visit to a veterinarian.
Since calcium is an important mineral for growth and development, puppies often need it more as compared to adult dogs.
Your vet may recommend calcium supplements to your growing puppy on his first visit.
You may opt not to give calcium supplements if you are already feeding your puppy a balanced diet rich in calcium and other nutrients.
Dry puppy foods and homemade diets with dog-friendly foods like yoghurt and chicken already contain high levels of calcium.
Be sure your dog is getting the calcium balance they need based on their age, weight, breed, and more.
As your furry companion gets older, grows bigger and moves around more, you can adjust the calcium level in their food to match their requirement, suitable for every stage of their life.
Calcium deficiency in dogs
To understand calcium deficiency in dogs, we must first understand how levels of calcium are controlled and regulated in a healthy dog.
Calcium levels are controlled and monitored by the parathyroid glands embedded in the thyroid gland.
These parathyroid glands, present in a pair, keep a check on the level of calcium in the blood.
When calcium levels drop below normal, these glands release a hormone called parathyroid hormone (PTH). These hormones work to return calcium levels back to normal.
When the calcium levels are too low, dogs will show signs of glitch in the peripheral and central nervous systems.
Generally, a calcium deficiency is seen in dogs who are sick. So, to bring back the dog to good health, treatment of the underlying cause is needed right away.
Some dogs may need lifelong therapy as a treatment to restore and maintain blood calcium.
Hypocalcemia is the medical term for when the level of calcium in the blood is lower than normal.
This disorder can be caused by many reasons including, chronic renal failure, acute pancreatitis, and trauma.
If you see the signs like neuromuscular abnormalities and poor bone formation in your dog, then you must consult your veterinarian right away for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment for calcium deficiency
Treatment for calcium-deficient dogs depends on many factors, like,
- An underlying disease, if yes, then complete diagnosis
- How long this problem of hypocalcemia take to develop
- What is the current calcium level in the body
- How serious are the symptoms in the dog
- Any history of injury or trauma
If the symptoms of calcium deficiency are severe, your vet will admit your dog to the hospital immediately to begin the treatment to avoid further danger to your dog’s life.
The vet will administer IVs of calcium-rich fluids to your dog, and your dog will be carefully monitored as calcium levels rise to a healthy range and not too much(hypercalcemia).
On the other hand, if the case of Hypocalcemia is mild, oral medication that work instantly and tablets of vitamin D may be the best therapy.
Each case of calcium deficiency is specific, so the vet will decide the treatment depending on why the calcium level is low.
For instance, puerperal tetany requires a slow infusion of IV fluids and a weaning of the pups from the mother.
However, in the case of Pancreatitis, hospitalization would be required to stabilize a serious dog and treat the illness, which as a result, should solve the issue of Hypocalcemia.
Hypoparathyroidism will be handled and cured with oral supplements of calcium and vitamin D, unless there are critical medical signs.
Calcium is a very important part of your dog’s diet, but if you feed your dog a healthy, balanced diet, there’s probably no need to add a calcium supplement to his routine.
However, if your dog is pregnant, especially with a large litter, she may need more calcium than usual to maintain overall health.
Most importantly, if your dog displays symptoms of low blood calcium, take him to the vet to diagnose and confirm the deficiency.
After a positive report, your dog will require frequent retesting of the blood at intervals of weeks to months until his calcium levels are stable.
A calcium-deficient dog on a long-term medication therapy may be able to discontinue the medication and supplements in a tapered way under the guidance of the vet.
If your vet has diagnosed a minor calcium deficiency in your dog, a calcium and multi-vitamin supplement can correct the balance.
Whatever the situation, only a veterinarian can help you determine if your dog needs supplementation or treatment.
Do not self-diagnose and start your dog on supplements without a vet’s recommendation.
You may end up giving your dog too much calcium, which can cause problems like kidney stones, hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis and hypertrophic osteodystrophy in your dog.
Share this very important article with all the dog parents out there.