By Emily Gantt
Published: 02/16/2023, edited: 04/18/2023
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Everyone knows calcium is an important component for a healthy canine diet, but there are some facts about calcium you may not know. For instance, did you know that calcium is actually a metal? Or that calcium is a building block for skeletal composition? Calcium is just as essential for dogs as it is for humans. So what is the function of calcium, and why is it so important?
Calcium has numerous functions throughout the canine body, from the digestive system to the cardiovascular system:
- Facilitates muscle movement
- Helps keep the heart in rhythm
- Stimulates wound healing
- Prompts the release of hormones
- Promotes skeletal formation
- Aids in digestion
How much calcium does a dog need daily?
The recommended calcium intake for healthy adult dogs is 50 mg per kilogram of body weight. This means a 10 lb dog will require roughly 225 mg of calcium per day.
Age, breed, gender, and lifestyle also play a role in how much calcium a dog needs. For instance, pregnant and nursing canines need more calcium than normal to maintain their strength and to promote healthy bone growth in the pups. What’s more, too little calcium while pregnant can lead to eclampsia, a potentially deadly condition — but more on this later.
The recommended amount of calcium in dog food is 1.25 grams per 1,000 calories, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Best food sources of calcium
Calcium is present in most commercial kibbles, but there are lots of other sources for dogs. These include:
Signs of calcium deficiency in dogs
Hypocalcemia, or low blood calcium, is a condition that occurs when the body doesn’t have enough calcium in the bloodstream to function normally. This condition, sometimes called milk fever, is prevalent in nursing females when milk production depletes the body of calcium and dietary intake isn’t enough. Miniature breeds and dogs nursing many pups seem to be at higher risk than larger breeds with small litters.
Signs of a calcium deficiency include:
- Unusual or stiff posture gait
- High body temperature
- Loss of muscle control
- Unusual behavior
- Muscle spasms
- Refusal of pups
Treatment of calcium deficiency
Calcium deficiency is highly responsive to treatment as long as it is caught early. The vet will diagnose this condition by taking a blood sample and then begin supplementing and treating any underlying conditions thought to be contributing to the deficiency. Typically, vets will start the animal on an IV calcium gluconate drip and transition the patient to oral supplements after discharge.
Depending on their blood levels, they may need IV electrolytes too. During their stay, the vet may also need to treat the symptoms of hypocalcemia with supportive care like anti-seizure medications and cooling measures to help reduce their body temperature.
Signs of calcium overdose in dog
Overdosing on calcium alone is rare. More commonly, dogs overdose on human calcium supplements. The danger of these supplements lies in the vitamin D and K content, which is added to help the body absorb calcium more effectively. Kidney problems can also predispose dogs to calcium overdose.
Symptoms of a calcium supplement overdose include:
- Blood in urine or stool
- Frequent urination
- Muscle weakness
- Rapid breathing
- Increased thirst
- Abdominal pain
- Stomach upset
Treatment of calcium overdose
Treatment of a calcium supplement overdose in dogs depends on how much vitamin D and K the dog ingests. The veterinary team will administer IV fluids, perform blood tests, and monitor the dog. Sometimes, vets will induce vomiting or flush the stomach to remove undigested calcium supplements.
Calcium supplements for dogs
Calcium supplements come in many different forms, including powders, tablets, and chewables. In addition to calcium, most brands contain a blend of supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega fatty acids for a full-spectrum approach to pet health. Calcium supplements can come from many different sources, but eggshells and seaweed are the most common.
Calcium supplements are an excellent option for nursing or senior pups since these dogs are the most susceptible to osteoporosis (or the weakening of the bones). Puppies may also require a little extra calcium during periods of rapid growth. Calcium supplements can help with bone resurfacing and strengthen the bones. Keep in mind that healthy dogs who eat a balanced diet may not benefit much from a calcium supplement unless they have an underlying illness that requires calcium supplementation.
Pet poisoning and deficiencies can happen without warning and can be costly to treat. We recommend insuring your pet ASAP to make sure your pet (and your wallet) are covered against accidents and illnesses like vitamin overdose. Start comparing insurance plans from leading insurers like Healthy Paws and Embrace and save over $270 a year.