The most plentiful mineral in a canine’s body is calcium. It is indeed accurate to say that a 75-pound dog requires around one pound of calcium. Clearly, it’s an important mineral! Many foods that are uncooked and cooked do not provide the correct amounts of calcium for dogs. Other minerals that work in tandem with calcium must also be in equilibrium.
This sounds complicated, and it can be! We are here to simplify it for you and guarantee your pup is getting the appropriate amount of calcium as well as various other minerals.
The Role Of Calcium In Dogs
Nearly all of the calcium in your dog is found in his bones. Calcium, along with phosphorus, is of the utmost importance for optimal bone health, making it essential for canines to obtain adequate amounts through their food. The leftover calcium predominantly exists in the bloodstream and lymphatic system, where it is necessary for hormone signaling, creating cells, enzyme performance, cardiovascular health, and support for the immune system.
Calcium serves as a communicator that allows cells to answer to hormones and neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are located at the tips of the nerves and they enable a rush of calcium ions to enter the muscles, which causes the muscle to squeeze. Rigor mortis occurs due to the influx of calcium entering muscle cells following death; the cell membranes become increasingly penetrable, thus enabling the calcium to enter. Typically, ATP (adenosine triphosphate) helps calcium relax the muscles, yet because it is generated as a consequence of a metabolic process, the dead cannot create energy. The surplus calcium is the source of the twitchy movements of rigor mortis.
Rigor mortis is certainly a prime example of how vital it is to ensure that calcium levels stay within a limited range. If your pet’s environment is not balanced, they may experience fits, lack of body coordination… and eventually, pass away.
Low Calcium Levels In Dogs (Hypocalcemia)
If your canine’s sustenance is inadequate in calcium, the parathyroid hormone will take calcium from its bones to sustain the required levels of calcium. After a prolonged period of time, you can anticipate bone-related ailments, including rickets and bone degeneration. Common indications of health issues in your pup are rigidity, muscle spasms, hopping, and aching bones.
Puppies are much more vulnerable to the effects of not having enough calcium than adult dogs. Puppies require more calcium to support their bone growth. A deficient amount of calcium in a pup’s diet can result in OCD, HOD, hip and elbow dysplasia, and panosteitis. Problems can arise if the amount of calcium compared to phosphorus is not correct.
Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism
Not having enough calcium in one’s meals can lead to nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism, particularly when there is an abundance of phosphorus and not enough vitamin D in the food consumed. Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism results from an excessive amount of parathyroid hormone produced, which causes an overflow of calcium drawn from the bones. This causes the bone to become weak (a condition known as osteopenia). Additionally, you will likely observe nervous system indications linked to a decrease in blood calcium, like muscle spasms and convulsions. In most situations, secondary hyperparathyroidism due to a lack of nutrition can be cured by maintaining the appropriate amounts of calcium and phosphorus.
Too Much Calcium (Hypercalcemia)
Hypercalcemia is too much calcium in the blood. The parathyroid hormone serves to add calcium to the bloodstream when levels are low by taking it from the bones, while calcitonin works to reduce calcium levels in the blood by depositing it into the bones. Adult canines are able to consume high calcium diets with little to no issues in regards to their blood calcium levels, besides minor cases of constipation. However, puppies are not proficient in regulating calcium levels like grown-up dogs. Excessive calcium intake can lead to issues with your joints and bones, particularly if it is not balanced with phosphorous, other minerals, and vitamin D.
If you are providing your canine with a diet that is adequate for all life stages, then there would be plenty of calcium in the food. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus should also be accurate. Do not just automatically accept that the food is perfectly balanced, make sure that the label clearly states that the product is “Complete and Balanced”, otherwise the mineral content may not be equal. Foods must fulfill certain nutritional parameters determined by the Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to be able to be labeled as having All the Necessary Nutrients.
It is not necessary to include calcium supplements in already balanced foods, particularly for pup diets. If you are feeding your pup a meal you have cooked or prepared at home using raw ingredients, you should include calcium in their food.
