Calcium deficiency in dogs is characterised by a disease called rickets in normal dogs, and a syndrome known as milk fever in pregnant or lactating dogs. Calcium intake is tied directly to the calcium:phosphorus ratio in the body. An overabundance of either can cause calcium-associated problems. Feeding a well-balanced dog food and closely monitoring pregnant animals are the best ways to minimise calcium deficiency.
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The intake of minerals is important to the well-being of your dog. Calcium is one of these required minerals, and is necessary for nerve and muscle function, growth of strong bones and clotting of the blood. The intake of calcium is tied directly to phosphorus intake, and it is this calcium:phosphorus ratio which is vital to the health of your dog.
Causes of Calcium Deficiency
Calcium deficiency is generally seen in animals which eat a meat diet, which is high in phosphorus and low in calcium. Animals eating such an imbalanced diet develop rickets, which is a calcium deficiency producing soft, brittle bones. Likewise, feeding a diet high in calcium and low in phosphorus may lead to problems metabolising the calcium. It will cause bone deformities and hip dysplasia.
Calcium Levels in Pregnancy
Calcium deficiency is also a concern during pregnancy and lactation, which causes a condition known as eclampsia. This syndrome, also called milk fever, is characterised by seizures, uncoordination, fever and restlessness. This condition is most commonly seen in small to medium-sized dogs, especially those with high milk production.
The ideal ratio of calcium to phosphorus is 1.5:1. The normal serum calcium level in the bloodstream is 9 to 11 mg/dl. Problems arise when the serum calcium levels fall or the ratio of calcium to phosphorus changes. A veterinarian visit and a blood test are required to determine calcium deficiency.
How to Prevent Calcium Deficiency
The easiest way to prevent calcium deficiency in dogs is to feed them a well balanced diet. Feeding too much meat is the most common cause of calcium deficiency. Commercial dog food is formulated to give the dog everything it needs. You should only give calcium supplements on the advice of your vet, as an overabundance of calcium causes problems as well. Closely monitor pregnant and lactating dogs for symptoms of milk fever, and visit the vet if symptoms occur.
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