Calcium is one of the most important minerals that both dogs and people need in order to be healthy. This nutrient is involved in a very large number of processes that happen in our pet’s bodies, but one of the essential functions that it has is that it helps your dog build strong bones.
In today’s article, we’re looking at several facts about calcium for dogs and also discussing whether an overdose is possible, the signs of calcium deficiency in our canine friends, and more.
Why Do Dogs Need Calcium?
We all know that calcium is extremely important for the osteo-skeletal system and that, alongside vitamin D, it helps your pooch grow healthy bones.
But calcium does a lot more than that. For example, it is involved in transmitting the nutrients from one part of the body to the next. There’s a cell barrier that regulates what goes in and out of the cell, and calcium is right next to that membrane.
This mineral is also important for the cardiovascular system in that it regulates your dog’s heart rhythm. Dogs that have low calcium levels often experience irregular heart muscle contractions, which can sometimes have very detrimental outcomes such as fainting, having low energy, or experiencing dizziness.
On top of everything, calcium is essential for blood clotting. This means that if your dog doesn’t have enough calcium in their blood flow and they sustain a cut or a scrape, it could take quite a long time for the bleeding to stop.
Natural Calcium Sources
Calcium can be found in a very wide variety of food sources, but some of them might not be suitable for your dog. For example, most people already know that dairy products contain decent amounts of calcium, but some dogs might be lactose-intolerant and might do well with goat yogurt only.
Another source of calcium consists of dark green veggies such as kale, spinach, and okra. However, what you should know about some of these is that they can also increase the risk of dogs having kidney issues. Kale is a good example of a leafy green that dogs are supposed to have only on occasion.
Fishbones are another source of calcium, which is why fish paté might make a good snack for Fido every once in a while, especially if it is free of salt, condiments, or artificial chemicals like preservatives.
It might also be surprising to find out that another good source of calcium is bread or fortified flour, in general. Unfortunately, dogs don’t do well when they are fed wheat or other grains, and they could experience a number of digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, or diarrhea — so this type of food is not a good idea if you want to increase your dog’s calcium intake.
Calcium Deficiency in Dogs
Some dogs can develop a deficiency in this nutrient, especially if they are not fed a good diet. Large or giant dog breeds have a much higher likelihood of developing this complication because they grow a lot during the first 18 months of their life — meaning that they almost always need additional supplements besides a healthy diet.
Pregnant or nursing dogs also have a higher chance of developing calcium deficiency, also because they have to either build the bones in their unborn puppies’ bodies or because they feed them milk, so they naturally lose some calcium.
The most dangerous type of calcium deficiency is caused by eclampsia, which occurs in dogs that give birth or have recently given birth. Due to the effort involved in the process, the mother dog can lose a drastic amount of calcium and can even go into shock. This health issue is encountered more frequently in the following breeds:
- Miniature Pinscher
- Toy Poodle
- Shih Tzu
Two other health problems caused by a prolonged calcium deficiency are rickets and osteomalacia. The first occurs in younger dogs while the second can affect differently aged individuals. In both of these conditions, though, animals become weak or lame and can sustain fractures in a wide array of body areas, including their pelvis and ribs.
What is particularly interesting about calcium deficiency is that it’s not only caused by a diet problem, but also by various health conditions that can affect various dogs for different reasons. For example, calcium deficiency is more likely to occur in dogs that have the one of the following:
- Kidney failure
- Pancreatic health issues
Dogs that accidentally ingest antifreeze also develop calcium deficiency and they can do so in a record amount of time.
Calcium Poisoning in Dogs
Fortunately, calcium overdoses are quite uncommon in this species. However, this is not a risk that can be overruled, especially if a dog is put on a calcium supplement and accidentally receives too much of it in one serving.
But how can this happen? Well, some pet owners might not inform the people they live with that they’ve already given their dog their daily calcium supplement, so the animal might accidentally receive a second dose. Worry not, this doesn’t usually result in any health complications.
It’s also possible that, if your dog is particularly reluctant when it comes to taking pills, your vet might have recommended a variety that’s chewable and flavored (that could smell and taste like bacon, for example). So, if your dog manages to open the container and eat all the pills, they are likely to experience some unpleasant symptoms.
Some examples of clinical signs that can be seen in dogs with hypercalcemia are listed below:
- Tummy aches
- The presence of blood in the dog’s urine or feces
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle contractions
What’s worse, some calcium supplements contain vitamin D, too, and dangerous amounts of this nutrient can be quite risky, so the dog might end up suffering not only from calcium poisoning but also from vitamin D poisoning.
Canine Calcium Supplements
Does your dog need calcium supplementation? This is a question that you have to ask your veterinarian.
These days, there are blood tests that vets can easily and quickly perform to find out if your dog’s calcium levels are on par or if it wouldn’t hurt to give them some supplements.
Most puppies need calcium supplements during the first year of their life.