When You DON’T Need to Add Calcium to Your Dog’s Food
One should never supplement commercial nutritional diets that are said to be “full and balanced” with calcium, as these diets already have the proper quantity of it. It would be particularly hazardous to include calcium in a dietary regimen that is stated to be “complete and balanced” for large-breed puppies.
In spite of that, most meals prepared at home require calcium to be added, except for a handful of cases. DO NOT add calcium to a home-prepared diet if:
- You feed a raw diet that includes raw meaty bones (RMBs) — parts such as chicken and turkey necks where the bone is fully consumed. Bones are high in calcium and phosphorus; there’s no need to add calcium to a diet that includes at least 25 to 30 percent RMBs.
- You use a supplement that is specially designed to complete and balance a homemade diet, such as those made by Balance IT and Just Food For Dogs.
- You use a dog food “base mix,” such as those made by The Honest Kitchen and Sojo’s, that you combine with your own added protein source according to the product directions.
When contemplating whether to utilize supplements or premade mixtures that claim to form a homemade diet, be sure to check the item includes a full nutritional breakdown exhibiting the proper levels of calcium. Do not trust the promises spoken by the company’s owners or reps, or those working in pet food stores; if they can not or will not give you full details of the nutrient composition of their products, we would advise that they do not form more than an occasional part of your pet’s diet.
Following Calcium Guidelines
Almost all of the time, you need to make sure to incorporate calcium into your canine’s food made from home.
Various ways to calculate calcium norms for canines can include taking into account their body mass, the amount of dry matter in the food, and their necessary daily calorie intake. Each has its own complications:
- Small dogs eat more and have higher nutritional needs for their weight than large dogs do, so you can’t use linear guidelines such as “give x amount per 10 pounds of body weight.” Any time you see linear feeding instructions, it’s a red flag that whoever is giving the instructions does not understand nutrition.
- The amount of moisture (water) in food can vary from about 10 percent or less in dry foods (kibble, dehydrated, freeze-dried) to 80 percent or more in wet foods (canned, fresh, frozen, raw, cooked). You must convert the “as-fed” food weight to dry matter (DM) in order to give guidelines based on how much food is fed. Dry matter percentages won’t change much when you convert from “as fed” for dry foods but are usually three to five times as much as the “as fed” percentage for wet foods. Also, because we feed dogs less high-fat, calorie-dense foods, adjustments need to be made for foods with more than 4,000 kcal/kg DM.
- Calculating nutritional requirements based on the number of calories your dog needs is the simplest method but comes with some warnings as well. Caloric needs will vary based on your dog’s activity level, metabolism, and more. The right amount to feed will also be affected by how many calories your dog gets from treats, chews, leftovers, and other sources. In particular, inactive dogs who eat less food for their weight than would be expected should get most of their calories from a balanced diet in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
In 2006, the National Research Council published revised dietary advice for canines. It is suggested that adult dogs should consume 1 milligram of calcium per each Calorie, or equivalently, 1,000 milligrams per 1000 Calories.
In 2016, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) revised its nutritional guidelines, conforming to the most current National Research Council (NRC) standards and raising the amount of calcium to 1.25 milligrams for every calorie (1.25 grams for every mega calorie).
Using dry matter as a reference point, one kilogram of food has between 4 to 5 grams of calcium, which is equivalent to 0.4 to 0.5 percent dry matter.
A different aspect that impacts how much calcium your canine needs is the amount of phosphorus. It is necessary for dietary calcium to remain at or above the level of phosphorus, with a maximum ratio of two-to-one for healthy canines and up to three-to-one for dogs with kidney issues.
The majority of homemade diets usually have a range of 0.5 to 1.25 milligrams of phosphorus for every calorie, thus providing 1.25 milligrams of calcium for every calorie should generate the perfect level of calcium and the required calcium-to-phosphorus ratio for most canines.
You should be aware of the number of calories your dog should be consuming based on the weight they should be at – not their current weight. Refer to Table I on the following page for the roughly estimated amounts of calcium to incorporate into home-cooked dishes for dogs that vary in size and activity level in order to offer 1.25 mg of calcium for each kcal. No matter how much a dog exercises, their nutrient requirements stay the same; however, a dog who consumes a great deal of food needs more calcium in order to maintain the right amount of phosphorus in its diet.
At the least, provide the least quantity of calcium listed for your dog’s ideal weight, even if you need to provide fewer calories than what is specified in order to maintain a proper, slim weight. It is time to minimize calorie intake from other sources if you want your dog to shed pounds or stay away from gaining weight.
You don’t need to be precise when giving calcium. It’s acceptable to provide either slightly less or somewhat more calcium than what is indicated. The majority of diets for mature dogs hold anywhere between 2 and 3 milligrams of calcium for every kilocalorie. Diets formulated for puppies or for all periods of life will comprise even greater amounts. These diets contain a comparable amount of phosphorus.
Calcium for Puppies is Trickier
All of these guidelines are for adult dogs only. Puppies are trickier. The National Research Council and the Association of American Feed Control Officials concur that puppies should take in a minimum of 3 milligrams of calcium for each Calorie, three times more than the amount of calcium that adult pooches necessitate for their caloric requirements.
Puppies should not be given more than 4.5 mg of calcium for every 1 kcal of food consumed (4.5 g/Mcal). It is particularly essential not to supply an excessive amount of calcium to large-breed puppies in the initial six months, as they are most in danger of forming bone and joint issues when given the erroneous amount of calcium and phosphorus.
Puppies also need more phosphorus than adult dogs do. Never add plain calcium to a puppy’s homemade diet. Puppies need something that provides them with both calcium and phosphorus in the appropriate amount and ratio in order to obtain a balanced amount of both minerals. This could be a bone meal or some other type of supplement.
Toxins And Heavy Metals In Calcium Supplements
No matter what kind of calcium you pick out for your canine, you should be watchful of any potentially bad elements that it might include. Let’s look at each calcium source and the potential problems with each:
A lot of eggs have been treated with a waxy, toxic substance that is dangerous for your canine. We would not advise utilizing eggshells as a calcium supplement, but if you do so, get them from a nearby grower who has only washed them with water. Grocery store eggs will likely have contaminated shells.
Coral and Seaweed Calcium
These two types of calcium are derived from the sea and are typically full of heavy metals such as mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, and dioxins. It is critical to ensure that your source of calcium from the sea has been tested and found to have low levels of potentially dangerous compounds.
Lead and glyphosate can both be found in bone meals. Ensure the bone meal you are using is derived from younger creatures and has been checked to contain minimal amounts of lead, pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic metals.
What’s The Best Source Of Calcium For Dogs?
The more you distance yourself from the natural world, the more potential there is for issues to arise. Therefore, bones are the most beneficial way for dogs to obtain calcium. They possess the perfect combination of calcium and phosphorus, which allows for a healthy meal for puppies and all other animals.
Only premium quality and tested bone meal should be utilized.
How To Buy Bone Meal
Look for air-dried bones sourced from pastured young cattle. The optimal outcome would be to have a third party test your product for traces of metals and pesticides. Find calcium hydroxyapatite that has undergone testing from an outside source to confirm its safety.
Caution With Other Sources Of Calcium
Eggshells, seaweed, and coral calcium all contain high amounts of calcium but almost no phosphorus. It is advised not to give this food to puppies or dams that are pregnant or lactating. For adult dogs, these will only be effective as calcium supplements if the food is 10% fat or lower; this includes oil when added to their meals, as it boosts the fat content. If you consume foods with high-fat content, then you have to be aware of feeding the required amount of calcium or phosphorus, so it is best to opt for leaner foods.
Another way to get calcium is to get it from sources such as dicalcium phosphate, calcium citrate, calcium carbonate, or calcium proteinate. These are the forms of calcium included in canine cuisine… yet you’re likely preparing raw meals or home-cooking for your pup, to provide your pup with a better quality diet than dry food or commercially-produced meals. We advise against taking any artificially produced chemical minerals… We consistently advocate for nourishment derived from food over anything that is synthetic.